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Rolex 24 Hours: Preview Part 1, DPi & LMP2

13 prototypes are entered for the IMSA season opener

The 2020 season is upon us with the field for the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona assembled.

First up there’s no doubt that the numbers for the Daytona season opener are disappointing.

38 cars are listed across the four classes, down from 40 now the news that the second PR1/ Mathiasen ORECA and the Rick Ware Racing Riley/Multimatic won’t make Daytona.

Only the LMP2 class is showing year-on-year growth (albeit not as much growth as the provisional entry initially promised. Overall though, there is a significant reduction in numbers from 2019’s opening race and it’s something that is most certainly of concern to all involved.

The departure of significant teams from both DPi and GTLM was certainly expected, and the fiscal pressures coming to bear on the GTD class have been well documented too.

There’s no doubt either though that the cars that are listed are of very high quality and the racing should lack for nothing once again in what has become one of the most entertaining championships around.

DPi: 8 Cars

Full season drivers listed in bold

5: Mustang Sampling (JDC-Miller), Cadillac DPi-V.R – Joao Barbosa, Sebastien Bourdais, Loic Duval
6: Acura Team Penske, Acura ARX-05 – Dane Cameron, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud
7: Acura Team Penske, Acura ARX-05 – Helio Castroneves, Alexander Rossi, Ricky Taylor
10: Wayne Taylor Racing, Cadillac DPi-V.R – Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon, Kamui Kobayashi, Renger van der Zande
31: Whelen Engineering (Action Express), Cadillac DPi-V.R – Filipe Albuquerque, Mike Conway, Pipo Derani, Felipe Nasr
55: Mazda Team Joest, Mazda RT24-P – Jonathan Bomarito, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Harry Tincknell
77: Mazda Team Joest, Mazda RT24-P – Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez, Olivier Pla
85: JDC-Miller MotorSports, Cadillac DPi-V.R – Matheus Leist, Chris Miller, Juan Piedrahita

It’s a case of the transitional period blues for DPi. The field still features three factory-backed efforts but it has lost multiple cars from 2019 for a variety of reasons:

Acura

No major changes here from the 2019 Championship winners and their ORECA 07-based ARX05 turbo-engined DPis.

With Penske now fully dialled in this effort is likely the one to watch.

The championship-winning #6 car returns after three race wins en route to the title with the Dane Cameron/Juan Pablo Montoya back to defend their title. Simon Pagenaud again joins the pair for the major enduros.

The sister #7 full season pairing of Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor and enduro triplet Alex Rossi is again unchanged. If the BoP is close to where it should be then with Acuras should be right in the mix as the reliability is now there.

Cadillac

Significant changes here with Action Express losing the valuable direct support it has received for many years from Jim France.

That has effectively cost the team the Mustang Sampling deal, the hugely successful #5 car parked seemingly permanently with sources also suggesting that the remaining #31 car deal with Sonny Whelen’s Whelen Engineering concern has a single car to run on the current contract.

The Mustang Sampling backing though has transferred to a different Cadillac, this time the #5 will be operated from under the JDC Miller awning where Sebastien Bourdais joins Joao Barbosa as the full season pairing with ex-WEC World Champion Loic Duval completing a Rolex 24 Hours trio.

JDC Miller will remain a two-car team courtesy of a deal that sees Matheus Leist signed for a full season, Juan Piedrahita added for the enduros plus still unspecified additional races and Chris Miller set at present to race only at Daytona.

And there’s a new look to the Wayne Taylor Racing effort as Jordan Taylor moves over to a full-time Corvette seat, the team lacking a ‘Taylor’ in the driving seat for the first time.

Ryan Briscoe moves over from the now-defunct Ford GTLM effort to form one half of the full-season duo with Renger van der Zande. Kamui Kobayashi is back for Daytona with IndyCar star Scott Dixon also on long-distance duties.

Mazda

It’s another team where stability, at least in the driving squad, is the headline.

After a pair of breakthrough wins last season the Mazda effort will be looking to hit the ground running, though the season-opening enduros have been the hunting ground that they have struggled with the most in the past.

The big change here is going to finally come into play after Sebring with the end of the much-vaunted, but ultimately an unsuccessful partnership between Mazda North America and Joest Racing. Hereafter the effort will be handled, as much of it was in 2019, by Multimatic.

