DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The start of the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season has arrived and the motorsports world is focused on Daytona International Speedway for this weekend’s Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The iconic race annually gathers many of the top drivers from multiple racing disciplines around the globe. This year is no exception. This is the last of a two-part series looking at the entries in each class, breaking down the talent that will compete in the 59th running. Today we look at the prototypes – expanding to three classes this year with Daytona Prototype international (DPi), Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) and the new Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3).
Rolex 24 practice starts Thursday. The starting grid was determined by the results of Sunday’s Motul Pole Award 100 qualifying race, so there will be no qualifying session later this week on the 3.56-mile road course.
NBC will have live network coverage of the race start beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, and also will televise the finish beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday. Additional flag-to-flag coverage is also available on a combination of NBCSN, TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and the NBC Sports App.
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.
Here are the teams competing in DPi, listed by car number:
No. 01 Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing
Cadillac DPi V.R
Renger van der Zande/Kevin Magnussen/Scott Dixon
Chip Ganassi Racing returns to the WeatherTech Championship with a successful history and an all-star lineup for the 59th Rolex 24.
Two established drivers – former Formula 1 driver Magnussen and two-time Rolex 24 winner van der Zande – join the team as full-time drivers. They’ll be joined at the Rolex 24 by six-time and reigning IndyCar Series champion Dixon.
Magnussen, the son of former F1 driver and IMSA great Jan Magnussen, most recently drove for Haas F1 Team in Formula 1. He has 35 top-10 finishes in 119 F1 races. Prior to F1, Magnussen competed in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, winning the championship in 2013 with five wins and 13 podiums.
Van der Zande, 34, joined Ganassi during the offseason for his eighth year in the WeatherTech Championship with two Rolex 24 victories to his credit (2019 and ’20). Dixon, the 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner, returns to CGR for his 20th season and is a four-time Rolex 24 winner, including last year.
CGR has eight Rolex 24 victories, including a record three in a row (2006-2008).
No. 5 Mustang Sampling/JDC-Miller MotorSports
Cadillac DPi V.R
Tristan Vautier/Loic Duval/Sebastien Bourdais
Minnesota-based JDC-Miller MotorSports in partnership with Mustang Sampling Racing will field an all-French lineup – Duval, Vautier and Bourdais – for the 59th Rolex 24. The trio raced together in the team’s No. 5 Cadillac in several races during the 2020 championship.
Duval and Vautier will be the team’s fill-time drivers through the 2021 season, while Bourdais will move from a full-time role to the team’s endurance specialist after signing with A.J. Foyt Racing for a full season in the IndyCar Series.
The No. 5 scored three podium finishes in 2020 and was a championship contender for much of the season.
"It’s great to have all three of them back for 2021," said John Church, managing partner of JDC-Miller MotorSports. "We had a little bit of an up-and-down year in 2020, but I think we showed in the final race of the year at Sebring a lot of momentum and the potential we have as a group, and that is what we have to build on for 2021."
No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing
Ricky Taylor/Filipe Albuquerque/Alexander Rossi/Helio Castroneves
Wayne Taylor Racing returns to defend its championship in the Rolex 24 with a new car and new driver lineup.
Taylor, son of team owner Wayne Taylor, returns after a three-year run with Acura Team Penske. The younger Taylor’s WeatherTech Championship résumé includes one Rolex 24 victory, one Twelve Hours of Sebring victory and 24 overall wins.
Two Indianapolis 500 winners – Castroneves and Rossi – join Taylor and veteran Albuquerque in an all-star lineup.
The team has won three of the past four Rolex 24s, but moved from Cadillac to Acura during the offseason. WTR’s Rolex history also includes 11 top-five finishes and eight podium finishes while leading 31.4 percent of laps from 2013 to 2020. The team has led the most laps in five of the past six Rolex 24s.
"The team has so much experience and knows how to win at Daytona, so I’m really looking forward to it," Ricky Taylor said. "All the guys on the team are very motivated and everyone has done such a great job to get to this point, so hopefully we can repay them for all their hard work with a win."
