NASCAR Driver Cindric in for Rolex 24, Multitude of Other Team Driver Announcements
By Mark Robinson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Austin Cindric, the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion who is set for his rookie season this year in the NASCAR Cup Series, will race in this month’s Rolex 24 At Daytona to open the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
Cindric was announced Monday as part of the driver lineup for the No. 15 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. It is the third car entered by WeatherTech Racing to compete in the new GTD PRO class and second Mercedes. Joining Cindric as co-drivers of the No. 15 will be Dirk Mueller, who counts two Rolex 24 wins among his 23 career IMSA victories, and Patrick Assenheimer. The car is co-sponsored by Mercedes of Billings, Montana. Like the other WeatherTech Racing entries, the car will be operated by Proton Racing.
“The second Mercedes entry came about with Proton being contracted to prepare the car,” said David MacNeil, founder and CEO of WeatherTech said. “It was also an opportunity to have Mercedes of Billings to have a presence in the race as well. The Rolex 24 is a showcase for sports car racing around the world and is really the only on-track competition going on this time of year. We are excited to have a third WeatherTech-liveried car on the grid for the 60th running of this great race.”
CORE Returns Core Group for Another LMP3 Run
The core of CORE is back in 2022. CORE autosport is returning drivers Jon Bennett, Colin Braun and George Kurtz to drive the team’s No. 54 Ligier JS P320 in the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) class this season. Bennett and Braun will resume full-season duties, with Kurtz joining for the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup events. Nic Jonsson will be the fourth driver for the Rolex 24.
The No. 54 finished second in the 2021 LMP3 standings with wins at Sebring and Road America. The 2022 season will be the 10th together for Bennett and Braun, resulting in 17 race wins.
“I am extremely pleased with our 2022 driver lineup,” Bennett said. “Obviously, Colin and I have a longstanding relationship and his talent is off the charts. I really enjoyed working with George last year and he clearly has the pace to help us win races. He’s fit in well with the team and I think we can get some more IMSA wins on his scorecard. Having Nic back to complete our Daytona lineup is outstanding because he knows CORE and he’ll hit the ground running with us.”
Sean Creech Motorsport Set for Full-Season LMP3 Campaign
Sean Creech Motorsport, which finished second in the LMP3 class at the Rolex 24 during an abbreviated season, is planning for a full-year campaign in the WeatherTech Championship in 2022.
Four-time Rolex 24 winner Joao Barbosa and Lance Willsey will be the full-season drivers of the No. 33 Ligier JS P320. Seb Priaulx, winner of the 2021 Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islands championship, will join them for this month’s Rolex 24, as will 18-year-old Malthe Jakobsen. It will be the Rolex 24 debut for both Priaulx and Jakobsen.
“The team did such a good job last year, so I think there’s huge potential for this year,” said Barbosa, who will make his 20th Rolex 24 start. “We finished second last year and we want to do as good or better. With Malthe and Sebastian, it’s a young and strong team to face the challenge of the LMP3 class. Malthe knows the car and his experience in Europe really helps. I coached Sebastian in a few races last year and have followed his progress. He did a stellar job last year. He has huge potential as well and this will give him great experience.”
Bell Rejoins Vasser Sullivan for Team’s Rolex 24 GTD Entry
Vasser Sullivan is returning Townsend Bell to its driver fold for the Rolex 24. The veteran was named the fourth driver of the team’s No. 12 Lexus RC F GT3 in the GT Daytona (GTD) class, where he will pair with Aaron Telitz, Frankie Montecalvo and Richard Heistand.
Bell won the 2014 Rolex 24 GTD race, was the 2015 WeatherTech Championship GTD champion and was a co-driver of the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans GTE Pro-Am victory. In addition to his driving duties at this year’s Rolex 24, Bell will again serve as a commentator for NBC Sports’ coverage of the 24-hour race.
“This is the first time I’ve raced the Rolex 24 with all four drivers having experience in the race and with our Lexus RC F GT3. That makes me confident,” Bell said. “This will be my fourth season with the team and I couldn’t be more proud of the organization that Jimmy (Vasser) and ‘Sulli’ (James Sullivan) have built, brick by brick. We have a really strong team now with a few key personnel additions over the offseason.
“When I think about the proven race-winning capability of our Lexus RC F GT3, the VS team and all of the outstanding support from Lexus Racing, I can’t wait to get going at Daytona. Make no mistake, this will be the most competitive GT field in history; however, we have a group ready and eager to compete.”
Team TGM Returns for Another Go at the Rolex 24
Team TGM will make its second appearance in the Rolex 24 At Daytona later this month with the same driver lineup in the No. 64 Porsche 911 GT3R. Team owner Ted Giovanis will share driving duties with Owen Trinkler, Hugh Plumb and Matt Plumb. As importantly, the team will partner with successful Porsche team Wright Motorsports in the race operation.
“We feel especially good about being able to race completely under the Porsche banner this season,” Giovanis said. “The marque is one of the most respected in the sport, and John Wright and his crew are the foremost authorities in North America. We’re very excited to be working with them again.”
