DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2013 Rolex 24 At Daytona will feature a star-studded cast of stars from the NASCAR, open-wheel and international sports car ranks.
Led by Daytona 500 winners Michael Waltrip and Jamie McMurray, the NASCAR contingent includes 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series runner-up Clint Bowyer, who will team with Waltrip in the No. 55 AF-Waltrip Ferrari 458, and Juan Pablo Montoya in the defending Rolex Series champion No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing BMW/Riley. Marcos Ambrose and A.J. Allmendinger will drive for defending Rolex 24 champion Michael Shank Racing. Ambrose and Allmendinger will be joined by IndyCar regular Justin Wilson in the No. 60 Ford-Riley.
Wilson is one of several open-wheel standouts in this year’s Rolex 24, with Chip Ganassi Racing regulars Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon leading an impressive cast. They will be joined by teammate Charlie Kimball, who will make his Rolex 24 debut for CGR.
Sebastien Bourdais returns with Starworks Motorsport in the No. 2 Ford/Riley, while Max Papis (R.Ferri Motorsport/AIM Autosport) and Christian Fittipaldi (Action Express Racing) return to the Rolex Series full-time this year.
Formula One Grand Prix winner Rubens Barrichello and former IndyCar champion Tony Kanaan are part of a two-car GT entry from Dener Motorsport. IndyCar vet Paul Tracy will co-drive the No. 77 Doran Racing Ford/Riley with Dr. Jim Lowe, Colin Braun and Jon Bennett. 2012 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Simon Pagenaud will anchor Team Sahlen’s DP class debut, joined by 2002 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter Bruno Junqueira, Dane Cameron and Wayne Nonnamaker.
The 50th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona was the realization of a dream for Michael Shank Racing team owner Michael Shank. The longtime Rolex Series team owner and driver saw his team pick up its first Rolex 24 victory with a double podium in the Daytona classic, with Ozz Negri, John Pew, AJ Allmendinger and Justin Wilson holding off Starworks Motorsports in a down-to-the-wire battle.
This year, Michael Shank Racing returns with two DPs. The 2012 winning lineup returns in the No. 60 Ford/Riley, joined by NASCAR road course ace Marcos Ambrose.
Shank’s sister No. 6 Ford/Riley set the pace in the final Roar Before the Rolex 24 test session, with Michael Valiante setting the fastest time of the three-day session on Jan. 6-8. Valiante will be joined by Jorge Goncalvez, Gustavo Yacaman and Chris Cumming for the Rolex 24.
In his role as grand marshal of the 51st Rolex 24 At Daytona, Hurley Haywood will give the command to start engines on Saturday afternoon as the lone five-time overall winner of America’s premier endurance race.
Twenty-four hours later, he may have company in that elite group when he presents the trophies in victory lane.
Scott Pruett has four overall victories in the Rolex 24, including victories with Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates in 2007, 2008 and 2011. He returns to the No. 01 TELMEX/Target BMW/Riley with Memo Rojas seeking their fourth consecutive Daytona Prototype title. They will be joined by two-time Rolex 24 winner Juan Pablo Montoya and Charlie Kimball at the Rolex 24.
Pruett – a nine-time class winner of the Rolex 24 (Haywood has six class victories) – is also entered in Ganassi’s No. 02 Target/TELMEX BMW/Riley, joining IndyCar champions Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, 2010 Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray and Joey Hand.
Pruett is GRAND-AM’s all-time leader in career victories, with 39. He won the 2004 DP crown with Max Papis in addition to joining Rojas in winning in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
There wasn’t much left for Starworks Motorsport to accomplish in 2012.
In a breakthrough campaign for the Peter Baron-led Florida-based squad, Starworks won races at Watkins Glen and the inaugural Grand-Am race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in addition to capturing the North American Endurance Championship.
Other milestones included class victories at the 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans, as Starworks became the first North American team to win an FIA World Championship in 46 years with its World Endurance Championship LMP2 title.
Starworks narrowly missed two more accomplishments in 2012, falling just 5.198 seconds short of a Rolex 24 victoriy and 12 points shy of the DP championship. They will look to check one of those near misses off this January with a solid two-car effort.
Lead drivers Ryan Dalziel and Alex Popow team with endurance legend Allan McNish and four-time open-wheel champion Sebastien Bourdais in the team’s No. 2 Ford/Riley. Sunoco Challenge winner Ivan Bellarosa and open-wheel veteran Scott Mayer lead the lineup for the team’s No. 8 Sunoco Ford/Riley.
Dalziel finished second in 2007, driving a DP fielded by Starworks owner Peter Baron and won the Rolex 24 in 2010, joining Terry Borcheller, Joao Barbosa and Mike Rockenfeller in Action Express Racing’s debut.