No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Action Express Racing
Felipe Nasr/Mike Conway/Pipo Derani/Chase Elliott
The No. 31 Cadillac will be shared by 2018 WeatherTech Championship champion Nasr and Rolex 24 At Daytona winner Derani for the full season, with reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott and veteran driver Mike Conway joining for the Rolex 24.
The team won the 2014, 2015, and 2016 WeatherTech Championship team and driver titles, as well as securing the 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup championships. After winning the 2010 Rolex 24 with a Riley chassis, the team developed and manufactured the Coyote chassis for the Daytona Prototype regulations. The chassis became a winner in its debut 2012 season.
Nasr, who has more than 40 Formula One races on his resume, joined Action Express full time in 2018. He finished fifth in his first F1 race, the Australian Grand Prix in 2015 – the best F1 debut by a Brazilian driver.
Derani won his IMSA debut – the 2016 Rolex 24 – and followed that with a victory in the Twelve Hours of Sebring, becoming the first Brazilian driver to win both races in the same year.
Nasr and Derani won Sunday’s Motul Pole Award 100 qualifying race, putting the No. 31 on pole for Saturday’s race start.
No. 48 Ally/Action Express Racing
Jimmie Johnson/Kamui Kobayashi/Simon Pagenaud/Mike Rockenfeller
Like its competitors in the DPi class, the No. 48 Ally Cadillac team put together an all-star driver lineup for its run in the 59th Rolex 24.
NASCAR veteran Johnson will share the Ally-sponsored Cadillac with two-time Rolex 24 winner Kobayashi, Indy 500 winner Pagenaud and former Corvette Racing and Audi prototype driver Rockenfeller.
Johnson stepped away from his full-time role with Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the 2020 NASCAR season with seven Cup Series championships to his credit. In addition to racing in the Rolex 24, Johnson will run a partial IndyCar schedule for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2021.
"The Rolex 24 At Daytona is one of the marquee races in the world," Johnson said. "It’s such a challenging event for both team and driver and requires such a high level of concentration throughout. It’s just such a fun and unique race to compete in."
No. 55 Mazda Motorsports
Oliver Jarvis/Harry Tincknell/Jonathan Bomarito
Mazda Motorsports has pared its effort in the DPi class down to one entry for the 2021 season, with Jarvis and Tincknell teaming for the full season, and Bomarito retained for the Michelin Endurance Cup races.
While it’s the first time Mazda has entered only one car in the DPi class, it’s a strong single entry. The team swept the top-two positions in the July 2020 race at Daytona International Speedway, then won the season-ending Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts to finish third in the final DPi standings.
Bomarito and Tincknell teamed with Ryan Hunter-Reay for the Sebring victory. Jarvis won the LMP2 class and finished second overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2017. He also has three other overall podium finishes at Le Mans.
No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian
Dane Cameron/Olivier Pla/Juan Pablo Montoya/AJ Allmendinger
Full-season drivers Cameron and Pla will be joined by Montoya and Allmendinger as Meyer Shank Racing kicks off its 18th season in the WeatherTech Championship with a return to the series’ top class.
Cameron moves to the team from Acura Team Penske, which won the 2019 and 2020 DPi championships. As part of the development of the Acura ARX-05 prototype in 2017, Cameron debuted the car in 2018. The following season, he teamed with Montoya to win the championship.
Pla, who joined the series in 2014, raced with Meyer Shank Racing in the 2016 season. That year, he helped the team win the Motul Petit Le Mans, which also marked MSR’s 150th prototype start.
Allmendinger will be returning to the team for his 15th Rolex 24. He had a 10-season streak with the team, including an overall Rolex 24 win in 2012.
MSR, which won GT Daytona championships the last two years, also has two pole positions and three podiums at the Rolex 24.
The LMP2 class has swelled to 10 entries. They are:
No. 8 Tower Motorsport
ORECA LMP2 07
John Farano/Gabriel Aubry/Tim Buret/Matthieu Vaxiviere
Farano and Aubry are the full-time drivers in the No. 8. Farano was the LMP2 winner in the No. 8 last year at the Motul Petit Le Mans and finished second in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. Aubry’s only LMP2 drive in 2020 resulted in a second-place finish at the Rolex 24 with PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports, but he drove in a pair of DPi races for JDC-Miller Motorsports as well. Aubry won a pair of LMP2 races for PR1 Mathiasen in 2019.
