Wednesday, January 27, 2016

2016 Daytona 24 Hours - GTD Preveiw

With our LMPC and GTLM class previews out of the way, it's time to get to GTD, which is in a "mini-renaissance" of sorts after a dip in cars last season. The reason for this is that car count has gone back up from last year's 19 cars, to a more robust 22 cars, due to IMSA's finally including FIA GT3-specification cars into the class (a change I've been pining for since the ALMS introduced the all-Porsche GT-C class back in like 2008 or 2009). It's not back up to 2014's 29 cars, but there are actually more manufacturers on the grid this year (seven) than there were in 2014 (six). With that being the case, with new equipment abounding, this should be more than a class to keep an eye on, it should be a class to keep TWO eyes on. Because looking at two different things at the same time is pretty hard, anyway. Let's get to it.

The "Little Hopers"

#21 Konrad Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 - The Lamborghini Huracan is newly legal for the GTD class, and no less than five of them will be on the grid at Daytona. Lambos actually managed to top the time sheets for three of the seven sessions of the Roar Before test a couple weeks ago. So, why do I have this car effectively dead last in my "most likely to win" odds? Simple: only two drivers (Emanuele Businelli and Jim Michaelian) have been announced, and the car spent the entire Roar Before bringing up the tail end of the time sheets. Strike one and strike two, they're out. Wait. Mike is telling me that there are three strikes per out. My bad. I guess I'll have to start watching Cubs games again this year so that I can remember the little details like that again. Odds - 100 to 1.

#51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 458 GT3 - I've heard of two of the drivers (Matteo Cressoni and Marco Cioci, the latter of whom I think Allen actually owned for a race or two in our All Racing Fantasy League a couple years ago, and I had never heard of him before I saw his name in Allen's waiver wire e-mail), but not the other two (Peter Mann and Raffaele Giammaria). I don't like those sorts of odds, even if they're driving one of the proven Ferrari 458s. Odds - 100 to 1.

#007 TMG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 - Well, I've heard of one of the drivers in this car. Wait, "Sergio Perez" isn't actually driving the car? Then, why's he listed on the driving roster? Well, OK, then, I'm oh-for-four in having heard of any of the drivers (the other four being Santiago Creel, Ricardo Perez de Lara, Lars Vijoen and Antonio Perez, who is apparently the brother of Sergio). Nope, nope and nope. Odds - 100 to 1.

#28 Konrad Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 - I'm pretty sure I've actually heard of all five drivers in this car (Rolf Ineichen, Franz Konrad, Marc Basseng, Lance Willsey and Fabio Babini), but my knowledge of all of them basically ends at "I've heard of you". That might get you on the podium after 24 hours, but on the top step? Doubtful. Odds - 100 to 1.

The Field

#98 TMG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 - The V12-engined Aston Martin has been lightning quick over a single lap during the last couple of seasons. But it hasn't been all that fantastic at maintaining that speed over an entire race distance in that same time period. And with the #98 Aston only breaking into the top-10 lap times in class twice out of seven sessions at the Roar Before test (with a best of 5th in class), I'm not certain that even the single lap pace is there for the Aston anymore. The driving squad (Paul Dalla Lana, plus Aston factory drivers Richie Stanaway, Matthias Lauda and Pedro Lamy) are all more than fast enough, but I just don't know about the car's ability to hang with the fastest in the class. Odds - 60 to 1.

#96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 - The longstanding BMW entrants of Turner Motorsport have ditched their normally aspirated V8-engined Z4s for the twin-turbocharged V8 M6 GT3. Which is cool, and the cars look awesome, but they struggled at the Roar Before test, only scraping into the top-10 times in class in the very last session when only 14 GTD cars even participated. Between a possible lack of pace and a higher probability of the "new car blues", I'm not feeling all that hopeful for the GTD Bimmers, even with the capable driving crew of Bret Curtis, Ashley Freiberg, Jens Klingmann and Marco Wittman. Odds - 60 to 1.

#97 Turner Motorsrpot BMW M6 GT3 - See above entry for the #96 M6, substitute in drivers Michael Marsal, Maxime Martin, Markus Palttala and Jesse Krohn. Odds - 60 to 1.

#30 Firkadelli Racing Porsche GT3 R - It's a Porsche, which means that it should last the distance. And the #30 did appear in the top-5 times in class twice during the Roar Before test. But the driving lineup (Klaus Abbelen, Patrick Huisman, Frank Stippler, Sven Muller and Nurburgring "Ring Taxi" queen Sabine Schmitz) isn't among the most well known in the field. Not that that means that they can't win, but there is some serious firepower in this field. Just staying running with few problems for all 24 hours isn't likely to cut it, you're going to have to stay with the leaders to have a chance to win. Odds - 50 to 1.

