USA: IMSA Protoype Challenge kicks off this weekend at Daytona

USA: IMSA Protoype Challenge kicks off this weekend at Daytona

Racing is back and it’s the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda that kicks off the 2018 North American motorsports calendar with its season-opening event this Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.

A total of 25 prototypes are set to embark in the historic event that features several firsts for the series. Not only is the race a part of the Roar Before the Rolex 24 weekend for the first time, it is the inaugural event for the IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda at Daytona and the first with its new 1-hour, 45 minutes endurance race format. The race can be seen live on IMSA.com at 1:25 p.m. ET.

Entered are a total of 13 LM P3s from a trio of constructors, with the Norma M30 of Forty 7 Motorsports and the Ave-Riley AR2 of Ave Motorsports joining 11 Ligier JS P3s. Among those are a trio of entries apiece from P1 Motorsports and Extreme Speed Motorsports, as well as entries from ANSA Motorsports, Charles Wicht Racing, Gilbert LMP3 Racing, K2R Motorsports and Performance Tech Motorsports.

The longstanding MPC class that uses the Élan DP02 chassis powered by Mazda engines also returns with 12 entries, including four from Performance Tech Motorsports, three from Eurosport Racing, two apiece from ODU Motorsports and ONE Motorsports, and a solo entry from Wolf Motorsports.

The new endurance format will allow teams to run a single or two-driver combination with a required pit stop.

“I think that’s what the series needs as it is kind of the feeder into WeatherTech [SportsCar Championship],” said Corey Lewis, who will co-drive alongside Matt Dicken in the No. 17 P1 Motorsports Ligier JS P3. “You get the feel for what the WeatherTech show is like and having experienced that series and now bringing up the drivers and teams, I think it is a real good thing for the series overall that IMSA put together.”

“Yeah, I think it’s awesome,” added Robby Foley, who will co-drive P1 Motorsports’ No. 42 entry with Jim Garrett. “Especially for myself, looking to move up, the endurance format is nice because going to WeatherTech or something like that, you’ll be in an endurance format. … It’s good practice for the future for me hopefully.”

The race rounds out a jam-packed weekend for IMSA at Daytona. Joining the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda are the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, each with several test sessions which serve as a prelude to the Rolex 24 At Daytona later this month


Here’s a quick, team-by-team look at what’s in store for each entry in the Prototype class:

No. 2 Tequila Patrón ESM

Nissan DPi

Scott Sharp/Ryan Dalziel/Olivier Pla

The No. 2 team closed out 2017 with a victory in the Motul Petit Le Mans. Returning as full-season co-drivers are Sharp and Dalziel, with a new endurance racing teammate for 2018, the ultra-fast Pla. Sharp owns a pair of Rolex 24 victories, the most recent coming in 2016, while Dalziel won the event in 2010.

No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing

Cadillac DPi

Joao Barbosa/Filipe Albuquerque/Christian Fittipaldi

The biggest news for the No. 5 team heading into the 2018 season is the addition of Albuquerque as Barbosa’s full-time co-driver in the No. 5 machine, forming “Team Portugal.” Fittipaldi moves from full-time driver to become the team’s sporting director, but will continue to drive in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup rounds. Barbosa, Fittipaldi and the No. 5 team have won every Patrón Endurance Cup since its inception in 2014.

No. 6 Acura Team Penske

Acura DPi

Dane Cameron/Juan Pablo Montoya/Simon Pagenaud

Cameron, the 2016 WeatherTech Championship Prototype co-champion, joins the new-for-2018 WeatherTech Championship team alongside Montoya, a two-time Indy 500 winner, IndyCar champion, three-time Rolex 24 overall winner and race winner in both Formula 1 and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, who is moving to full-time WeatherTech Championship status this season. Pagenaud, the 2016 IndyCar Series champion, joins the team for endurance races.

No. 7 Acura Team Penske

Acura DPi

Ricky Taylor/Helio Castroneves/Graham Rahal

Taylor will defend his 2017 WeatherTech Championship Prototype title with a new team, as he moves to the No. 7 Acura DPi to join three-time Indy 500 winner Castroneves as new car’s full-time co-drivers. Rahal, a full-time IndyCar racer who already has a Rolex 24 win on his résumé, joins the team for the longer races.