Buret is a veteran of four 24 Hours of Le Mans races in LMP2. Vaxiviere, who teamed with Jordan and Ricky Taylor to win the Twelve Hours of Sebring in his WeatherTech Championship debut in 2017, has finished third in LMP2 at Le Mans the past two years and joined Wayne Taylor Racing for a pair of second-place DPi finishes in 2019.
No. 11 WIN Autosport
ORECA LMP2 07
Steven Thomas/Tristan Nunez/Thomas Merrill/Matt Bell
Team owner/driver Thomas is making the move up from IMSA Prototype Challenge, where he finished sixth in points in 2020. Nunez, the former Mazda DPi driver, joins as the second full-time driver.
Bell, the reigning Prototype Challenge champion who also raced in a pair of WeatherTech Championship LMP2 events, joins for the Rolex 24. He is a past Rolex 24 pole winner, in the 2014 GTD class. Merrill is set for his third Rolex 24 start but first in 11 years.
No. 18 Era Motorsport
ORECA LMP2 07
Dwight Merriman/Kyle Tilley/Ryan Dalziel/Paul-Loup Chatin
After finishing third last year in the Rolex 24 and adding a trio of additional LMP2 podium finishes in the 2020 WeatherTech Championship season, team owner Tilley and co-driver Merriman are back at it again in 2021.
They’ve added a perennial front-runner in Dalziel, the 2010 Rolex 24 overall winner who’ll make his 16th straight start in the iconic race. "I’m humbled to be part of this journey," he said.
Chatin will make his first appearance in the Rolex 24 but holds a pair of European Le Mans Series titles. His association with Era began when he met Merriman and Tilley last fall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
No. 20 High Class Racing
ORECA LMP2 07
Dennis Andersen/Ferdinand Habsburg-Lothringen/Anders Fjordbach/Robert Kubica
The Danish squad has enlisted ex-Formula 1 racer Kubica to make his Rolex 24 debut among the driver quartet. It will mark Kubica’s first race in a prototype car.
Habsburg, who finished fifth overall in the 2018 Rolex 24, is the other added driver alongside Andersen and Fjordbach, who are slated to drive the car this season in the FIA World Endurance Championship along with IMSA great Jan Magnussen.
The team showed promise by finishing second in Sunday’s Motul Pole Award 100 qualifying race.
No. 29 Racing Team Nederland
ORECA LMP2 07
Fritz Van Eerd/Giedo van der Garde/Job Van Uitert/Charles Milesi
The WEC team is making its first appearance in the Rolex 24 with a trio of drivers from the Netherlands and Frenchman Milesi. The team got off to an ominous start in last weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24, with its car not showing up until after the first practice session started due to shipping delays. Still, the crew assembled it quickly and the No. 29 led the second practice and finished fourth in the Motul Pole Award 100.
All four drivers will be making their first Rolex 24 start, though Van Uitert won the LMP2 class at October’s Motul Petit Le Mans. Team founder Van Eerd and van der Garde won a WEC race last year at Fuji, Japan. Van der Garde also drove the full 2013 F1 season with Caterham.
No. 47 Cetilar Racing
ORECA LMP2 07
Roberto Lacorte/Antonio Fuoco/Andrea Belicchi/Giorgio Sernagiotto
The Italian team that has competed most recently in the European Le Mans Series and FIA World Endurance Championship is making its Rolex 24 debut. Its WEC lineup of team owner Lacorte, Sernagiotto and Belicchi is joined by Ferrari GT driver Fuoco.
AF Corse, which has a GT Daytona entry in the Rolex 24, is supporting the Cetilar entry in a continuation of when AF Corse ran the Cetilar LMP2 program last season in the WEC.
