The start of the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – and essentially the entire auto racing calendar – is upon us.
The 58th rendition of the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona gets under way next week on the 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway. Practice and qualifying starts Thursday, Jan. 23, with the green flag flying on the twice-around-the-clock battle just past 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 25.
NBC will have live network coverage of the start of the race beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 25, and also will televise the race finish beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday, Jan. 26 as part of NBC Sports’ complete coverage of the event that includes windows on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App and TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.
IMSA Radio also will have live coverage throughout race weekend on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com, with complete race coverage also airing on SiriusXM Radio.
In the second of a four-part series detailing the four classes that will compete in the 2020 Rolex 24 At Daytona, let’s take a closer look at the LMP2 category.
No. 8 Tower Motorsport by Starworks
Ryan Dalziel/David Heinemeier Hansson/John Farano/Nicolas Lapierre
Tower Motorsport by Starworks kicks off its 2020 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup campaign at the Rolex 24 with the potential of adding other WeatherTech Championship races later in the season. Spearheaded by Farano – a 2012 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Grand Sport (GS) champion who also competed in the Asian Le Mans Series LMP2 Am class this winter – the No. 8 ORECA will be run in partnership with Peter Baron’s Starworks program.
Dalziel, a longtime Starworks driver, and Farano are considered the full-time drivers of the car, with Heinemeier Hansson set for the four enduros. Lapierre, a two-time winner of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts and a four-time 24 Hours of Le Mans LMP2 class winner, will join the team at Daytona.
Dalziel is the only driver of the four who owns a previous Rolex 24 victory, an overall win in 2010 with the Action Express Riley-Porsche. Starworks as a team is also in search of its first win at the Daytona endurance race.
No. 18 Era Motorsport
Kyle Tilley/Dwight Merriman/Ryan Lewis/Nic Minassian
New to the IMSA grid is Era Motorsport with its No. 18 ORECA. Not new to IMSA are drivers Ryan Lewis and Nic Minassian. Lewis has six WeatherTech Championship starts with his best finish coincidentally coming in an ORECA at the 2017 Canadian Tire Motorsport Park round in the Prototype Challenge class.
Minassian – a former Peugeot LMP1 factory driver – has a decent amount of experience between the American Le Mans Series, Rolex GRAND-AM Sports Car Series and WeatherTech Championship. In fact, he participated in the 2016 Rolex 24 a race, in which his car started first in the Prototype category in the hands of then co-driver Mikhail Aleshin.
Newcomers Tilley – Era’s team principal – and Merriman are tabbed as the full-season drivers for 2020. The two co-drove together in historic racing, where Era Motorsport got its start.
No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports
Cameron Cassels/Robert Masson/Kyle Masson/Don Yount
Performance Tech looks to improve one position on its runner-up finish at the 2019 Rolex 24 and to collect the team’s second Rolex watch in four years. Of the team’s four drivers entered this year, only Kyle Masson was part of the 2017 winning lineup in the Prototype Challenge class.
The younger Masson will run the twice-around-the-clock race for the second consecutive year with his father, Dr. Robert Masson, and also returns with his full-season co-driver from 2019, Cameron Cassels, the 2019 Jim Trueman Award winner as the top sportsman driver in the LMP2 class. Meanwhile, Yount returns to a prototype for the first time in the Rolex 24 since 2016 after competing in the GT Daytona (GTD) class the last three years.
No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports
Ben Keating/Simon Trummer/Nick Boulle/Gabriel Aubry
PR1 Mathaisen Motorsports may be looking for some redemption at this year’s Rolex 24. Before storming to six straight victories to win the 2019 WeatherTech Championship LMP2 championship, the team finished last in the Daytona endurance race to start the year.
Aubry is the only returning driver to the team’s lineup and will be joined by former JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi driver Simon Trummer. Seeking his second Rolex 24 win is Nick Boulle, who previously scored the victory with now-competitor Performance Tech Motorsports in 2017.
Pulling double duty in the Rolex 24 – not for the first time, however – will be Texan Ben Keating, who will jump between the No. 52 ORECA LMP2 and the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GTD class. This will be his fifth time competing at Daytona in two different cars and it was in the GTD class in 2015 where Keating scored his first and only Rolex watch to date.
No. 81 DragonSpeed USA
Ben Hanley/Henrik Hedman/Colin Braun/Harrison Newey
The 2019 Rolex 24 LMP2 winning team looks to defend its title, albeit with a different lineup. Both Hanley and Hedman ran in a second DragonSpeed entry last year and took the third and final step on the Rolex 24 podium. Entered as the team’s full-season drivers, these two will look to start the year off right with a win.
Braun, meanwhile, returns to the cockpit of an LMP2 machine after running for several years with a now-shuttered CORE autosport program. He owns one Rolex 24 victory – in Prototype Challenge machine – from 2014 and still holds the record set in October 2013 for the fastest lap ever recorded on the Daytona oval with a speed of 222.971mph (40.364 seconds) in a Michael Shank Racing Ford EcoBoost Prototype.
Completing the driver lineup is Newey, the 2018 Asian Le Mans Series LMP2 champion who competed in Super Formula and the Japanese endurance racing series Super Taikyu in 2019. He is the son of renowned Formula 1 and IndyCar engineer, Adrian Newey, who is now the Chief Technical Officer for the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team.