For the 55th time the motorsports world turns to Daytona International Speedway and it’s 3.56 mile road course to begin the racing season. The twice around the clock Rolex 24 at DAYTONA begins on Saturday, January 28th at 2pm and ends 24 hours later at 2pm on Sunday, January 29th.

The TV Schedule is a follows:

Saturday, January 28th

  • 2pm – 5pm — Fox (network)
  • 5pm – 10pm — Fox Sports 1 (cable)
  • 11pm – midnight — Fox Sports 2 (cable)

Sunday, January 29th

  • midnight – 12:30pm – Fox Sports 2 (cable)
  • 12:30pm – 3pm – Fox Sports 1 (cable)

TSO does have a reporter on site this weekend and will be providing frequent updates on TSOLadder.com and to our subscribers here at TrackSideOnline.com. Here are some brief previews of each class.


Prototype

The top-level class, Prototype, will feature a dozen brand new cars that will be competing in anger for the first first time.. The venerable Daytona Prototype, which has been a Rolex 24 at DAYTONA staple since 2003, has been retired. For 2017 the Prototype class will feature seven Daytona Prototype international (DPi) entries, and five Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) LM P2 entries.

So what is the difference? 

All twelve entries begin with one of four approved chassis manufactures (Dallara, Onroak Automotive, ORECA or Riley/Multimatic), but that is where the similarities end. The DPi entries all feature unique engines and bodywork supplied by an auto-maker, while the LM P2 entries feature bodywork from the chassis manufacture and a common specification power plant.

The DPi entries are spread among Cadillac (3), Mazda (2) and Nisaan (2). The LM P2 entries are spread between: ORECA (3), Liger (1) and Riley/Multimatic (1).

The five LM P2 entries feature a common specification Gibson 4.2L 90 degree V8 power plant, while the three manufactures are utilizing a diverse array of engines in their DPi entries. The Cadillac entries are powered by a 6.2L naturally aspirated V8, the Mazda entries feature a 2.0L single turbo-charged four cylinder, while the Nissan entries have split the difference and gone with a 3.8L V6 that is features twin-turbo induction. All engines produce somewhere in the range of 600HP.

All cars run on Continental Tires.

Most entries feature a full complement of professional drivers.

There are three current Verizon IndyCar Series drivers entered in the top class.

RC Enerson will be making his Rolex 24 at DAYTONA debut at the wheel of the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier/Gibson.

James Hinchcliffe is making his sixth trip to Daytona, Florida for the Rolex 24 at DAYTONA, and for the fifth straight year the Canadian will be part of a Mazda backed factory effort. Hinchcliffe, who’s best previous finish in the event was 16th, will be at the wheel of the No. 70 Machine Grey Mazda DPi.

Spencer Pigot will be making his third Rolex 24 at DAYTONA start (all of them in Mazda factory efforts), and will be behind the wheel of the No. 55 Soul Red Mazda DPi.

Former IndyCar drivers to watch for in the class are:

  • Michael Conway (No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi)
  • Ryan Dalziel (No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi)
  • Christian Fittipaldi (No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi)
  • Neil Jani (No. 13 Rebellion Racing ORECA LM P2)
  • Scott Sharp (No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi)

Prototype Challenge

There are a total of five entries in the common specification Prototype Challenge (PC) class. All cars utilize an ORECA FLM09 chassis that is powered by a General Motors derived naturally aspirated 6.2L V8, and all are shod with identical Continental Tires. The drivers are a mix of professionals and amateurs.

The lone Verizon IndyCar Series driver in this class is Conor Daly, who was a late addition to the No. 88 Starworks Motorsports entry. Daly, who tested his A.J. Foyt Racing/ABC Supply No. 4 Chevrolet at Sebring Raceway earlier this week will be making his second Rolex 24 at DAYTONA appearance. The Noblesville, Indiana natives lone start also came in the Prototype Challenge class in 2014.

Former IndyCar drivers to watch for in the class are:

  • Buddy Rice (No. 20 BAR1 Motorsports)

GT Le Mans (GTLM)

Often the most competitive class during the Rolex 24 at DAYTONA (the race for the class win was decided by only 0.034 of a second in 2016), the GTLM class features eleven factory or heavily factory backed cars. Fighting for bragging rights in 2017 will be: two Chevrolet Corvettes, two BMW M6s, one Ferrari 488, four Ford GTs, and two Porsche 911s. All entries run on entry specific Michelin rubber and are piloted by 100% professional driver line-ups.

The class will feature three Verizon IndyCar Series drivers and two Verizon IndyCar Series teams.

The two BMW M6s are entered by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, who are stating their ninth season as the U.S. factory backed squad for the Munich, Germany based manufacturer.

For the second straight year, Chip Ganassi Racing will be in charge of the factory Ford GT program and will have four entries vying for the Rolex 24 at DAYTONA GTLM title. At the wheel of three of those entries will be three familiar names for IndyCar fans.

2014 Rolex 24 at DAYTONA champion Sebastien Bourdais will be making his eighth start in the event, but only his second start in GT machinery. The Dale Coyne Racing driver was also part of the Ford GT squad last year at Daytona and Le Mans (were he won class honors).

Scott Dixon, who has two Rolex DAYTONA champion watches (2006 and 2015) will be making his 15th consecutive appearance with Chip Ganassi Racing in the twice-around the clock race. The first fourteen of the Kiwi’s starts at Daytona came at the wheel of a prototype, but Dixon was part of the Ford GT program in 2016, so the learning curve should be quite shallow.

Despite beginning his 23rd season of racing in the United States, Tony Kanaan will be making only his sixth Rolex 24 at DAYTONA appearance. Kanaan, who has a Rolex for winning the 2015 event with Chip Ganassi Racing, will be making his first Ford GT start.

Former IndyCar drivers to watch for in the class are:

  • Ryan Briscoe (Ford Chip Ganassi Racing No. 67 Ford GT)
  • Jan Magnussen (Corvette Racing No. 3 Corvette C7.R)

GT Daytona (GTD)

With 27 entries, the GTD class is the largest of the four classes in the 2017 Rolex 24 at DAYTONA field. The GT3 based class has nine different manufacturers represented with the following different race cars entered: Acura NSX (2), Aston Martin Vantage (1), Audi R8 LMS (3), BMW M6 (1), Ferrari 488 (2), Lamborghini Huracan (8), Lexus RCF (2), Mercedes AMG (3), Porsche 911 (5).

The class features two full-time Verizon IndyCar Series and three drivers who made at least one appearance in 2016.

An overall Rolex 24 at DAYTONA winner with Chip Ganassi Racing in 2011, Graham Rahal will be making his ninth start in the season opening event. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver will be sharing the No. 93 Michael Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX, and is no stranger to GT equipment, making his last three DAYTONA starts at the wheel of a GTLM BMW entered by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, who will join Rahal piloting a Acrua NSX for Michael Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian (No. 86) has a total of three overall and four class podiums in ten previous starts.

Townsend Bell, who made one Verizon IndyCar Series start in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016, will be making his fourth Rolex 24 at DAYTONA start. Bell, who won his class at the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans also won his class at Daytona in 2014.

Jack Hawksworth and Sage Karam, two of the four full-time drivers for the 3GT Racing run Lexus RCF program, will both be making their third start in the Rolex 24 at DAYTONA. It will both drivers first attempt in GT equipment.

Former IndyCar drivers to watch for in the class are:

  • Jan Heylen (No. 991 TRG Porsche 911)
  • Katherine Legge (No. 93 Michael Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX)
  • Scott Pruett (No. 14 3GT Racing Lexus RCF)
  • Tristan Vautier (No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes AMG)

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