No. 51 RWR-Eurasia
ORECA LMP2 07
Cody Ware/Salih Yoluc/Austin Dillon/Sven Muller
American race fans will instantly notice Dillon as a name of import among the drivers. But it will be the 2018 Daytona 500 winner’s first LMP2 drive, much less in the Rolex 24.
He’s surrounded by some stout talent, however. Yoluc was the GTE Am class winner in the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ware, a part-time NASCAR driver since 2014, was the 2019-20 LMP2 Am champion in the Asian Le Mans Series.
Muller is literally the newest member of the group, named as the fourth driver on Wednesday after Mathieu Jaminet tested positive for COVID-19. Like Jaminet, Muller is a Porsche factory driver.
No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports
ORECA LMP2 07
Ben Keating/Mikkel Jensen/Scott Huffaker/Nicolas Lapierre
The reigning WeatherTech Championship LMP2 champion team is picking up where it left off. Keating and Jensen won Sunday’s Motul Pole Award 100 and will lead their class to the green flag for the Rolex 24.
Keating brings a wealth of experience to the team with 13 career IMSA wins including the 2015 Rolex 24 in the GTD class. He was on the PR1 Mathiasen LMP2 team that finished second last year in the Rolex 24.
Huffaker picked up two LMP2 wins last year with PR1 Mathiasen. Lapierre is a two-time Sebring 12 Hours winner and four-time LMP2 victor in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
No. 81 DragonSpeed USA
ORECA LMP2 07
Rob Hodes/Garett Grist/Rinus Veekay/Ben Hanley
The defending Rolex 24 class champion returns just one driver, Hanley, from that race. Hanley also won with the team last season at Road America.
Hodes made his WeatherTech Championship debut with a third-place LMP2 finish last year at the Motul Petit Le Mans. He also has experience in the IMSA Prototype Challenge, Asian Le Mans Series and European Le Mans Series.
Grist has WeatherTech Championship win in 2017 Prototype Challenge class at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, as well as wins in the Asian Le Mans Series and European Le Mans Series. He will make his Rolex 24 debut this weekend.
Veekay joins the team from the IndyCar Series, where he was rookie of the year in 2020.
No. 82 DragonSpeed USA
ORECA LMP2 07
Eric Lux/Devlin Defrancesco/Fabian Schiller/Christopher Mies
Versatile veteran Lux leads the four-driver lineup. He has six career IMSA wins in a career spanning 15 years, including a pair of LMP2 victories in 2019.
Mies is a two-time winner of the 24 Hours of Nurburgring who finished second in the 2017 Rolex 24 in the GTD class. The German will be making his fourth Rolex 24 start.
Defrancesco makes his third attempt in the Rolex 24. He drove an LMP2 in 2018 and DPi in 2019, both for JDC-Miller Motorsports. Schiller has one previous Rolex 24 start, in the GTD class in 2019. He was the 2017 Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup Silver Cup champion and has LMP2 experience in the Asian Le Mans Series.
LMP3 joins the WeatherTech Championship in 2021, starting with these seven Rolex 24 entries:
No. 6 Muehlner Motorsports America
Moritz Kranz/Laurents Hoerr/Kenton Koch
The team made the biggest splash possible last weekend in the Roar Before the Rolex 24. Not only did Kranz and Hoerr win the LMP3 class by more than a lap in the Motul Pole Award 100, but earlier in the day they also drove away to victory in IMSA Prototype Challenge race in another LMP3.
The American portion of the team is based in nearby DeLand, Florida, but it’s tied to the Muehlner Motorsports base in Belgium. Kranz and Hoerr run the current version of the LMP3 – which is new to the WeatherTech Championship this year – in Europe last season.
Koch, the Rolex 24 Prototype Challenge winner in 2016, was a late addition to the driver lineup and is giddy about the opportunity. "I thought there was no hope to take part in the Rolex 24 a week ago, and now we are here!" he told Racer.com of his first Rolex 24 chance since 2018. "I’m extremely thankful to the Muehlner team for the opportunity."
