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2021 IMSA/ Rolex 24 Entry List Unpicked: Part 3, LMP2

By Ryan Kish

A healthy LMP2 showing for the Rolex 24 including a smattering of overseas teams, with some eye-catching drivers rather masks the fact that the full-season entry looks rather thin again for the Gibson-powered LMP2 class.

10 cars for Daytona, including representatives fielding three different LMP2 chassis, look set to leave just a handful of cars for the class’s full season entry.

#8 Tower Motorport By Starworks ORECA 07 John Farano, Gabriel Aubry, Matthieu Vaxiviere, Timothé Buret

A full season return from Canadian Gentleman driver Farano, assisted once again by Starworks but with some significant changes.

Farano’s full-season partner will be Gabriel Aubry who will start his third consecutive Rolex 24 in the class, but will go on for his first full IMSA season after racing young Frenchman race four times in LMP2 in 2019 and at Mid Ohio and Road Atlanta in the JDC Miller Cadillac DPi in 2020.

Aubry arrives for a full IMSA season after two seasons in the FIA WEC with Jackie Chan DC Racing which yielded three class wins and seven additional podium finishes, including second place in class at the 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours, plus a trio of pole positions.

Matthieu Vaxiviere returns to IMSA competition after a pair of outings in 2019 for Wayne Taylor Racing which yielded second place finishes at Sebring and Petit Le Mans. This will though be his debut at the Rolex 24.

The same is true for Timothé Buret who has plenty of form in LMP2 machinery already for Panis Barthez in the ELMS (where he contributed to podium finishes), and at Le Mans with outings for DragonSpeed last season.

The supporting team for the effort has seen several changes pre-season, most notably ex Onroak, ESM and Rebellion Race Engineer Matthieu Leroy.

#11 WIN Autosport ORECA 07 Steven Thomas, Tristan Nunez, Thomas Merrill (Endurance), Matt Bell (Rolex 24)

WIN Autosport is a newly formed team from Steven Thomas who raced in IMSA Prototype Challenge last season with K2R Motorsports. This program will run under the WIN Autosport name but will be managed by K2R. It’s a full-season operation.

While some teams and drivers from IPC are making the jump up to the IMSA Weathertech Series, many are using the LMP3 machinery that they were familiar with from IPC. Thomas won’t be doing that. He raced the Ligier JSP3 last season and had one podium finish at Road Atlanta.

Nunez is the star of this lineup. The Mazda-affiliated driver finds a new home in a deal that came together in the first week of January. This will be Nunez’ eighth Rolex 24 at Daytona and his first time not in a Mazda since 2014.

The 2020 Prototype Challenge champion, Matt Bell will race with the team at the Rolex 24 only. Bell has plenty of experience racing LMP3 machinery in Europe and most recently ran the Sebring 12 Hours with Inter Europol Competition.

Thomas Merrill, a Trans-Am driver, completes the lineup.

#18 Era Motorsport ORECA 07 Dwight Merriman, Ryan Dalziel, Kyle Tilley, Paul-Loup Chatin

Era Motorsports is back after their 2020 season was cut short due to COVID-19 and an injury sustained by Merriman at the Le Mans 24 Hours that sidelined him for the second half of the IMSA season, including the Sebring 12 Hours. For now, this entry is for the Rolex 24 only, but the team is looking at their options for more races this season though with other options under consideration including an ELMS programme (most likely with IDEC Sport) alongside their already confirmed Asian Le Mans programme (with Jota).

Merriman is the Bronze-rated driver in the team and the Rolex 24 at Daytona will be his first race since the Le Mans 24 Hours when he suffered a back injury in a crash during Free Practice. Merriman did not participate in the race with Patrick Pilet being drafted in as his replacement.

2012 Le Mans 24 Hours class winner, Ryan Dalziel is back for his seventh Rolex 24 at Daytona start. His best finish at the race came in 2016 with VisitFlorida Racing in a Chevrolet Corvette DP. Dalziel spent two seasons with Extreme Speed Motorsports in 2017 and ‘18 in their Nissan DPi.