No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R

Cadillac DPi

Jordan Taylor/Renger van der Zande/Ryan Hunter-Reay

The 2017 WeatherTech Championship Prototype champion team – which won the first five races of the season, including the Rolex 24 At Daytona – will feature a new look this season. Van der Zande has joined the No. 10 squad, replacing the Acura Team Penske-bound Ricky Taylor, and will look to help Jordan Taylor and the team successfully defend their 2017 title. Indy 500 and IndyCar champion Hunter-Reay joins the team for endurance races.

No. 20 BAR1 Motorsports

Multimatic/Riley LMP2

Joel Miller

The BAR1 team closed out the 2017 season as the final race-winners for the WeatherTech Championship Prototype Challenge (PC) class, which concluded after the Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in October. In 2018, the team steps into the Prototype class with a heavily revised Multimatic/Riley LMP2 race car. Joel Miller, who spent the past several years with Mazda, is the lone driver entered thus far for this week’s Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

No. 22 Tequila Patrón ESM

Nissan DPi

Johannes van Overbeek/Pipo Derani/Nicolas Lapierre

Van Overbeek and Derani own the distinction of being the co-drivers for the Nissan DPi’s first victory, which they accomplished last year at Road America. This year, Derani – who joined the team as a full-time driver at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen last year – will contest the full WeatherTech Championship season alongside van Overbeek. The pair of drivers will look for their second Rolex 24 win in three years and will do it with Lapierre, a two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner, as their co-driver.

No. 23 United Autosports

Ligier LMP2

Phil Hanson/Lando Norris/Fernando Alonso

The No. 23 garage and pit area figures to be a busy place during the Roar and the Rolex 24 as two-time F1 World Champion Alonso makes his Rolex 24 At Daytona debut alongside Hanson, the 2017 Asian Le Mans Series LMP3 champion, and 18-year-old McLaren F1 Test & Reserve driver Norris.

No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing

Cadillac DPi

Felipe Nasr/Eric Curran/Mike Conway/Stuart Middleton

Brazilian Nasr joins the 2016 WeatherTech Championship Prototype champion team as Curran’s new full-time teammate in 2018. The ex-F1 racer previously raced with the team in the 2011 Rolex 24 At Daytona as winner of the Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge. This year’s winner, Middleton, joins the full-timers along with Conway, who is back for another season of endurance racing for the No. 31 team.

No. 32 United Autosports

Ligier LMP2

Will Owen/Hugo de Sadeleer/Paul di Resta/Bruno Senna

The strong, two-car lineup for United Autosports is bolstered by the No. 32 entry. Owen was runner-up in the 2017 European Le Mans Series LMP2 championship, while di Resta is a veteran of Formula 1 and DTM competition. De Sadeleer won 2017 ELMS “Rookie of the Year” honors, while Senna – 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 champion and nephew of the Formula 1 legend – makes his second consecutive Rolex 24 start after racing last year with Tequila Patrón ESM.

No. 37 Jackie Chan DCR JOTA

ORECA LMP2

Lance Stroll/Felix Rosenqvist/Daniel Juncadella/Robin Frijns

This year’s Rolex 24 will feature two active F1 racers as Williams driver Stroll returns for his second Rolex 24 appearance after competing in 2016 aboard a Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Daytona Prototype. Swedish driver Rosenqvist is a full-time Formula E racer, while Frijns brings Formula 1, Formula E and sports car experience. Juncadella is a Mercedes-AMG factory driver.

No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports

ORECA LMP2

James French/Kyle Masson

The final PC class championship-winning team – which won seven of eight races – moves to the Prototype class for 2018. Thus far, the team has named two drivers, both of whom were part of the team’s 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona class victory. French also won the season championship for Performance Tech, while Masson joined French and 2017 co-driver Patricio O’Ward as Patrón Endurance Cup champions.

No. 52 AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports

Ligier LMP2

Sebastian Saavedra/Gustavo Yacaman/Roberto Gonzalez/Nicholas Boulle

In mid-December, Saavedra and Yacaman were introduced as full-season drivers for the team, which combines longtime IMSA participants PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports with the former AFS Racing IndyCar program. While Saavedra and Yacaman form “Team Colombia,” they’ll be joined at the Rolex 24 by Mexican driver Gonzalez and American Boulle, who won the PC class in last year’s Rolex 24.

