Photo: Courtesy of IMSA

2020 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona Preview

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

The 2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona kicks off the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s seventh season since the sports car merger of 2014 and there are quite a few changes throughout the paddock.

In Daytona Prototype International (DPi), the standard entry list from last season had 11 cars competing. This year, there are eight. Gone are the Juncos Racing Cadillac, the No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac and the Nissan from CORE Autosport. With CORE Autosport’s departure, only Cadillac, Mazda and Acura are represented in IMSA’s top category.

There are other smaller changes, as well. With Action Express Racing downsizing from two cars to one, the funding from Mustang Sampling went to JDC-Miller Motorsports who signed Sebastien Bourdais and Joao Barbosa to pilot that car full time. Elsewhere, Wayne Taylor Racing signed Ryan Briscoe to replace Jordan Taylor behind the wheel after the younger Taylor brother left to drive one of  the new Chevrolet Corvette C8.Rs in GTLM. Briscoe became available after Chip Ganassi Racing shut down their Ford GT program after the 2019 season.

While DPi had a few changes, LMP2 probably had the largest number of changes from 2019 heading to the Rolex 24. Last year there were four cars in the pro/am prototype class at Daytona. This year, five entries make up the class that has numerous regulation changes to entice more competition.

Among those changes were a mandate of at least one bronze-rated driver in each LMP2 car that qualifies and starts the race, the reduced schedule to only six events and the Rolex 24 being a stand-alone event that does not count for the overall championship in LMP2.

Starworks Motorsport made the switch from running an Audi R8 LMS GT3 in GTD to an Oreca in LMP2 while Era Motorsport and Dragonspeed join the series in a full time capacity to compete alongside returning competitors PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports and Performance Tech Motorsports.

The GT Le Mans (GTLM) field drops from nine to seven competitors in 2019 following the demise of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ford GT program, but there are other changes to the category. Porsche have entered a new 911 RSR for their two factory entries while Corvette Racing have entered two C8.R machines to replace the C7.R that has served them well in IMSA competition. The Pratt & Miller-prepared cars will have one new driver this year for the full season as Jordan Taylor was tapped to replace Jan Magnussen.

Still, the biggest wildcard in GTLM has to be Risi Competizione. Giuseppe Risi’s Houston-based squad won last year’s Petit Le Mans in a campaign that only saw their Ferrari 488 GTE take to the track at Daytona and Road Atlanta to bookend the season. The Risi team is back again and success at Daytona could see the team take on more races in IMSA.

GT Daytona (GTD) has the largest number of entries with 18 of the 38 car field, and this GT3-based class has the most diversity with nine different manufacturers. Porsche, Lamborghini, Lexus, Ferrari, Mercedes, BMW, Acura and Audi return from last year with Aston Martin joining the class with a pair of Vantage GT3 entries.

GRT Grasser Racing Team has won the race two years in a row with their Lamborghini Huracan GT3 and decided to run the full IMSA campaign in 2020. The Grasser organization isn’t just running one car, however, as they have partnered with Magnus Racing and also with GEAR Racing to help run their Lamborghinis.

One of the bigger stories involving GTD at Daytona is the arrival of NASCAR star Kyle Busch. The two-time Cup series champion will race in the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 for the team that finished second in class last year in their first race. The AVS team will be a contender, having won two races last year at Mid-Ohio and Detroit.

Practice starts at 10:05 a.m. ET.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.