The British are Coming - Part Two
Cover photo: BMW Group Press
It’s almost here! The 2018 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona kicks off this Saturday (January 27th), so there is just enough time to continue from where we left off and introduce you to the GT classes and the British drivers we’ll see competing in them this year.
A bit about the cars
The GT field is split into two classes. Both are based on production cars but differ slightly in power and aerodynamics. There’s GT Le Mans, an all Pro class with a total of 9 entries featuring factory or factory-backed teams from Ford, Ferrari, Porsche, BMW and Corvette. Then there’s the slightly less powerful GT Daytona. A far larger class, GTD is made up of pro-am lineups. This year sees an impressive 21 entries with a wide variety of machinery. Teams are bringing cars from 8 different manufacturers including Lamborghini, Audi, Lexus and Acura.
The two classes can be differentiated by coloured identifiers on the bodywork, and different coloured LEDs on the leader lights system. Red markings on the number panel, mirror, windscreen banner, rear wing endplate, class decal, and red LEDs signify that the car is a GT Le Mans entry – red being the colour of choice for PRO based teams. GT Daytona cars will feature the above in green, signifying a PRO-AM entry.
Who’s who in the GT field
There are another nine British drivers across the two GT classes at this year’s Daytona 24, making it 18 in total. Let’s take a look at those in GTLM and GTD.
GT Le Mans
Oliver Gavin – Corvette Racing
If you cut Oliver Gavin in half, you’d probably find Corvette written through the middle of him, just like a stick of rock. Gavin has been a GM factory driver for Corvette Racing since 2002 and is back with them this year in GT Le Mans. With 17 Le Mans 24 Hours, and four Daytona 24 Hours entries, it’s fair to say that Gavin knows a bit about endurance racing. Back behind the wheel of the familiar Corvette C7.R, Oliver will be joined by 2017 teammates Marcel Fassler and Tommy Milner.
Alexander Sims – BMW Team RLL
BMW factory driver Alexander Sims is back in the Weathertech Sportscar Championship with BMW Team RLL, though this time, they’ve got a new car. Piloting the new BMW M8 GTE, this will be Alex’s second season in the championship, following his debut last year where he finished 2nd in the championship alongside teammate Bill Auberlen. The car looked to be a fair bit behind its rivals in the qualifying session at the ROAR, but don’t discount Alex or the BMW just yet.
Richard Westbrook – Ford Chip Ganassi Racing
Essex-born Richard Westbrook has been a fixture in American sportscar racing since 2011 when he signed as a Corvette factory driver. Following several successful seasons in both GT and Daytona Prototype machinery, Westbrook made the switch to Ford in 2016 as part of their brand new Ford GT program. Now in its third season, the Ford still looks strong, and Richard Westbrook is back with his teammates from last year, Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe.
Nick Tandy – Porsche GT Team
Having been a Porsche works driver since 2013, Nick Tandy is used to driving a variety of Porsches all over the world. He’s been racing in the GT Le Mans category of IMSA’s Sportscar championship since its induction in 2014 and is back again this year for more. Though he missed out on Daytona last year, Nick is no stranger to the 24-hour race, having won it (with Porsche) in GTLM back in 2014. Keep an eye on Nick; he is pretty good behind the wheel of a 911 RSR.
James Calado – Risi Competizione
James Calado began making a name for himself in various single-seater championships, working his way right up to a young driver test in Formula One. In 2014 he jumped from open-wheel racing into a GT career with AF Corse, and he’s been driving Ferraris ever since. Fresh off the back of a championship win in the FIA World Endurance Championship, James is returning to Daytona for the second time with Risi Competizione and the Ferrari 488 GTE.
Jack Hawksworth – 3GT Racing
Jack Hawksworth crossed the pond to race in the US back in 2012, joining the Star Mazda championship as part of Mazda’s Road to Indy. He took the title as a rookie, smashing records along the way and quickly climbed the ladder to IndyCar. After a couple of seasons in IndyCar, Hawksworth was signed by 3GT Racing for the 2017 IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship – he’s staying with the team for the 2018 season too. Hawksworth forms part of the driver lineup for the #15 Lexus RC F GT3, and the team will surely be looking to improve on last year’s 15th place finish at Daytona.
Adam Christodoulou – Mercedes AMG Team Riley Motorsports
You could call Adam Christodoulou a bit of a Sportscar racing expert. Since 2010, Adam has raced in various Sportscar championships across the globe including Blancpain, VLN and GT Open. He has a total of 21 starts in 24-hour races under his belt, including two Daytona events in 2011 and 2017. This year, Adam is back with Mercedes AMG Team Riley Motorsports – the same team with which he came 3rd in GTD at Daytona last year.
Sam Bird – Scuderia Corse
A bit like Harry Tincknell who got a mention in Part One, Sam Bird is another guy who seems to have a lot of free time to fill. Sam kicked off 2018 with the Roar Before the 24 test, before flying off for Formula E duties at the Marrakech ePrix. Plus, it was recently announced that AF Corse would be keeping him on for the FIA World Endurance Championship super season. He’s a busy boy!
So with plenty of experience racing a Ferrari 488 GTE in endurance championships, Sam is well positioned for this assault on the Rolex 24. Let’s just hope he’s not too knackered from all the travelling he’s been doing this month!
Katherine Legge – Michael Shank Racing
Originally from Guildford, Katherine has been a professional racing driver since 2005, competing in all kinds of championships, from Formula E to Indycar, to IMSA’s Weathertech Sportscar Championship with the bizarre looking DeltaWing DWC13. This year sees Katherine staying in the GTD class with Michael Shank Racing, her second season with the team and their Acura NSX GT3 chassis.
And that wraps up our list. There are 18 excellent British drivers taking part in this year’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, making up a fair chunk of an outstanding talent pool. If you’ve never watched the race, now is a great time to do so, with plenty of well-known names and home-grown talent, you’ll surely find someone to cheer on!
The race kicks off on Saturday the 27th of January, and you can find all the event information over at IMSA.com.