Team TGM finished 17th in last year’s Rolex 24, retiring early with drivetrain issues. The four drivers will also race in Team TGM’s two IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge cars in the BMW M Endurance Challenge that takes place on Jan. 28, a day ahead of the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.
Tower Motorsport Coming Back for Third LMP2 Season
Tower Motorsport, winner of the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class the past two years at the Motul Petit Le Mans, is back for a third season of competition in the WeatherTech Championship. Team principal John Farano, part of both Petit Le Mans wins who finished third in the 2021 LMP2 standings, returns as a fulltime driver in the No. 8 ORECA LMP2 07. Louis Deletraz, the 2021 LMP2 champion in the European Le Mans Series, will drive the entire season with Farano, beginning with the Rolex 24.
Rui Andrade, the 2021 ELMS ProAm champion, will join them for the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races, with Ferdinand Habsburg the fourth driver for the Rolex 24. The No. 8 ORECA finished second in last year’s Rolex 24 to open the season.
“I am very excited to be racing alongside Louis for the full 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and thrilled to have Rui join us for the full Michelin Endurance Cup championship, and having Ferdinand anchoring the team for the (Rolex) 24,” Farano said. “I have already had the pleasure of testing at Daytona with these amazing drivers, who immediately put their speed and talents on display. I am very much looking forward to another great season.”
T3 Motorsports Joins Rolex 24 Field with Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO
T3 Motorsports will make its Rolex 24 debut this year, fielding the No. 71 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO for drivers Mateo Llarena, Maximilian Paul, Franck Perera and Misha Goikhberg. Perera is a Lamborghini factory driver who won the 2018 Rolex 24 in a Huracán GT3 and Goikhberg a veteran endurance driver who has one Rolex 24 victory (2016 Prototype Challenge class) to his credit.
Llarena and Paul are Lamborghini GT3 junior drivers with Llarena taking top honors during LMP3 qualifying for the WeatherTech 240 at Watkins Glen in 2021 at the age of 17.
“It’s a great experience to race for the second year in a row at the 24 Hours of Daytona and now with Lamborghini,” Llarena said. “Also, with a brand that gave me all the necessary support (last) season in the Italian GT Championship.”
NTE Sport Names Driver Lineup for Rolex 24
NTE Sport will field a new Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO and field a driver lineup that includes the first recipient of the IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship for the Rolex 24.
Jaden Conwright, the scholarship winner, will pair with Don Yount, Benjamin Hites and Markus Palttala in the No. 42 Lamborghini in the GTD class.
“I’ll be very excited to get the race season officially started,” said team owner Paul Mata. “We’ve had a lot of moving parts over the course of this short offseason, and I’m proud of the program we’ve put together. We’re thrilled to get to work with Chris Ward and everyone at Lamborghini Squadra Corse, and can’t wait to see what we can do with such a strong lineup. It’ll be a great season!”
Young drove in the four races for NTE Sport last season, when the team fielded an Audi. Conwright raced with NTE twice, Hines and Palttala each once. The team’s best finish was fourth at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
“I’m looking forward to my seventh Rolex 24 At Daytona in a row,” Yount said. “This might be the strongest lineup I have been involved with for the 24-hour and I’m excited to see what we can do with the NTE Lamborghini. It’s good to be back in the car with Markus after our fourth-place Watkins Glen run and Benjamin had a very strong Petit Le Mans. Jaden will be ready as always for extra-long stints. It’s a strong lineup with a new car and we have a lot to prove.”
Wright Motorsports Completes Rolex 24 Lineup with Lietz
Wright Motorsports rounded out its Rolex 24 driver lineup with Porsche factory driver Richard Lietz, who will join Ryan Hardwick, Jan Heylen and Zacharie Robichon behind the wheel of the No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3R in the GTD class for the Jan. 29-30 event.
In his 16th year as a Porsche factory driver, Lietz has six professional championships and been a 24 Hours of Le Mans winner three times.
“It’s great to welcome Richard Lietz to Wright Motorsport,” team owner John Wright said. “After over two decades of our team racing Porsche machinery, we’re honored to have a driver of his caliber join our stout lineup. Porsche is a fantastic manufacturer to be affiliated with, and they pick only the best drivers to represent their brand. He’ll be a great addition to our team. After back-to-back fourth-place finishes at Daytona, we’re very eager to fight for that top step.”