Two-time ELMS champion, the highly rated Paul-Loup Chatin and Era Motorsport owner Tilley round out the lineup.

The team’s ORECA meanwhile will sport a special livery for the Rolex 24, adorned with a livery designed by six-year-old fan Owen, a neat publicity burst from the squad which happens to have produced a look rather more pleasing than many a factory-funded effort!

#20 High Class Racing ORECA 07 Anders Fjordbach, Ferdinand Habsburg, Robert Kubica, Dennis Andersen

High Class Racing has been on the rise in the world of LMP racing. From the European Le Mans Series to the FIA World Endurance Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hours. In terms of quality of LMP teams, they may yet be on the United Autosports-level, but they are on the rise. This entry is a one-off plan for the Rolex 24.

Fjordbach and High Class Racing have raced with another for the last three seasons in the European Le Mans Series. Since 2017, they only have two podiums, though their form was on the up towards the end of the 2020 season.
Fjordbach has North American racing experience. He ran the 2019 Sebring 12 Hours with PR1 /Mathiasen Motorsports and finished second.

This will be Habsburg’s second time racing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. He made his debut in 2018 with Jota Sport/Jackie Chan DC Racing. He described his time at the Rolex 24 as the highlight of his career. “I was mesmerized by [the race],” he said.

Former Formula 1 driver, Robert Kubica headlines this lineup. This race will be Kubica’s sportscar racing debut, but he did test both the ByKolles and SMP Racing LMP1 cars in 2016 and 2017, respectively. He won the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix, but his career was disrupted after a vicious crash on the first stage of the Ronde di Andora Rally. He has limited mobility in his right hand and arm as a result of the crash but his return to Formula 1 proved he can still compete at the highest levels.

Finally, there’s Andersen, the Bronze-rated driver in the team. He raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with High Class Racing in 2019 and finished 11th in class, he’ll step up to the FIA WEC in 2021 in a car that features fellow Dane Jan Magnussen for the season..

#29 Racing Team Nederland ORECA 07 Frits van Eerd, Job van Uitert, Giedo van der Garde, Charles Milesi

Racing Team Nederland will be making their debut in the Rolex 24 at Daytona this year. The team was founded by Van Erd in 2017 and has made a quick rise through the LMP ranks to the FIA World Endurance Championship. This entry is a prelude to their WEC campaign that is set to begin in March at the 1000 Miles of Sebring. Their driver roster for Daytona is the same as their WEC lineup, minus Milesi.

The 54-year-old Frits van Eerd is the team owner of this operation and the head of the Jumbo supermarket chain in the Netherlands. He was part of the team’s lineup when they won the Six Hours of Fuji, becoming the first Dutch team to win a race in the WEC. Van Eerd is also a supporter and financier of many young Dutch racing drivers including Max Verstappen and Nyck de Vries.

Another one of the young drivers that van Eerd has supported is Job van Uitert. He won the 2018 ELMS LMP3 championship and has been climbing the ranks of prototype racing ever since. Van Uitert has raced at the Le Mans 24 Hours with G-Drive Racing and United Autosports. He finished second in the ELMS LMP2 standings in both 2019 and 2020. We’ve mentioned that LMDh may lead the industry down the prototype racing route in the future – the talented 22-year-old van Uitert could factor into that development.

There are some people in the world that have mastered the art of Twitter, one of whom is Giedo van der Garde. “The Dutch F1 driver before Max, so I still have to introduce myself in the Netherlands” his Twitter bio reads. The ex-Formula 1 driver has found a second career in sportscar racing. He scored one win and three podiums in the 2019-20 WEC season with Racing Team Nederland.

Japanese Super Formula racer Charles Milesi completes this lineup. The driver-rating restrictions meant the team needed a Silver-rated driver and Milesi fills that need. He raced in the 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours with Graff but the team did not finish the race. At just 19-years old, his career is still developing.

