DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Each year, the international motorsports scene waits with great anticipation the arrival of the Rolex 24 At Daytona – the annual green flag for the racing season around the globe.
The eagerness is even greater this season with the historic 60th running of the iconic 24-hour race at Daytona Int’l Speedway on Jan. 29-30. A whopping 61 cars have been entered for the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test session that precedes the race by a week. It’s the most entries since 2014.
“The racing world turns its eyes to the Rolex 24 every year since it typically kicks off the season for everyone in the industry and draws such an immense amount of international driver and team talent together,” IMSA President John Doonan said. “That’s even truer in 2022 with more cars on the grid than we’ve seen at Daytona in the last eight years. It shows that the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and sports car racing around the world continues to grow and thrive. We’re very excited for what should be a memorable 60th Rolex 24 At Daytona and the season ahead.”
The Roar Before the Rolex 24 from Jan. 21-23 features two full days of on-track testing at Daytona’s 3.56-mile road course followed by the 100-minute qualifying race on Jan. 23 that sets the starting grid for the Rolex 24. The talent pool is deep within each of the five competing classes with more than 50 past Rolex 24 winners in the field.
A glance at the classes:
Daytona Prototype international
Seven cars, the same as in 2021, are in the DPi field in what is the final season for the class before it switches to the LMDh platform in 2023. The No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 claimed the class and overall Rolex 24 victory a year ago and three of its drivers – Filipe Albuquerque, Ricky Taylor and Alexander Rossi – are back along with newcomer Will Stevens.
The No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R won the qualifying race during the Roar last year, what proved an important step on the Action Express Racing entry’s route to the season title. Pipo Derani and Mike Conway are back in the No. 31 with Tristan Nunez replacing Felipe Nasr as Derani’s new full-season teammate.
Other DPi entries of note include Chip Ganassi Racing expanding to a two-car Cadillac effort and the No. 48 Ally Cadillac that includes seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and two-time Rolex 24 winner Kamui Kobayashi returning for the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races.
Le Mans Prototype 2
The LMP2 field remains the same, 10 cars, as it was a year ago and is again full of international flair. The No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA LMP2 07 that won last year’s Rolex 24 returns fully intact with Dwight Merriman, Kyle Tilley, Ryan Dalziel and Paul-Loup Chatin, as does the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA lineup of Ben Keating, Mikkel Jensen, Scott Huffaker and Nicolas Lapierre that won the qualifying race on its way to the LMP2 championship.
DragonSpeed USA dipped into the IndyCar field for drivers Pato O’Ward, Colton Herta and Devlin DeFrancesco to team with Eric Lux. International flavor is added by entries from teams including G-Drive Racing by APR, High Class Racing, Racing Team Nederland and United Autosports.
Le Mans Prototype 3
The number of entries grows from six to 10 this year as the LMP3 class embarks on its second season of WeatherTech Championship competition. The No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 won last year’s Rolex 24 and went on to win the season title for the team and driver Gar Robinson. He’s back to defend and will team with Felipe Fraga, Kay van Berlo and Michael Cooper at the Roar and Rolex 24.
Muehlner Motorsports America is back with a pair of Duqueine D08s, including the No. 6 headed by driver Moritz Kranz that won lasty year’s qualifying race. Other LMP3 teams and names to watch include newcomer AWA with the No. 13 Duqueine for drivers Orey Fidani, Kumo Wittmer, Lars Kern and Matthew Bell, the No. 54 CORE autosport Ligier with Colin Braun, Jon Bennett, George Kurtz and Nic Jonsson aboard and four-time Rolex 24 winner Joao Barbosa in the No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier.
GT Daytona Pro
The new class that replaces GT Le Mans is loaded with 13 entries and eight manufacturers. Corvette Racing bears watching as always, but in particular as it shifts from the GTLM platform to the GT3 specification the GTD PRO falls under. The No. 3 Corvette won last year’s Rolex 24 and the driver trio returns with Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg. The No. 4 Corvette won last year’s qualifying race and is back on a one-off for the Rolex 24 before taking on a full season in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
BMW Team RLL was the 2019 and 2020 GTLM winner at the Rolex 24 and brings back two entries with the new BMW M4 GT3. WeatherTech Racing has three entries using two manufacturers (Porsche and Mercedes-AMG). Pfaff Motorsports moves to GTD PRO with the plaid No. 9 Porsche 911 GT3R after claiming last year’s GT Daytona (GTD) championship.
Other manufacturers for the debut of this highly anticipated class include Aston Martin, Ferrari Lamborghini and Lexus.
Now running under the same specs as GTD PRO but with the requirement of having Bronze- or Silver-rated drivers as part of the lineup, the GTD class continues its unrivaled popularity with 22 entries – up three from a year ago.
Mercedes-AMG finished first and second in last year’s Rolex 24 and both teams are back, the winning No. 57 Winward Racing with half the drivers (Russell Ward and Philip Ellis) returning and runner-up No. 75 Sun Energy 1 bringing back three (Kenny Habul, Luca Stolz and Raffaele Marciello).
With nine manufacturers entered in GTD, the competition is wide open as usual. Never overlook all-time leading IMSA winner Bill Auberlen and Turner Motorsport co-drivers Robby Foley, Michael Dinan and Jens Klingmann. The No. 96 won last year’s qualifying race and, like BMW Team RLL in GTD PRO, will race a new BMW M4 GT3 this season.
The Heart of Racing Team finished third in the 2021 GTD championship, won the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup and finished fifth in the Rolex 24. Drivers Roman De Angelis, Ian James and Darren Turner are back for the Rolex 24, with Tom Gamble filling the roster. With the semi-retirement of longtime Porsche driver Patrick Long, the No. 16 Wright Motorsports entry takes on a slightly different look this year with drivers Ryan Hardwick, Jan Heylen, Zacharie Robichon and Porsche works driver Richard Lietz.
Andy Lally has the most Rolex 24 wins of any driver entered (five). His No. 44 Magnus Racing team bears watching with its switch to the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 this year. Others to watch include Crucial Motorsports and inception racing, which both bring the McLaren 720S GT3 back to the Roar and Rolex 24.