The 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is scheduled to kick off its celebration of 50 years with the season opener, the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
On Thursday, January 24, the wait will be over for IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams, with qualifying for the 2019 season opener, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, set to take place from 21:25 CET to 22:40 CET.
A full field of well-known teams are set to be joined by a few newcomers with the 2019 season, marking further series growth. The 2019 season is a celebratory season for IMSA, as it marks 50 years of IMSA competition with various forms of sports car and prototype racing.
More than 47 cars will take the green flag, with the now defined split in the prototype class giving further chances for refined competition. This running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona is the 57th running of the event. This event has long stood as the highest task to conquer in American sports car racing.
Daytona has seen the legendary likes of Dan Gurney, Mario Andretti and Hurley Haywood pilot equally legendary machinery while creating motorsports history. Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona action gets started later this afternoon, here are some important teams and cars to watch throughout the weekend.
The IMSA prototype classes have received the split to differentiate the global LMP2 chassis from the IMSA-recognized DPi cars, which will act as the pinnacle class for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Coming into the 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona, very little action was taken by the Balance of Performance regulators, giving a sense of “let them race” to this year’s season opener.
In the lead DPi class, fans will be able to see the high displacement Cadillac DPi-V.R cars battle with the sleek Mazdas and Acuras. The always competitive Wayne Taylor Racing bring possibly the strongest driver lineup with Renger Van der Zande and Jordan Taylor being supplemented with former Formula 1 stars Fernando Alonso and Kamui Kobayashi. Alonso will be looking to add yet another accolade to his already long list of motorsports achievements.
Multiple teams will be helping to make the 50th Anniversary of IMSA even more memorable by running throwback paint schemes. In the prototype class, the #54 Core Autosport Ligier will be paying homage to an IMSA legend by detailing the car as a modern copy of the Nissan GTP ZX-Turbo in its classic blue, white and red paint scheme.
The Nissan GTP ZX-Turbo program was dominant during the late 1980s, winning the manufacturer championships three years in a row from the 1989 season to the 1991 season.
Team Penske Acura will also be donning classic wear with a throwback on their ARX-05 cars, which will be paying tribute to the early 1990s Acura NSX Camel Lights champion Comptech Racing cars in white and orange colors.
GTLM and GT Daytona
First and foremost will be the return of Alex Zanardi to the IMSA series with BMW Team RLL. Zanardi was involved in a tragic IndyCar accident in 2001 that resulted in the loss of both of his legs.
However, Zanardi was never able to shake his competitive nature and was quickly looking for ways to develop driving systems for individuals with no use of either leg. He will be driving the #24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE and will utilize a modified steering wheel to accommodate for his situation.
The GTLM field comes into 2019 with the same lineup of cars that competed in 2018. Ford, BMW, Chevrolet, Porsche and Ferrari are looking for another season-long competition to claim the manufacturer championship this season.
The GTLM class will see its fair share of heritage celebration with Porsche bringing back the famous Brumos Racing colors of white, blue and red. Ford will be bringing two different paint schemes that present vintage looks with the #66 car carrying the Roush Racing Motorcraft Mustang colors of the GTO car that won the 1985 Rolex 24 at Daytona in its GTO class and carried John Jones to a driver championship. The #67 car will carry a classic iteration of longtime sponsor Castrol Edge in white, green and red colors.
The GTD class will have the #33 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 in a classic purple livery, which carries some significance of its own. Team owner and driver Ben Keating entered into a season-long sponsorship with the Wynn’s automotive company, which will be celebrating 80 years of automotive service in 2019. Wynn’s sponsored a Porsche 962 for the 1987 season. This car finished in fifth place overall in the 1987 SunBank 24 at Daytona.
One more driver lineup to focus on for the race will be the all-female driver lineup of the #57 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo. The Caterpillar Inc.-sponsored ride will be piloted by two-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champion Christina Nielsen with Katherine Legge, Bia Figueiredo and Simona de Silvestro rounding out the driver lineup.
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