On the driving front, there’s a minor reshuffle in prospect for the endurance drivers, but the two full-season pairings remain unchanged.

Olivier Pla switches to the re-liveried #77 and in steps Ryan Hunter-Reay, as 2019 enduro star Timo Bernhard steps away from the front-line.

Who hasn’t made it?

The ex-ESM, and in 2019 CORE Autosports Nissan DPi programme is done. The cars are now reportedly set for action in Historic racing in 2020. Ex-CORE-engineer Jeff Braun expands on the issues with the package in a recent instalment of the Inside the Sportscar Paddock podcast. (You can listen online or download the show HERE)

The much-anticipated third Mazda has emerged as most likely an effort based around Dyson Racing but has not yet been firmed up and will not make Daytona. DSC’s latest catch-up on the programme can be read HERE

Juncos Racing’s part-season Cadillac DPi is another Daytona no-show. DSC wrote that the team’s chances of a full-season programme in 2020 were looking unlikely towards the end of last season, and it appears that Riccardo Juncos’ push to get a budget together has been unsuccessful, at least for Daytona. You can read the latest we have on prospects of a re-appearance for that effort in our friend Marshall Pruett’s latest update for Racer.com HERE. The team’s Cadillac is reportedly up for sale.

LMP2: 5 Cars

8: Tower Motorsport by Starworks, Oreca 07-Gibson – Ryan Dalziel, John Farano, David Heinemeier Hansson, Nicolas Lapierre
18: Era Motorsport, Oreca 07-Gibson – Ryan Lewis, Dwight Merriman, Nicolas Minassian, Kyle Tilley
38: Performance Tech Motorsports, Oreca 07-Gibson – Cameron Cassels, Robert Masson, Kyle Masson.
52: PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, Oreca 07-Gibson – Gabriel Aubry, Ben Keating, Simon Trummer
81: DragonSpeed, Oreca 07-Gibson – Colin Braun, Ben Hanley, Henrik Hedman, Harrison Newey

If there were an example to give of a series of minor rule changes affecting real change then here it is!

After a full season featuring just two cars in 2019 the total, at the very least for the four major enduros, is currently five, with more possible after Daytona.

Putting together a reduced six-race calendar and offering Daytona as a non-points scoring addition has proved successful, as have the accommodations made to encourage Bronze-ranked drivers

All five entries are now ORECAs after Rick Ware Racing was forced to withdraw its ex-BAR1 Riley Multimatic chassis following James Davison’s off during the Roar which damaged the car significantly. With the team pulling the plug late, unable to source another car to race, this brings the entry down to just 38 cars.

The #38 Performance Tech and #52 PR1/Mathiasen ORECAs return, with full-season line-ups still to be confirmed.

PR1 originally planned a second entry but that car, whilst present at the Roar test did not run and is now off the Rolex 24 entry list.

Elton Julian’s DragonSpeed effort add a full-season in LMP2 after taking the Rolex 24 win last season, a definite result of the IMSA changes to encourage Bronze-ranked drivers. The US effort is added to their now declared part-season in IndyCar and a continued presence in ELMS in 2020. Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman are the confirmed duo for the six-race season plus the Rolex 24 Hours.

Kyle Tilley’s Era Motorsport was initially set to partner with DragonSpeed for its entry into the championship but have since opted to go it alone. Kyle Tilley and Dwight Merriman will be the full-season pairing.

Tower Motorsport by Starworks is the last effort to expand upon, a collaboration between Peter Baron’s long-lived outfit and John Farano’s burning desire to develop his racing skillset.

Farano is joined by Ryan Dalziel for the full LMP2 season, with Farano looking to build on the lessons learned from his challenging debut LMP2 season in the ELMS last year.

The planned Rick Ware Racing Riley Multimatic Mk.30 effort foundered post the Roar test with damage to the car in Pro driver James Davison’s hands contributing to limited mileage and precipitating a defection from other paying drivers. The Riley was somewhat off the pace too, though quicker by some 2 seconds a lap than was managed in by BAR1 in its last appearance (then on Continental rubber) The team are looking to return later in the season, most likely though in GTD.