Monday, January 19, 2015

2015 Daytona 24 Hours - Le Mans Prototype Challenge Preview

Greetings, everyone, and welcome to yet another year of the GrabBagSports Blogathon! I'm back here for the first time in months (let's not go counting just how many months, shall we?) to get things rolling this week with my traditional Daytona 24 Hours class previews. Just like last year, I'm going to tackle the classes in the order that I feel like tackling them, and just like last year, it'll be in the order of "least interesting" to "most interesting" (to me). And once again, leading off will be the Le Mans Prototype Challenge class. This class has been made slightly more interesting (to me) since last year by IMSA's adoption of engine regulations (basically, a different camshaft, from what I've heard) that will allow the LMPC cars to have better straightline speed and a little less low end torque. These changes should serve to make the cars a little easier to handle (through lower torque) for the "amateur" drivers in the class, and the higher top end speed should allow the LMPCs to be able to pass or at least hang with the GTLM/GTD cars better on the straights, which should hopefully cause less stackups once the cars get to corner turn in (the LMPCs will be closer going to the braking zone, when they can then use their downforce and lighter weight to pass the GTs a little more easily). However, car count has decreased by one from last year, from nine to eight. Oh, well. As usual, this class is pretty tough to call, but I'll do my best here. Oh, and as per my other annual tradition, the odds probably won't add up and you'll get mad. Especially if you're Mike.

The Long(er) Shots

#38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09 - I'll be honest, the only one of the three drivers that I know much of anything about is James French, who I know from his exploits in SCCA Formula Atlantic. I guess I do remember a bunch of folks on Twitter during last year's Petit Le Mans cursing at Jerome Mee for causing an incident or two, but that's all that I can say for either him or the last driver, James Vance. Three mostly unknown drivers are not going to beat the much more vaunted lineups, unless something befalls literally all seven other cars in class (which isn't impossible). Odds - 50 to 1.

#52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09 - Tom Kimber-Smith is a great pair of hands, with plenty of experience (and wins) in this class. Mike Guasch has also had his share of success in LMPC as well. Andrew Novich and Tyler Palmer are making the step up to the big series for the first time. A 24 hour race in a prototype car is a rough way to jump into endurance racing. I have a really tough time seeing this team getting by the bigger guys as well. Odds - 40 to 1.

The Pack

#61 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09 - Martin Plowman is a prototype super stud. But he's pretty much the only thing that I know about this driver lineup, as Marc Drumwright is the only other listed driver at the time of writing (three spots are "TBA", though it looks like maybe Chapman Ducote and Cody Ware drove the car at the "Roar Before the 24" test). Too many question marks. Odds - 25 to 1.

#85 JDC/Miller Motorsports Oreca FLM09 - Stephen Simpson is pretty darned good and has plenty of experience. Chris Miller and Rusty Mitchell are solid as well. Mikhail Goikhberg is stepping up to LMPC after winning the IMSA Prototype Lights L1 series last year, where he won about 84 races (at least it felt like it). A solid lineup, but falls short of some of the known quantities in the cars we've yet to talk about. Odds - 10 to 1.

#16 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09 - We've already talked about Martin Plowman, who's also listed in this car on top of the #61. Johnny Mowlem is incredibly experienced and plenty fast. Tomy Drissi is a very good "gentleman driver" (I said this about him in last year's preview, too). Team owner Brian Alder is probably pretty quick (he won the Prototype Lights L2 series last year), but doesn't have a whole lot of experience in LMPCs, to my knowledge. Tom Papadopolous has been around LMPC for a couple years but has yet to win much. Again, a good lineup, but I just can't rate them as highly as the teams that are yet to come. Odds - 10 to 1.

#8 Starworks Motorsports - Here's where the plot thickens. Everybody in this car (Mirco Schultis, Renger van der Zande and Alex Popow) minus Mike Hedlund has won in LMPC. And Hedlund has driven a bunch of different cars over the last couple of years, so he's plenty experienced, too. Add in the fact that it's Starworks, who have consistently fielded LMPCs for years, and you've got a strong contender. Odds - 5 to 1.

#11 RSR Racing Oreca FLM09 - An utterly loaded lineup. IndyCar driver Jack Hawksworth, ex-(and maybe sometimes still) IndyCar driver Bruno Junquiera, upcoming young American Gustavo Menezes (who drove in the FIA Formula 3 championship last year) and very capable "gentleman driver" Chris Cumming (who's won a bundle of races in LMPC). This lineup is about as good as it gets. Odds - 5 to 1.

The Favorite

#54 CORE Autosport Oreca FLM09 - With all that nice stuff that I just said about the #8 Starworks and the #11 RSR cars, how is this team still the favorite? Because they're the defending race and series (twice) champions. And they brought back Colin Braun, Jon Bennett, Mark Wilkins and James Gue, which is the same lineup that won them this race last year. Oh, and they were the fastest LMPC at the Roar Before test, to boot. Until somebody can unseat them, they're the favorites. Odds - 3 to 1.

One class down, three to go. Stay tuned for the rest of the classes later in the week!

1 comment:

Pat W said...

Good preview. I hope the spec changes work.

Starworks just yesterday added Felipe Albuquerque so that improves their chances even further.
I agree with you though, impossible to argue against CORE unless something else or someone else takes them out.

CORE to win, Starworks 2nd.

It'll be fun whenever all the pros are driving at the same time!