#35 RWR Eurasia Motorsport Ligier JS P217 Salih Yoluc, Austin Dillon, Cody Ware, TBA

This Rolex 24-only effort is a partnership between Rick Ware Racing, a NASCAR team who recently expanded into sportscar racing with an Asian Le Mans Series effort, and Eurasia Motorsport. This is the only Ligier chassis in the gird and one of just two entries that will not use the ORECA 07 that is traditionally favoured in LMP2.

Yoluc became the first Turkish driver to win the Le Mans 24 Hours when he conquered the great race in a GTE AM Aston Martin Vantage with TF Sport in 2020. For most of his racing career, he has been a GT driver and has experience in all the major GT races like the Dubai 24 Hours, 24 Hours of Spa, and Gulf 12 Hours. Recently, he raced in the 2018-19 Asian Le Mans Series in a Ligier JS P2 with United Autosports.

The third NASCAR driver in the field, Austin Dillon is an interesting addition to this lineup. NASCAR has been on a run of adding more road courses to their schedule. For many years NASCAR had just two road courses on its calendar, for 2021, though, they will have seven. More road course experience could prove valuable in the 2021 NASCAR season. Dillon has two wins in the NASCAR Cup Series, one of them being the 2018 Daytona 500.

Cody Ware, the son Rick Ware, is the third driver in the lineup. Cody has experience in NASCAR and most recently in his dad’s Asian Le Mans Series programme where he won the LMP2 Am title in the 2019-20 AsLMS season.

As of now, the team has not announced a fourth driver.

#47 Cetilar Racing Dallara P217 Roberto Lacorte, Giorgio Sernagiotto, Andrea Belicchi, Antonio Fuoco

This will be the final race for Cetilar’s Dallara P217 that team has used in recent seasons. This is the only all-Italian lineup on the grid, and it is for the Rolex 24 only. It is also the first time that a Dallara in LMP2 trim, rather than as the basis for the Cadillac DPi, has contested the Rolex 24, or indeed any IMSA race!

Roberto Lacorte is the team owner and the Bronze-rated driver. He is the founder of Pharmanutra, an Italian pharmaceutical company. He has racing experience in the World Endurance Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Sernagiotto has been Lacorte’s driving partner since 2012 and has climbed the two have climbed the prototype ranks together. From the Road to Le Mans series, to the actual Le Mans 24 Hours, the two have shared a car.

Another veteran driver, Belicchi has raced at the Le Mans 24 Hours ten times and was a part of Cetilar Racing’s effort in the World Endurance Championship.

The final driver in the lineup is Fuoco, who until 2019 was a part of the Ferrari Driver Academy. He competed in Formula 2 in 2017 and was the teammate of Charles Leclerc. He has tested both a Formula 1 and Formula E car. As his single-seater aspirations dwindled, he turned to sports car racing. He completed one Asia Le Mans Series race with Car Guy Racing and ran in one GT World Challenge Europe race with SMP Racing.

#52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ben Keating, Mikkel Jensen, Scott Huffaker, Nicolas Lapierre

PR1/Mathiasen has been one of the most loyal LMP2 teams in IMSA in recent seasons. Their plan for this year is for another full season, but it’s likely that their lineup deeper into the season will be different from their Rolex 24 lineup. They are one of the strongest LMP2 teams and won the championship last season, but that was largely down to the fact that no other teams contended the full season.

Ben Keating is back for another Rolex 24, and this time the Texan is taking a more laid-back approach, only entering himself in one car this year. Keating is one of the quickest Bronze-rated drivers in the world, his opening stint at the 2020 Rolex 24 was magical as he pulled out to a one-minute lead in the first hour. Look for him to be a difference-maker this year.

Making his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut will be Mikkel Jensen. The young Dane is the 2019 European Le Mans Series LMP3 Champion and finished third in the LMP2 Championship in 2020 with G-Drive Racing. He also won Petit Le Mans in 2020.

