With my self-congratulations out of the way, it's time to tackle our third class of the week, the one I've deemed second most interesting: GTD. Pros: there are 29 cars in this class, including six different manufacturers (Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Porsche and SRT); powertrains are just as varied, with rear engined flat-6s, mid-engined V10s and V8s, and front engined V8s, V10s and V12s. Cons: a lot of the drivers are "gentlemen drivers", meaning that they are bankrolling the teams but are usually significantly slower than the pro drivers; the class is not in the running for the overall win. It's the last reason that GTD is my #2 class for this weekend. Let's get to it.
#28 Dempsey Racing Porsche 911 GT America - Not to pick on this one car, but it is literally one of only two cars in the entire field that has a complete driver lineup that I've never heard of. With as long as I've been following endurance racing, that is quite a feat. Odds - 100 to 1.
The Very Little Chancers
#009 TMG-AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage - As I alluded to above, there were two driver lineups that I hadn't heard of a single driver. This is the second such car. I'd have put this one in the "No-Chancers" category as well, except that they qualified ninth in class. Hmmm. OK, this car might be quick, but there's no way it can win in a 29 car field. Right? Odds - 80 to 1.
#18 Muehlner Motorsports America Porsche 911 GT America - Would have gotten lumped in with the #28 Dempsey car, except that I've actually heard of Alexandre Imperatori. Just not the other four guys. They did qualify 12th in class, though... Odds - 80 to 1.
#19 Muelhner Motorsports America Porsche 911 GT America - Randy Pobst is lightning quick. My knowledge of this driver crew ends there. Odds - 80 to 1.
#94 Turner Motorsports BMW Z4 - Like I mentioned with the GTLM BMWs yesterday, the GTD BMW is down on straightline speed. Solid driver lineup (which includes BMW factory driver Augusto Farfus and young American superstar in the making, Dane Cameron) or no, I can't see how they manage to beat ALL of the rest of the field with such a disadvantage. Odds - 80 to 1.
Seriously, I would love to do an entire field run down here, but this just seems basically impossible. Other than the five cars that I've already listed, I could make a case for any of the other 24 cars winning the GTD class. I may have to do this a little stream-of-consciousness style, so bear with me...
The Audi R8 LMSs seem to be struggling here, with the quickest of the five lining up in 19th. This is a touch deceiving, I suppose, since the #48 Audi actually was fastest in GTD qualifying and the #46 was third, but both had their times thrown out for technical infractions. Audi did manage to win the GT class last year, not through sheer speed, but by running consistently, staying mostly out of trouble, and executing flawlessly in the pits (the crews were overseen by longtime Audi engineer and logistic guru for the Le Mans LMP1 team, Brad Kettler). Possibly the Audis can pull off the same deal again this year.
The #007 Aston Martin is the one that has drivers that I've heard of in it (Brandon Davis, Al Carter, former Indy Lights and sometime IndyCar driver James Davison). It also qualified third in class, after the Audis were sent to the back. Could the V12 Aston win in its American major league sports car racing debut? I have a hard time seeing it, but it is being crewed by the TMG guys, who won this thing overall 11 years ago...
The one Viper GT3-R in the GTD class is certainly outnumbered, but it's being driven by the Bleekemolen brothers (Jeroen and Sebastiaan) and Emmanuel Collard, who are all very quick. New car...but it was fifth in class in qualifying...
Honestly, like most years, all of the Porsche entries sort of run together for me. I just know that there's one with a young American Porsche factory driver (the #73 Park Place Motorsports car, with Connor De Phillippi), there's one with Damien Faulkner and Patrick Huisman in it (the #81 GB Motorsport car), there's one with Timo Bernhard and some other pretty fast guys in it (the #71 Park Place Motorsports car), there's one with Jan "Don't Call Me Van" Heylen and young Madison Snow in it (the #58 Snow Racing car), there's one with Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen (if you haven't watched his "Nurburgring Rain Dance" video yet, go do that now), Aussie V8 Supercar driver Shane van Gisbergen, Shane Lewis and LP Dumoulin in it (the #22 Alex Job Racing car), there's one with Ian James and Marco Holzer in it (the #23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing car), there's one with a bunch of talented Europeans with a lot of vowels in their names in it (the #30 NGT Motorsports car), there's one with a bunch of fast screwballs in it (the #44 Magnus Racing car), and there's one with a movie star in it (the #27 Dempsey Racing car). Any one of these Porsches could easily win this class. Lastly, there are the Ferraris. The 458 Italias have been very fast this week. In fact, after the Audis lost their times, we wound up with five Ferraris in the top-8 in class. Literally any of the Ferraris could win, as all of them have a talented mix of drivers.
Odds - 25 to 1 for every car included in this section.
Odds - 25 to 1 for every car included in this section.
We Are Over 1,000 Words Already...Hurry Up and Make a Pick
Gun to my head, I've got to go with the Level 5 Ferrari 458s. The team has Ferrari experience, from team owner Scott Tucker's days of running them in SCCA. The Ferraris were fast at Daytona last year, and have already been fast this year. Level 5 stuck both of their cars in the top-6 in qualifying. Both Level 5 cars have great driver lineups (the #555 crew includes Jeff Segal and IndyCar driver Townsend Bell, the #556 crew includes Terry Borcheller and Guy Cosmo). And Twitter engineer extraordinaire Jeff Braun (@jvbraun, a mandatory follow for any sports car racing fan) is working the setup sheets. I think this team has the right combination to bring home some expensive watches. Odds (both cars) - 15 to 1.
We are almost home! Tune back in for our last class preview, and see who I'm going to pick to win overall (and therefore get spectacularly wrong)!