Magnus Racing entered 2012 without a Rolex Series victory; they closed out the year with victories in two of the biggest races of the season.
Led by Andy Lally and John Potter, Magnus pulled off the GT class upset in the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 with co-drivers Richard Lietz and Rene Rast. What could have been dismissed as a fluke proved to be a sign of things to come when Lally and Potter returned to victory lane in the inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, winning the North American Endurance Championship’s GT title.
Entering 2013, Magnus Racing is eyeing a repeat at Daytona with Lally, Potter and Lietz joined by Nicolas Armindo in the No. 44 Porsche GT3.
Lally is riding a streak of five consecutive GT podium finishes in the Rolex 24, including victories with TRG in 2009 and 2011.
Lally also won the SPR II class in 2001 for Archangel Motorsports for a total of four Rolex 24 victories.
Frank Biela is tied for third in all-time victories in both the 24 Hours of Le Mans (five times) and 12 Hours of Sebring (four victories). This weekend, the German veteran is set for his first attempt in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, when he joins Christopher Haase, Markus Winkelhock and Matt Plumb in the No. 13 Rum Bum Audi R8.
“It’s unbelievable that I’ve been around for 30 years but never did Daytona before,” said Biela, a two-time ALMS champion. “When I tested there I was surprised at how quickly we got through the infield, and then how long we were on the long banking. But it’s really good fun and very interesting. Another big difference is being in the smaller (GT) class. When I did ALMS, I was in the prototypes, trying to get around the slower cars. Now, it’s the other way around, and watching the mirrors has a completely different value. That’s going to be quite difficult to get used to.”
Rum Bum Racing will also be making its Rolex Series debut after winning the 2012 team championship in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge GS class. Rum Bum’s Rolex 24 effort will be aided with support from Audi Sport customer racing.
“It’s been absolutely fantastic working with everyone at Audi Sport customer racing,” said Plumb. “They’re all very non-threatening, very competitive, super knowledgeable about this particular car and this particular chassis. They all have experience driving it in some form in Europe and many have been involved in the testing of this car. They have incredible feedback and you can tell why they have been selected to be Audi factory drivers–they are at the top of their game. To be able to drive in a program like this with some of the guys we have in the car with me it’s really an honor for me.”
Porsche has won the production-based GT class in the Rolex 24 in 10 of the last 12 years, losing only to Mazda in 2008 and 2010 – which moves to the GX class in 2013.
Porsche’s hold atop the GT ranks in the Rolex 24 faces a stiff challenge this weekend, however. Both Ferrari and Audi have stacked the deck in an effort to win the 51st running of the endurance classic.
Ferrari debuted the 458 Italia for the Rolex Series in 2012, finishing fifth in the Rolex 24. For 2013, four teams will combine to field seven Ferraris – all with competitive lineups. Extreme Speed Motorsports – led by 1996 Rolex 24 winner Scott Sharp – will field the No. 03 Tequila Patron Ferrari, while defending GT champion AIM Autosport, Scuderia Corsa and AF-Waltrip each has a two-car entry.
Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato won three races and the 2012 GT title for AIM Autosport Team FXDD with Ferrari. This weekend, Assentato joins Nick Longhi, Mark Wilkins, Guy Cosmo and Anthony Lazzaro in the No. 69 FXDD Ferrari. The team has also added the No. 61 R. Ferri entry with Segal, Max Papis, Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander.
Audi has entered five cars. Ian Baas, Marc Basseng, Rene Rast and Frank Stippler will run the No. 52 entry. Audi Sport Customer Racing will also partner with three privateers: Rum Bum Racing in the No. 13, where Matt Plumb co-drives with Frank Biela, Christopher Haase and Markus Winkelhock; Alex Job Racing in the No. 24, with Dion von Moltke co-driving with Jeroen Bleekemolen, Damien Faulkner, Marco Holzer and Cooper MacNeil; and APR Motorsport in the No. 51, driven by Matt Bell, David Empringham, John Farano, Alex Figge and Dave Lacey. Audi’s No. 74 is also entered, but the car was used as a spare in the recent Daytona testing.
The biggest surprise of the three-day Roar Before the Rolex 24 test was Team Sahlen, making the move to the Daytona Prototype class from the GT ranks.
The longtime Grand-Am Road Racing team grabbed the second-best time on the overall time sheets in its first official outing with its BMW/Riley co-driven by Dane Cameron, Wayne Nonnamaker, Simon Pagenaud and Bruno Junqueira.
Team Sahlen competed in the GT class in 2012, winning at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and has won in every Rolex Series and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge class it has competed in since making its Grand-Am debut in the series in 2001.