#16 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 - The #16 Lambo showed a flash or two of speed at the Roar Before test, finishing one session in second in class, but it had a hard time staying on track. Hopefully the teething problems have come and gone, but a 24 hour race is not a place where "hopefully" will cut it, especially with such a stout top half of the grid. All the drivers in this car are solid, though, so look for Justin Marks, Corey Lewis and Kaz Grala to mix it up as long as the car lasts. Oh, and also their other driver, Spencer Pumpelly, even though I have to downgrade their odds slightly, due to the fact that he allegedly killed a guy. Odds - 51 to 1.

#45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 - This pick is not based upon anything around the team. The car should be OK (it did appear in the top-5 in class in one of the Roar Before sessions), the drivers are all good (Nic Jonsson, Tracy Krohn, Pierre Kaffer and Christopher Haase have all won races at this level or higher), the team has certainly gotten it done and won races before in the past. But since the GBS crew started talking about the Flying Lizards a couple of years ago, they basically haven't won a damn thing. Sorry, guys. This one is all our fault. Odds - 50 to 1.

#63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 GT3 - The Ferraris were THE car to have in this class, no more than a season or two ago. But based on the times at the Roar Before test (if it seems like I'm putting more stock than usual in those times, it's because I am...with so much new machinery, it's my only metric of who's quick and who isn't right now), the 458 GT3 has lost a step to a bunch of the competition. The #63 Scuderia Corsa car only featured in the top-5 in class once, but it lingered back in 10th or so most sessions. Drivers Christina Nielsen, Jeff Segal, Robert Renauer and Alessandro Balzan can all get the job done, but will the car have the pace? Odds - 50 to 1.

#9 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3 - The Audis looked fast at the Roar Before test, but the #9 Stevenson Motorsports car was one of the slower Audis. I'm not sure why that is, since the driving crew of Boris Said, Tristan Vautier, Dion von Moltke and Kenny Habul should be able to hang with anybody (though Habul's name is the one that sticks out from that crowd as not being "quite like the others"), but maybe the long distance experience of Boris, Tristan and Dion will bring this car to the front. Odds - 30 to 1.

#93 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R - Right here is where things get tough. The top-10 cars in this class look to be covered by a placemat. Or maybe half of a napkin. It's basically almost too close to call from here on out, but I'll be brave and stick my neck out. I'll put the #93 Viper in this slot, if for no other reason that it was the slower of the two Vipers at the Roar Before test, and that it wasn't in the top-10 in class lap times in most of the sessions. Team owner Ben Keating is joined by Gar Robinson, Jeff Mosing, Eric Foss and Damien Faulkner, all of whom can bring it. Odds - 20 to 1.

#73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche GT3 R - Another case of "somebody has to go this far down the list". The #73 Park Place Porsche usually was hovering down in 8th, 9th or 10th in class at the Roar Before, so that's why they're here. But the driver squad (Patrick Lindsey, Matt McMurry, Norbert Seidler and longtime Porsche driver extraordinaire Joerg Bergmeister) is about as good as it gets. Odds - 15 to 1.

#6 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3 - Arguably one of the absolute top driver lineups on the grid (Lawson Aschenbach, Robin Liddell, Andrew Davis and Matt Bell, and seriously, which of these guys is the "am" again?) in a car that was fast at the Roar Before test. But Stevenson Motorsports is making the big step up from the Continental Tire Sports Car Series to the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship, and a 24 hour race is a tough debut. I just think that some of the longer time entries are going to have their stuff better sorted out to avoid the issues that pop up over 24 hours. Odds - 15 to 1.
#44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 - This one hurts. I desperately want to put these guys a few spots higher, with better odds than this, because 1) the Audis have been fast in testing, 2) the drivers (John Potter, Andy Lally, Marco Seefried and Rene Rast) are probably one of the top-5 groups on the grid and 3) their annual season preview video, which is usually excellent, absolutely blew my mind this year (if you've read this far, go ahead and go watch it...even if you've already watched it, I won't be insulted if you go watch it again...and again...right now...go watch it again). But something silly and usually out of their control seems to befall this team every year (like last year, where they hit a possum on track and it wound up going through the radiator and lodging itself in the "front trunk" of their Porsche). With a sky full of anvils seemingly waiting to fall on them, it's hard to see them winning. Though I hope maybe their video turned the tide of racing karma and they pull this one out. (Now go watch their video again.) Odds - 15 to 1.

