Thirty-Two Nations Are Represented on the Entry List
By Bryce Kelly
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – What do the United Arab Emirates, Zimbabwe, the British Indian Ocean Territory and Colombia have in common? They will all be represented at Daytona International Speedway when the Rolex 24 At Daytona begins Saturday.
The 61st running of the iconic, twice-around-the-clock endurance classic will include 234 drivers over the five different classes in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Six of the seven continents and 32 nations will be represented once racing begins on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile circuit.
Colombian Gabby Chaves of Andretti Autosport could see the global reach of the Rolex 24 At Daytona without even being on the track.
“It’s fantastic, obviously,” Chaves said. “Two days ago, for the drivers’ meeting, we couldn’t fit all the drivers in there. It’s absolutely insane, all the drivers and with that the different backgrounds, nationalities and sponsors. You get it all right here in Daytona.”
Chaves is driving alongside Americans Dakota Dickerson and Jarett Andretti, and Rasmus Lindh of Sweden in the No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier JS P320 from the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) class. The team looks to finish strong, aiming for that coveted Rolex winner’s watch after qualifying second.
One notable advantage that the Rolex 24 has over the rest of the racing world in drawing international interest is timing. NASCAR, the IndyCar Series and Formula 1 haven’t started their respective seasons, allowing for some of best drivers from those series to test their ability at Daytona.
Six-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and 2021 IndyCar rookie of the year Scott McLaughlin of New Zealand, two-time series champion Josef Newgarden and Colton Herta of the United States and Indianapolis 500 winners Helio Castroneves of Brazil and Simon Pagenaud of France are some of the most notable active IndyCar drivers racing this weekend at Daytona.
There are plenty of former IndyCar drivers in the field, too, including four-time series champion Sebastien Bourdais.
“Coming to Florida in January when there’s no other series that has started is going to be appealing,” Bourdais said. “There’s no conflict on schedules; everyone knows that. No matter what you race, where you race, you know you’ll be available. You can commit to it.”
Bourdais knows about the commitments of the world’s premier racing series. The Frenchman was the overall winner in the 2014 Rolex 24 and earned GTE Pro class honors at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016. He won 37 IndyCar races and also competed in Formula One. Along with Dixon and the Netherlands’ Renger van der Zende, Bourdais will start fourth in the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class in the No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-LMDh.
“There’s plenty of really cool cars to drive, a great challenge, a very historical race to try and win, and there’s a nice watch at the end if you do the job,” Bourdais said. “Why not?”
Eleven manufacturers from around the world comprise the GTP, GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes. Germany has the most in BMW, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche. America has Chevrolet and Cadillac. Great Britain has Aston Martin and McLaren. The iconic Italian brands Ferrari and Lamborghini have made the trip across the pond. Japan is also represented with Acura and Lexus.
“It’s cool in Daytona, especially to see teams come from all over the world that you see racing in European championships more so and coming here and competing in Daytona in the big IMSA event of the year,” Canadian GTD class driver Roman De Angelis said. “It’s nice to have them here and learn and see how international the series is and how welcoming we are to teams all over.”
De Angelis has represented Canada well, winning the GTD championship last season with the Heart of Racing Team. Of the 234 drivers on the entry list, 82 are American. There are 24 British drivers, 18 Italians and 11 French.
Matt Campbell is one of five Australian drivers in the field. He won the GTD PRO season championship last year and moved up to the GTP class to race for Porsche Penske Motorsport alongside Brazilian Felipe Nasr and Monaco’s Michael Christensen. Campbell and his teammates will start second in the No. 6 Porsche 963.
“As a driver, you want to race the best of the best and the best from around the world,” Campbell said. “There are very few other races out there where you can say you have done that, and the Daytona 24 Hours is one of those races. This is really a race where people come from all over the world to compete – the best from IMSA, WEC, IndyCar, NASCAR – they come to compete here. So, as a driver, that’s exciting because there are so many talented drivers here. But that’s the history of the 24 Hours at Daytona – the best of the best come to kick off the season.”
The 61st Rolex 24 At Daytona starts at 1:40 p.m. ET Saturday. Live coverage begins on NBC at 1:30 p.m.