Scott Huffaker has a long-standing relationship with PR1/Mathiasen spanning several years. Beginning in 2016, the 20-year-old American driver raced in Pacific F2000 and climbed the open-wheel ranks to win the Formula Pro USA F4 championship two years later. In 2019, he won the Team USA Scholarship while piloting the PR1/Mathiasen LMP3 to a second-place finish in the IMSA Prototype Challenge series, and in 2020 he made his LMP2 debut with the team in route to a team championship.

Frenchman, Nicolas Lapierre, 36, is a world-class endurance driver with various wins and championships, including four victories in LMP2 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and two FIA World Endurance Championships. He is also no stranger to IMSA, scoring two overall victories at the 12 Hours of Sebring.

#81 DragonSpeed ORECA 07 Rob Hodes, Garret Grist, Ben Hanley, Rinus Veekay

DragonSpeed is looking for their third Rolex 24 at Daytona win in a row this season. They will enter two cars into this year’s race. Both cars feature very interesting lineups with an array of drivers from different backgrounds and disciplines.

The #81 Oreca is set to contest the four races in the Michelin Endurance Cup. DragonSpeed is looking for their third straight Rolex 24 at Daytona win.

Bronze-rated driver Hodes rose through the Ferrari and Lamborghini one-make ranks before moving up to LMP3 in 2018 and claiming a podium finish on his LMP2 debut at Petit Le Mans last year with Inter Europol.

A regular race winner on the Road to Indy ladder early in his career, the Silver-rated Grist made the switch to sportscars in 2017, quickly demonstrating pace and consistency in LMP3 and enjoying his first taste of LMP2 at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours.

Hanley is no stranger to DragonSpeed having raced with the team since 2016. He was part of the lineup that won the Rolex 24 last year and raced in the Indy 500 with DragonSpeed. Since 2016, he has six ELMS podiums and two wins.

Finally, there’s Veekay who has spent most of his career in the North American open-wheel ladder and reach the NTT IndyCar Series last year with Ed Carpenter Racing. In 2018, he won the Pro Mazda Championship and a year later he finished second in the 2019 Indy Lights season. In his rookie season in IndyCar, he has three top-five, finishes including a podium at the Indianapolis Road Course.

#82 DragonSpeed ORECA 07 Eric Lux, Chris Mies, Devlin DeFrancesco, Fabian Schiller

In this ORECA, Lux is the Bronze-rated driver in the lineup. This will be his eleventh Rolex 24 entry. Lux became the youngest person to finish the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2005 when he completed the race at age 16. Last year he drove in GTD in the Precision Performance Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan. Lux has six wins in IMSA.

Chris Mies, the longtime Audi GT driver is an interesting addition to this team. A winner at the Nürburgring 24 and standout driver in the various GT3 series that Audis race in around the world, a prototype drive for Mies is a new challenge. With Audi announcing their LMDh programme, the brand could be on the lookout for drivers with prototype experience in the near future.

Back for his third Rolex 24 at Daytona, the 20-year-old Canadian driver DeFrancesco brings even more youth to this lineup. DeFrancesco has been pursuing the open-wheel route with his most recent venture being a full season in Indy Pro 1000 with Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport where he finished second in the championship. He also raced in the FIA Formula 3 Championship in 2019 but failed to score any points. His previous two Rolex 24 drives came with JDC-Miller Motorsports in the Cadillac DPi-V.R.

Rounding out this lineup is 23-year-old Fabian Schiller. The Mercedes-AMG factory driver has raced in six Spa and Nürburgring 24-hour races and has experience in LMP2 in the Asian Le Mans Series. With LMDh leading the motorsports world down the prototype route, could he be positioning himself as a prototype racer for the future? It runs in the family, Fabian’s father Hardy Schiller was the ‘S’ in KSM – Kruse Schiller Motorsport who ran LMP2 cars over a decade ago in LMS and Le Mans. It would be a smart move for a highly-rated young driver who has most of their career still ahead of them.