Previous 2022 WeatherTech Championship Team/Driver Announcements
Daytona Prototype international (DPi)
Action Express Racing: No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R, drivers Pipo Derani and Tristan Nunez (story here); No. 48 Ally Cadillac DPi V.R for IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races, drivers Jimmie Johnson, Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Rockenfeller and Jose Maria Lopez (story here)
Chip Ganassi Racing: No. 01 V-Performance Academy Cadillac DPi-V.R, drivers Renger van der Zande, Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon and Alex Palou; No. 02 Cadillac Accessories Cadillac DPi-V.R, drivers Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn, Kevin Magnussen and Marcus Ericsson (story here)
JDC-Miller MotorSports: No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi V.R, drivers Tristan Vautier, Richard Westbrook, Loic Duval and Ben Keating (story here)
Wayne Taylor Racing: No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05, drivers Filipe Albuquerque, Ricky Taylor, Will Stevens and Alexander Rossi (story here)
Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2)
DragonSpeed: No. 81 ORECA LMP2 07 for full season except Rolex 24 At Daytona, drivers Henrik Hedman, Juan Pablo Montoya and Sebastian Montoya (story here); No. 81 ORECA LMP2 07 for Rolex 24 At Daytona, drivers Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward, Eric Lux and Devlin DeFrancseco (story here)
Era Motorsport: No. 18 ORECA LMP2 07, drivers Dwight Merriman, Ryan Dalziel, Kyle Tilley and Paul-Loup Chatin (story here)
G-Drive Racing by APR: No. 68 ORECA LMP2 07 for Rolex 24 At Daytona, drivers Rene Rast, Ed Jones, Francois Heriau and Oliver Rasmussen; No. 69 ORECA LMP2 07 for Rolex 24 At Daytona, drivers John Falb, Luca Ghiotto, James Allen and Tijmen van der Helm (story here)
PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports: No. 11 ORECA LMP2 07, drivers Steven Thomas, Jonathan Bomarito, Josh Pierson and Harry Tincknell; No. 52 ORECA LMP2 07, drivers Ben Keating, Mikkel Jensen, Scott Huffaker, Nicolas LaPierre and others to be named (story here)
Racing Team Nederland: No. 29 ORECA LMP2 07 for IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races, drivers Fritz van Eerd, Giedo van der Garde, Dylan Murry and Rinus VeeKay (story here)
United Autosports: No. 22 ORECA LMP2 07 for IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races, drivers Jim McGuire, Guy Smith, Phil Hanson and Will Owen (story here)
Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3)
Andretti Autosport: No. 36 Ligier JS P320, drivers Jarett Andretti, Josh Burdon, Gabby Chaves and Rasmus Lindh (story here)
AWA: No. 13 Duqueine D08, drivers Kuno Wittmer, Orey Fidani, Lars Kern and Matt Bell (story here)
Jr III Racing: No. 30 Ligier JS P320 for full season except Rolex 24 At Daytona, drivers Ari Balogh and Garett Grist (story here)
Performance Tech Motorsports: No. 38 Ligier JS P320 for Rolex 24 At Daytona, drivers Dan Goldburg, Garett Grist, Hikaru Abe and Nico Pino (story here)
GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO)
BMW Team RLL: Two BMW M4 GT3s, drivers to be named (story here)
Corvette Racing: No. 3 Corvette C8.R, drivers Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg (story here); No. 4 Corvette C8.R for Rolex 24 At Daytona, drivers Tommy Milner, Nick Tandy and Marco Sorensen (story here)
Heart of Racing Team: No. 23 Aston Martin Vantage GT3, drivers Alex Riberas, Ross Gunn and Maxime Martin (story here)
Pfaff Motorsports: No. 9 Porsche 911 GT3R, drivers Matt Campbell, Mathieu Jaminet and Felipe Nasr (story here)
TR3 Racing: No. 63 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO for Rolex 24 At Daytona, drivers Mirko Bortolotti, Rolf Ineichen, Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli (story here)
Vasser Sullivan Racing: No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3, drivers Ben Barnicoat, Jack Hawksworth and Kyle Kirkwood (story here)
WeatherTech Racing: No. 79 Porsche 911 GT3R, drivers Cooper MacNeil, Julien Andlauer, Matteo Cairoli and Alessio Picariello; No. 97 Mercedes-AMG GT3 for Rolex 24 At Daytona, drivers Cooper MacNeil, Maro Engle, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella (story here)
GT Daytona (GTD)
CarBahn with Peregrine Racing: No. 39 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO, drivers Jeff Westphal and Robert Megennis (story here)
Cetilar Racing: No. 47 Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo for IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races, drivers Roberto Lacorte, Giorgio Sernagiotto, Antonio Fuoco and Alessio Rovera (story here)
Gradient Racing: No. 66 Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 for IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races, drivers Mario Farnbacher, Till Bechtolsheimer, Kyffin Simpson and Marc Miller (story here)
Heart of Racing Team: No. 27 Aston Martin Vantage GT3, drivers Roman De Angelis, Maxime Martin, Tom Gamble, Darren Turner and Ian James (story here)
Magnus Racing: No. 44 Aston Martin Vantage GT3, drivers to be named (story here)
Paul Miller Racing: No. 1 BMW M4 GT3 for full season except Rolex 24 At Daytona, drivers Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow (story here)
TR3 Racing: No. 19 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO for Rolex 24 At Daytona , drivers Jeff Segal, Bill Sweedler, John Megrue and Giacomo Altoe (story here)
Vasser Sullivan Racing: No. 12 Lexus RC F GT3, drivers Aaron Telitz, Frankie Montecalvo and Richard Heistand (story here)
Turner Motorsport: No. 96 BMW M4 GT3, drivers Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley, Michael Dinan and Jens Klingmann (story here)
Wright Motorsports: No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3R, drivers Ryan Hardwick, Jan Heylen and Zacharie Robichon (story here)