by Jack Webster & Eddie LePine. Photos by Jack Webster
It seems like just yesterday that the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season ended at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta with the running of Petit Le Mans. Of course, it wasn’t just yesterday, but seems like it since the event was pushed back last year to November 13 from its traditional firstk of October running due to schedule changes as a result of Covid (most notably, the moving of the 24 Hours of Le Mans from June to August).
Here we are at the beginning of 2022 and the new racing season is about to begin with the Roar Before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway. Sixty-one high quality entries are set for the Roar and the Rolex, the most since 67 cars started the 2014 race.
New classes, new drivers, new cars – a lot has changed in the past couple of months, but a lot has remained the same: Wayne Taylor Racing’s Cadillac DPi heads the field heading into the Rolex, looking for their unprecedented 4th consecutive win in the 24 Hours. Joining veteran WTR drivers Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Alexander Rossi will be new-to-the-team (but very experienced) driver, Will Stevens
The Roar will feature four testing sessions followed by a 100-minute sprint race on January 23 in preparation for the Rolex 24 just six days later. There is going to be a lot of work for the teams between the Roar and the Rolex 24.
Of course, the Wayne Taylor Racing squad is not going to have that 4th Rolex victory just handed to them. There is a very strong field of DPi cars to challenge for the overall win, and frankly, any one of them could take the top honors. There are 5 Cadillac DPis scattered among top teams including a two-car entry from Chip Ganassi Racing which includes ex Formula One pilot Kevin Magnussen and former Porsche factory driver Earl Bamber. And you can never count out the Rick Hendrick entered Ally Cadillac, which will be shared by Mike Rockenfeller, Kamui Kobashi, Jose Maria Lopez and the one and only Jimmie Johnson. Plus, there is a second Acura, entered by Meyer Shank Racing w/Curb-Agajanian, which will feature a pretty hard-to-beat team of drivers: Oliver Jarvis, Tom Blomqvist, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves.
It is going to be a flat-out 24-hour sprint for top honors.
LMP2 features a very strong field, consisting of 10 cars, the most in years (or perhaps ever). Top entries include the PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Wynns ORECA (always a fan favorite due to its great color scheme) and the DragonSpeed USA ORECA which is supposed to be piloted by Colton Herta among others (not confirmed as of this deadline, but we will see what happens by the end of the week at Daytona).
LMP3 features nine strong entries, including fan favorite Sean Creech Motorsport with Joao Barbosa as one of the listed drivers. Another one to keep an eye on is the Andretti Autosport entry with Jarett Andretti listed as one of the pilots.
Finally, there is the new class everyone is talking about, which is GTD-PRO, which replaces the GTLM class for 2022. The new GTD-PRO class was designed to appeal to manufacturers, with its more cost-effective formula versus the old GTLM class. There are a whopping 13 very high-quality entries for Daytona in the new GTD-PRO class, including cars from Corvette, Porsche, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Ferrari. This is going to be a battle to watch for the entire Rolex 24, because literally any of the entered cars could win the class.
Rounding out the field is GTD, the Pro-Am driver combo related to the GTD-PRO class. It has already been announced that BOP for GTD and GTD-PRO will be the same, so we may see a dark horse GTD entry mixing it up with the Pro guys. There are a total of 22 GTD entries for the Roar and the Rolex 24, with cars from Lexus, Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Mercedes, Acura, BMW and McLaren in the mix. Again, in this class, it is going to be a flat-out 24-hour sprint to victory, as virtually any of the entered cars could win.
In summary, this is perhaps the highest quality Rolex field of cars we have ever seen entered for the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic at Daytona. In virtually every class are teams, cars and drivers who are quite capable of taking victory in their class. By 1:40pm on Sunday, January 30 all of our questions will be answered and we will know who will survive the grueling, flat out high banks of Daytona International Speedway to take the checkered flag.
Eddie LePine is heading to Daytona for the Roar on Friday, and Jack Webster will be joining him the first part of next week for the Rolex. Motorsport Diaries chief James Edmonds will also be on hand at Daytona, giving everyone the inside scoop of what it is like to work for a team during the Rolex 24, as he assists the Sean Creech Motorsport squad in their quest for victory. Stay tuned to themotorsportdiaries.com for complete behind the scenes coverage of the first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race of 2022 – the world-famous Rolex 24 at Daytona.
See you there.