No. 54 CORE Autosport

ORECA LMP2

Jon Bennett/Colin Braun/Romain Dumas/Loic Duval

After a year of GT Daytona (GTD) class competition in a Porsche, longtime CORE teammates Bennett and Braun return to their Prototype racing roots in 2018. For the Rolex 24, the team has stacked the deck with a pair of drivers with extensive experience as factory drivers. Dumas was a longtime Porsche works pilot, while Duval remains part of Audi’s program.

No. 55 Mazda Team Joest

Mazda DPi

Jonathan Bomarito/Harry Tincknell/Spencer Pigot

Longtime Mazda factory racer Bomarito rejoins a Mazda Prototype program sporting a whole new look in 2018 under the Mazda Team Joest banner. He’ll be joined full-time by British racer Tincknell, who also drives for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s FIA WEC program, and IndyCar racer Pigot.

No. 77 Mazda Team Joest

Mazda DPi

Oliver Jarvis/Tristan Nunez/Rene Rast

Another longtime Mazda factory racer, Nunez will be paired with former Audi factory driver Jarvis on a full-time basis in 2018 with Mazda Team Joest. Rast, who won the 2017 DTM title as an Audi factory driver, joins the lineup as endurance driver.

No. 78 Jackie Chan DCR JOTA

ORECA LMP2

Ho-Pin Tung/Alex Brundle/Antonio Felix da Costa/Ferdinand Habsburg-Lothringen

Tung and the team won the LMP2 class and finished second overall in the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans, finishing one spot ahead of the team’s other Le Mans entry, which included Brundle in its driver lineup. Brundle competed in several WeatherTech Championship events in 2014, but has focused on European racing since 2015. He won the 2016 ELMS LMP3 championship. Da Costa currently races in Formula E, while Habsburg raced FIA Formula 3 in 2017.

No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports

ORECA LMP2

Simon Trummer/Robert Alon/Austin Cindric/Devlin DeFrancesco

Swiss driver Trummer, who owns previous experience in the FIA WEC and Europe’s VLN Series, moves to full-time WeatherTech Championship competition in 2018 aboard the rechristened “Banana Boat.” He’ll be joined by Alon, who returns to Prototype racing this year after a year of GTD competition in the 3GT Racing Lexus in 2017. Alon is a past race-winner in WeatherTech Championship PC class competition. Versatile racer Cindric, who has been a top performer in everything from the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to Global Rallycross, joins the team for the Rolex 24, as does 17-year-old Canadian DeFrancesco, who won races in FIA European Formula 3 and the Spanish Formula 3 championship.

No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing

Cadillac DPi

Matt McMurry/Tristan Vautier

Spirit of Daytona joins the Cadillac DPi ranks in 2018 with an all-new driver lineup. Vautier, a veteran of IndyCar competition, moves to the Prototype ranks after driving for SunEnergy1 Racing in the GTD class in 2017. McMurry, who became the youngest driver in 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2014 at the age of 16, will race full-time alongside Vautier for the full 2018 WeatherTech Championship campaign.

No. 99 JDC-Miller Motorsports

ORECA LMP2

Stephen Simpson/Misha Goikhberg/Chris Miller/Gustavo Menezes

Simpson and Goikhberg impressed WeatherTech Championship fans throughout 2017 with their strong performances as co-drivers of the JDC-Miller team’s “Banana Boat,” but in 2018, they’ll move to another storied sports car livery, as the No. 99 GAINSCO “Red Dragon” returns for the first time since 2014. The full-time teammates will be joined by their regular endurance co-driver, Miller, as well as Menezes, a 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans winner and FIA WEC champion in the LMP2 class.

Race day events for fans of the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda include a fan walk on the grid prior to the event at 12:45 p.m. and an autograph session in the UNOH Fanzone at 10:30 a.m.

For more information about the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda, visit www.imsa.com, follow hashtag #IMSAPC and @IMSA on Twitter or IMSA on Facebook.

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