(Disclaimer update: I still haven't read the good guys' GTLM, GTD or Prototype class previews, but after writing my LMPC preview last night, I did go read Marshall Pruett's and Tony DiZinnio's LMPC previews. I'm semi-giddy to see that my picks matched up pretty well with Marshall's, so maybe I'm not 100% full of crap. Let's put the number closer to 80%, shall we?)
#55 and 56 BMW Team RLL BMW Z4s - While both cars are packed with driving talent (Bill Auberlen, Andy Priaulx, Joey Hand and Maxime Martin in the #55 and Dirk Muller, John Edwards, Graham Rahal and Dirk Werner in the #56), just about every one of the BMW guys complained about a lack of straightline speed during the Roar Before the 24 test. At Daytona, not being able to hang on the straights is not going to get the job done, regardless of how quick you might be in the infield. The rest of the field is way too strong for that. Odds (both cars): 25 to 1.
#57 Krohn Racing Ferrari 458 Italia - The Krohn Ferrari was tenth fastest of the ten GTLM cars that participated in the Roar Before test. In the ensuing weeks, the Ferraris have been given a 15 kg weight break and a slightly bigger engine air intake restrictor (which will give them more power), but I just can't see that making enough of a difference (by the way, go read Racer.com's article about the Balance of Performance adjustments...it's very interesting reading, for the gearhead). The drivers (Tracy Krohn, Nic Jonsson, Andrea Bertolini and Peter Dumbreck) are all plenty fast, but I'm afraid they don't quite have the right horse for this course (see what I did there?). Odds - 20 to 1.
The Not Hard to See Winning-ers
#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia - The rest of the pack should be ridiculously tight, as indicated by the testing times of the top-6 in class (a Porsche, both Corvettes, both Vipers, and the Aston Martin) being covered by just 0.554 seconds. It's a tough pick from here on out. The Risi Ferrari was not at the Roar Before test, but I just don't see that there's any way that a car driven by four Ferrari factory drivers (Matteo Malucelli, Giancarlo Fisichella, Gianmaria Bruni and Olivier Beretta, the latter three of which all made it to Formula 1) isn't going to hang with the rest of the big dogs. They'll be just a tick off the pace, I think, but should still factor in well past the 12 hour mark. Odds - 15 to 1.
#97 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8 - The Aston can hang with the "big dogs" in this class, as evidenced by its speed in testing. The only weakness I see here is that there are five drivers on the squad, and one (Paul Dalla Lana) is less than a full factory caliber driver (though he is still quite good, as evidenced by his countless race wins in BMWs shared with Bill Auberlen and the like). Can the other four drivers (Stafan Mucke, Darren Turner, Pedro Lamy and Richie Stanaway, factory drivers, all) make up for the slight shortcoming in pace during Dalla Lana's stints? Odds - 15 to 1.
The Too Close To Call Factory Front Runners
#911 and 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSRs - Porsche came out with a brand new 911 RSR last year, and got some great results with it in the World Endurance Championship at the end of the year. Meanwhile, the "old" 911 was still doing just fine here, as seen by the Petit Le Mans victory by the Team Falken Tire Porsche (maybe I'll get around to that Petit summary write-up someday...). The new car will be quick at Daytona, as testing showed (first and seventh in GTLM). Every last one of the drivers (Nick Tandy, Richard Lietz and Patrick Pilet in the #911, Patrick Long, Michael Christiensen and Joerg Bergmeister in the #912) are factory guys. But something tells me that the other guys will have just a slight edge over 24 hours. Odds (both cars) - 12 to 1.
#91 and 93 SRT Motorsports SRT Viper GTS-Rs - The Vipers had a rough launch in 2012, but were directly on the lead pace in just about all of 2013, with a win at Road America (possibly the best "high speed" analog to Daytona from the 2013 ALMS schedule). The Vipers were just a tick off during the Roar Before test, but have been given a 30 kg weight break since the test. That reduction should have them right at the top of the class. Throw in six great drivers (Dominik Farnbacher, Marc Goossens and 2012 IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay in the #91, Rob Bell, Jonathan Bomarito and Kuno Wittmer in the #93), and you've got a great recipe for a Viper class win. Odds (both cars) - 10 to 1.
The Right-Out-Of-The-Box Rocket Ships
#3 and 4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs - Brand new for 2014, the C7.Rs were incredibly fast at the Roar Before test, clocking in second and third in class. So, the cars are fast. The team has been around for 15 years now, and has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans seven times, so the team is great. The drivers (Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Ryan Briscoe in the #3, Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Robin Liddell in the #4)...well, they're all world class. Sure, it may be a bit unrealistic to think that a brand new car can come out and run fast and flawless for 24 hours, especially in the face of the pressure that the other cars and teams will apply, but something tells me that the Vettes are going to take care of business. Odds (both cars) - 7 to 1.
Yeah, yeah, identical odds for team cars, and barely picking a winner among the top-6 cars. A cop out. So, sue me, but that's just how close this class is. Join us tomorrow for the next Daytona 24 Hours class rundown!