Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2014 Daytona 24 Hours - Le Mans Prototype Challenge Preview

As is my tradition during the days leading up to the Daytona 24 Hours (and, therefore, Grab Bag Sports' Blogathon), it's time for me to take a look at the various classes taking to the track this coming weekend. Due to the GrandAm / ALMS merger, we have grown from just two classes to fully four separate classes, so this is going to take the better part of the week. I'll tackle the classes in the way that I feel like tackling them, namely in order of least interesting (to me) to most interesting (to me). If you're a fan of the Le Mans Prototype Challenge class, today's entry, save your e-mails of disgust. LMPC is going to be a great race, but it has two things working against it: 1) the cars are all identical (the only one of the four classes that is a "spec" class), and 2) there are only nine cars in it, the least among the four classes. Somebody has to take fourth among four. For this event, it's LMPC.

One quick disclaimer: I know full well that there are excellent, professionally written, probably much more valid class previews than this one. By all means, go read the other guys out there. Marshall Pruett, John Dagys, Tony DiZinnio and the other fellas at DailySportsCar.com and NBCSports MotorSportsTalk.com are all great. But I assure you, I have not yet read a word of their previews, so this is my unmolested, totally biased and probably wildly underinformed opinion.

Oh, and the usual pre-Daytona disclaimer: don't go trying to add up my odds. It'll only infuriate you as to how inept one man can be at oddsmaking.

The Long(er) Shots

#87 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09 - Their driver lineup was just finalized yesterday. The two well known names who tested for them at the Roar Before the 24 (EJ Viso and Chapman Ducote) are not in said lineup. While the team won the last three ALMS race of last year, and I do rate a couple of the drivers (namely, Sean Rayhall and Tonis Kasemets), I'm afraid that I'm a little too unaware of who 60% of the driver lineup are. With the LMPC field becoming stacked with talent as drivers who couldn't quite get on a DP/LMP2 squad flock to the next highest class, a car full of new guys isn't quite going to cut it in a 24 hour race packed with 67 cars. Odds - 20 to 1.

#38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09 - Tomy Drissi is about as good as it gets when it comes to "gentleman drivers" (he's won two ALMS races in the LMPC class, and was 2009 SCCA Trans-Am champion). Raphael Matos is a former IndyCar driver and Indy Lights champion. I don't know who the rest of the drivers are. See above rules. Odds - 15 to 1.

The Pack

#25 8Star Motorsports Oreca FLM09 - Enzo Potolicchio and Michael Marsal are both quite capable. Tom Kimber-Smith is quite fast. They might be slightly less likely to win than other teams, but only slightly. Odds - 10 to 1.

#7 Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09 - Other than the three teams above, it's almost impossible to differentiate among the talent levels of the rest of the squads. This car is notable for having one of the Venezuelans (who I derided in this space a couple of years ago, but they have almost all turned out to be pretty good shoes) in Alex Popow, plus Kyle Marcelli (who I seem to remember winning about 18 ALMS races last year, though my memory might be a little faulty) and Pierre Kaffer (a longtime LMP/GT assassin), who are both very fast. They'll be right there in the running. Odds - 8 to 1.

#8 Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09 - Mirco Shultis, Eric Lux and Renger van der Zande are all good shoes. This car is most notable for carrying last year's GP2 Series runner-up and Mercedes F1 test driver, Sam Bird, who is destined for great things someday. Soon. Related: Sam was lightning quick at the Roar Before test session, setting fastest time among LMPC drivers. Odds - 8 to 1.

#52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09 - Packed with guys who have won races in LMPC before (Frankie Montecalvo, David Cheng and Mike Guasch) and the guy who was the first to drive the Oreca FLM09 in America (Gunnar Jeannette). Yeah, they'll be up in the lead pack for the majority of the 24 hours. Odds - 8 to 1.

#08 RSR Racing Oreca FLM09 - Loaded with talent. An LMPC race winner (Chris Cumming). A couple up and coming Americans (Rusty Mitchell and Conor Daly). A known IndyCar talent (Alex Tagliani). What's this team missing? No, seriously, tell me what this team is missing. I can't come up with anything. Odds - 6 to 1.

#09 RSR Racing Oreca FLM09 - Loaded with talent. An LMPC race winner (Duncan Ende). An ALMS/WEC LMP2 class race winner (David Heinemeier-Hansson). An up and coming American (Gustavo Menezes). A known IndyCar talent (Bruno Junquiera). I feel like I've seen this formula somewhere before. Odds - 6 to 1.

The Favorite(ish)

#54 CORE autosport Oreca FLM09 - Somehow, I feel like in 2013, this team managed to win every LMPC race in the ALMS, the ELMS, the AsianLMS, and a couple of other Le Mans Series that I haven't yet heard of. I may be a bit off on that, but they are going to be crazy strong at Daytona. Jon Bennett, James Gue, Colin Braun and Mark Wilkins...not a weak link in the chain there. And CORE has recently become the factory North American Porsche GTLM team, so this has got to be a solid squad. Gotta give these guys the nod in a crazy tight field. Odds - 5 to 1.

One class down, three to go. Tune in over the course of the rest of the week for the GTD, GTLM and Prototype classes!


Mike said...

Just wanted to thank you for posting this racing content on my awesome tennis blog. However, I tried to add up your odds, and I was quite infuriated. But I don't think I picked any of these cars for our pool, so I consider them all to be insignificant anyway.

Pat W said...

Can't fault CORE as a pick. I think it'll be a knife-fight between them, RSR (particularly the Junqueira/DHH/Ende car) and PR1.
Starworks should be there too but I'm not sure about some of those drivers, and Popow is splitting his time between two classes. Maybe the van der Zande car will do well.