The British are Coming - Part One
January is upon us once more, which can only mean one thing – it’s almost time for the start of the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship and the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona! Another one of the jewels on international endurance racing’s glistening crown, Daytona is an event that everyone wants to cross off of their bucket list. Drivers from all across the globe come together to compete in this prestigious event and for 2018 an impressive contingent of British drivers will be present on the starting grid. This article will cover those participating in a prototype, while Part Two will look at the GT field. But first, let’s talk about those prototypes.
A bit about the cars
This year, IMSA has separated the Prototype Challenge class into its own championship, leaving just one prototype class on the entry list. Comprised of all Pro drivers, teams in the Prototype Class can choose to run either a Daytona Prototype international or an LMP2 chassis. With up to 600 BHP and a top speed of 200mph, these monstrous machines will be the fastest things on the circuit. (You can find the full specs on the IMSA site.)
This year, the entry list sees prototypes from Acura, Cadillac, Mazda, Nissan, Ligier, Oreca and Multimatic/Riley. A brilliantly varied field, the DPis and LMP2s have different strengths and weaknesses, but currently, the DPi chassis may have the edge over their European cousins.
Keep an eye on the side of the cars; a handy leader lighting system will tell you where the cars are within the field. If you see a number 5 displayed in red LEDs on the side of the car, that car is running 5th in class.
Who’s who in the Prototype field
As ever, this year’s entry list boasts an impressive range of talent, so let’s take a look at some of the British drivers joining the roster this year:
Ryan Dalziel – Tequila Patron ESM
Ryan ‘Razzle Dazzle’ Dalziel is a well-known face in the US. Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, Ryan made the jump across the pond back in 2002, and since then, he’s been winning races in both open-wheel and Sportscar championships. Back in IMSA again this season with Tequila Patron ESM, Ryan will be behind the black and green #2 Nissan Dpi. This will be his 13th start at the 24 Hours of Daytona, and this veteran will surely be looking to expand his trophy cabinet.
Paul di Resta – United Autosports
It makes sense for an Anglo American team to have some British talent in their driver list, and ex-F1 driver Paul di Resta is one of three on this list for Yorkshire-based team United Autosports. Originally from West Lothian in Scotland, di Resta has plenty of experience in single seaters and touring cars thanks to drives in F1 and DTM, but this will be his Daytona debut, as well as his first outing in prototype racing. He will be joined by Bruno Senna, Hugo de Sadeleer and Will Owen in the #32 United Autosports Ligier JSP2-17.
Lando Norris – United Autosports
One of British Racing’s hottest young properties right now, Glastonbury born Lando Norris will soon be able to add the 2018 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona to his rapidly expanding resume. The McLaren test driver has made his name in single seaters, having most recently won the 2017 FIA European Formula 3 championship. Lando makes up one-third of the #23 United Autosports crew.
Phil Hanson – United Autosports
Compared to some of the others on this list, Phil has a relatively short motorsport career, but he is the only one to have gone straight from karting to prototype racing. The Asian Le Mans Series champion ran his first Le Mans last year with the Tockwith Motorsports team, and this will be his first taste of American endurance racing. He joins Lando Norris and Spaniard Fernando Alonso in the #23 United Autosports Ligier.
Mike Conway – Whelen Engineering Racing
Bromley boy Mike Conway has a hugely varied CV, covering European single-seater championships, IndyCar, V8 Supercars, Formula E, the FIA World Endurance Championship and the Weathertech Sportscar Championship. This wealth of experience will surely come in handy as Mike starts his 2nd Rolex 24 with Whelen Engineering Racing and their Cadillac DPi.
Stuart Middleton – Whelen Engineering Racing
Young-gun Stuart Middleton is on his way to his first Daytona race thanks to his Sunoco Whelen Challenge prize. The youngest-ever winner of the prize, the British GT4 champion will join the Whelen Engineering Racing team. The Cadillac DPi will be somewhat different to the Ginetta G55 he’s used to, but he’s in good hands with the Whelen team.
Harry Tincknell – Mazda Team Joest
Clearly a man with too much time on his hands, Harry Tincknell is dovetailing his Ford factory drive in the WEC with a full season Mazda factory drive in the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship, kicking it all off with the Rolex 24. (There was also a bit of Formula E testing, but that’s another story.) Harry started out in single seaters before making the leap to endurance racing in 2014. During that year he helped pilot the ‘Mighty 38’ Jota Sport LMP2 to victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours. Definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Oliver Jarvis – Mazda Team Joest
Ollie Jarvis is no stranger to 24 hour races. With seven Le Mans 24 Hours under his belt, including five with endurance giants Audi, he’s in a great position for his return to Daytona. Joining Mazda Team Joest, there should be a sense of familiarity for Jarvis, having raced as part of a Joest team for four years. The team are bringing a new spec version of the Mazda DPi for the car’s second bash at the Daytona 24 and will be hoping to come away with better results this time around.
Alex Brundle – Jackie Chan DCR Jota
Another single-seater turned endurance racer, Alex has been behind the wheel of various prototypes for the last five years. Heading to Daytona for the third time, Brundle will be racing with his 2017 FIA WEC team Jackie Chan DC Racing x Jota. Well versed in the art of Le Mans 24 Hours, this year will be the team’s first crack at the Rolex 24, so Brundle’s experience here will no doubt come in handy. The Oreca 07 has proven to be the chassis to beat in the LMP2 field, so it will be interesting to see how it fares against the DPi entries.
There are a brilliant bunch of Brits taking part in this year’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, so if you’re new to the series and looking for some home-grown talent to support, there’s plenty to choose from. It’s a great opportunity to introduce yourself to a cracking race series.
Part two of ‘The British are Coming’ will be available to read on Thursday (January 25th), and will introduce you to the British stars in the GT classes. The Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona kicks off on Saturday January 27th.