No. 7 Forty7 Motorsports
Mark Kvamme/Ryan Norman/Gabby Chaves/Charles Finelli
Familiar names to IMSA fans in this driver lineup could well be Norman and Chaves, who teamed to win the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Touring Car (TCR) championship last season with Bryan Herta Autosport. Chaves, a former IndyCar rookie of the year, has also collected nine WeatherTech Championship starts in different prototypes. Norman will make his series and Rolex 24 debut.
Kvamme has made 22 WeatherTech Championship starts, primarily in Prototype Challenge or LMP2 machines. Like Norman, Finelli will make his initial Rolex 24 appearance after coming over from the IndyCar development ranks.
No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsport
Ligier JS P320
Lance Willsey/Joao Barbosa/Wayne Boyd/Yann Clairay
Joao Barbosa, a four-time Rolex 24 winner (including three overall), lends immediate credibility to this effort. He’ll pair all season with Willsey, who has driven an LMP3 in the IMSA Prototype Challenge since 2017.
While they will be making their Rolex 24 debuts, Boyd and Clairay bring experience with the LMP3. Clairay was a development driver for Ligier and won his Prototype Challenge debut driving for SCM in 2018. Boyd is the reigning European Le Mans LMP3 champion.
No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports
Ligier JS P320
Rasmus Lindh/Cameron Cassels/Mateo Llarena/Ayrton Ori
The winning Prototype Challenge team at the 2017 Rolex 24 is back seeking another triumph in the new class. Cassels, who had a pair of LMP2 podium finishes last year and finished ninth in the IMSA Prototype Challenge standings, is joining Rasmus Lindh, the Swede who fashioned two Prototype Challenge podium results last season, as the full-time duo.
A pair of talented teens in Llarena and Ori join the program for the Rolex 24. Cassels is the only driver among the four who has past experience in the Rolex 24.
No. 54 CORE autosport
Ligier JS P320
Jonathan Bennett/George Kurtz/Colin Braun/Matt McMurry
The five-time IMSA champion team gets back into prototype competition with a potent entry led by dynamic duo Braun and Bennett. They teamed to win the Rolex 24 Prototype Challenge class in 2014 and Braun was the LMP2 winner last year with DragonSpeed.
Kurtz drove with Braun last year in SRO GT World Challenge America, where they finished second in ProAm. Kurtz will drive with the team in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup events. McMurry comes aboard for the Rolex 24 as a two-time WeatherTech Championship season champion: 2019 in LMP2 and 2020 in GTD.
No. 74 Riley Motorsports
Ligier JS P320
Gar Robinson/Spencer Pigot/Scott Andrews/Oliver Askew
The Riley team is fielding a pair of LMP3 entries at the Rolex 24. The No. 74 features Robinson, who finished eighth in last year’s GTD standings in a Riley entry. Pigot, the IndyCar and part-time WeatherTech Championship driver, is filling in for Felipe Fraga, who faced travel restrictions in his native Brazil and couldn’t make the trip to Florida.
All of Robinson’s 17 series starts have come in GTD. All but one of Pigot’s 15 IMSA starts have come in a prototype, predominantly with Mazda.
Andrews won a pair of IMSA Prototype Challenge races in 2020, in the previous-generation LMP3. Askew, an IndyCar Series rookie last year, is making his WeatherTech Championship debut.
No. 91 Riley Motorsports
Ligier JS P320
Jim Cox/Dylan Murry/Austin McCusker/Jeroen Bleekemolen
The other Riley Motorsports LMP3 entry features the Cox/Murry duo that finished third in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Grand Sport (GS) championship last season, driving a Riley entry that included a season-opening win at Daytona. Both drivers are taking the step up to the WeatherTech Championship for the first time.
Their effort will receive a boost from McCusker, who won the IMSA Prototype Challenge championship in 2019, a year after finishing second. Over the two seasons, he collected three wins.
And then there’s Bleekemolen, the two-time IMSA season champion and two-time IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup titlist in GTD. The Dutchman had a streak of at least one IMSA win a season snapped at 10 years in 2020, when he drove only in the Rolex 24. Bleekemolen drove for Riley in GTD from 2014-19, collecting half of his 22 career wins.