Photo: Courtesy of IMSA

DEHARDE: Random Rolex 24 Predictions

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — The 2018 edition of the Rolex 24 at Daytona is upon us and with 50 cars entered it is one of the more talent-filled rosters in the race’s history. Let’s make some predictions about Winners, losers and everything in between.

Overall winner: No. 7 Acura Team Penske

Team Penske has a stacked lineup with Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor and Graham Rahal behind the wheel. All three have extensive racing experience and know how to bring a car home in one piece. This race is about how you manage the full 24 hours. Usually, everyone has to overcome something during the event, so it’s all about minimizing mistakes, which these three are among the best at in their respective backgrounds.

GT Le Mans winner: No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT

Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon will start fifth in GTLM and are a formidable lineup that qualified second last year. With the other GT starting second and both cars doing very well at the Roar Before the 24, Ford look to be a front runner.

GT Daytona winner: No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3

Scott Pruett’s last race will net him another Rolex 24 class victory along with Jack Hawksworth, Dominik Farnbacher and David Heinemeier Hansson. The Lexus machines qualified third and fifth and will have a steep mountain to climb with two Ferraris ahead of them.

Overall victory Wild Card: No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA LMP2

The fastest LMP2 car in qualifying, Pato O’Ward, James French, Kyle Masson and Joel Miller roll off fourth in the team’s first Rolex 24 in the Prototype class after winning Prototype Challenge last year.

GT Le Mans Wild Card: No. 4 Corvette Racing C7.R

Marcel Fassler, Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin will start sixth in class but Corvette Racing wants to start their 20th season of endurance racing with a victory. With the team’s other car starting on pole, the car has the pace.

GT Daytona Wild Card: No. 44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3

Magnus Racing has an amazing GT3 car in the Audi R8 underneath them and with drivers like Andy Lally and Markus Winkelhock, the team will be a tough team to beat.

First car out of the race: No. 20 BAR1 Motorsports Multimatic/Riley LMP2

This car was over five and a half seconds slower than the pole winning prototype. Enough said.

Punching Above Their Weight Award: Mazda Team Joest. Mazda’s reliability in the last few races has been less than ideal with neither prototype finishing the race since 2014 and if one or both cars finish, this will go to them.

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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.