#11 O'Gara Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 - The car carrying the defending GTD series champions (Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler), plus one time Indy Lights star (and nephew of 1998 Indy 500 winner Eddie Cheever) Richard Antinucci, plus Edoardo "Don't Call Me Joe" Piscopo. They've traded in their usual Ferrari 458 for one of the quick new Lambos, but the team is a new one to the IMSA WeatherTech Series in O'Gara Motorsport. Given that some of the other teams in the field have been around longer, it's hard to see these guys winning, though much stranger things have happened. Odds - 15 to 1.

#33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R - This car was usually a rocket ship at most of the races last year, and I see nothing changing at Daytona (they clocked in with the second fastest time in class in two of the sessions at the Roar Before test). And the driving crew is just as strong as last year, with team owner Ben Keating (doing double duty with the #93 Viper), Jeroen Bleekemolen and Dominik Farnbacher being joined by Continental Tire Sports Car Series standout Marc Miller. These guys will definitely contend, right down to the end. Odds - 12 to 1.

#540 Black Swan Racing Porsche GT3 R - It's a Porsche. And the driver lineup is stacked (team owner Tim Pappas, plus former Pirelli World Challenge standouts Nicky Catsburg and Andy Pilgrim...OH, plus Porsche factory driver Patrick Long). Victory is a real possibility for this car. Odds - 12 to 1.

#48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 - An Audi team for the last two years, Paul Miller racing has traded their car in for one of the new Lambos. Their driving lineup is just as loaded up as always, with Mirko Bortolotti, Bryan Sellers, Bryce Miller and Madison Snow. To me, this feels like the strongest chance for a non-Porsche to win. Odds - 10 to 1.

#23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche GT3 R - As I've basically alluded to about five times already, even with the new machinery on the grid, the newly revised Porsche feels to me like it's the car to beat this year. Years of experience at Daytona plus quick times in testing equals almost certain victory. Or almost certain proof that I'm dumb. Of the Porsche teams, the one with probably the most experience is the Alex Job squad, so it should come as no surprise that I'm putting those guys right up at the top. The #23 car is about as strong as you could want, with Ian James, Alex Riberas, Mario Farnbacher and Wolf Henzler at the wheel, so there's basically nothing missing here... Odds - 10 to 1.

The Extremely Slight Favorite

#22 Alex Job Racing Porsche GT3 R - ...with one exception: the guy sponsoring the series is driving the #22 car. HA! I kid. Well, really, the guy sponsoring the series (David MacNeil of WeatherTech) actually IS driving the #22 car, but I'm not suggesting any kind of underhanded business that'll put this car into victory lane. What's going to put this car into victory lane is the other four drivers (sports car stars Leh Keen and Gunnar Jeannette, Aussie V8 Supercar superstar Shane van Gisbergen, and David MacNeil's son Cooper, who himself is quite the "shoe", very much fitting in with the rest of that storied lineup) plus the team work from Alex Job Racing. Oh, plus the fact that it's a Porsche and Porsche has won its class at Daytona about 2,342 times. All of this added together means that this car gets the nod from me. Odds - 9 to 1.

So, we've got three classes down and one more to go. I won't have the Prototype preview done before qualifying happens tomorrow, so I guess I'll get the extra hindsight of knowing who's on the pole. Good for me! And good for you, too, I guess. Anyway, check back soon for the last of the 2016 Daytona 24 Hours class previews!


Pat W said...

LOVE that Magnus video!

Mann and Giammaria have been partnered in various Ferraris for a couple of years in ELMS and Le Mans. That's not to say they should be promoted out of the Little Hopers section though... but could be ranked a couple of cars higher. 'Spirit of Race' is basically AF Corse by another name, no, I don't know why..

I know time is hard to find with all this racing going on, but you need to follow the ELMS. Maybe not the full races (they aren't archived), but at least the highlights packages. Highlights aren't ideal but are better than nothing and the series is getting better and better - albeit from what was a low base.

All five rounds are here for free:

Not that I'm a font of knowledge - I've not heard of a lot of drivers you recognise in this class!

I want Frikadelli to do well - but winning the N24 is very, very different to racing at Daytona. They'll know the importance of not going a lap down but won't be accustomed to a lap a quarter of the length of what they're used to..

Lizards' fortunes depends which mood Krohn is in! The dependable one or the spinning one.

I'll go for Black Swan. Catsburg has been on form and I'm a fan of Long. Not just because of his name.

I meant to write a preview and seem to have run out of time..

Mike said...

The Magnus video is great. I'm sure I don't even fully understand most of the jokes. But I drafted that 44 car in our Blogathon challenge!