Ahem. Like last year, I'm courting controversy (among all seven people who will read these class previews) by not having the top DPi class in my place of prominence as "most interesting class (to me)". Again, a light car count in the DPi class (seven) relegates the class of the likely overall winner to 2nd place in my rankings again, ironically, behind the slowest of the five classes. A lack of cars and a lack of manufacturers will do that. BUT, the top class comes tomorrow, today, we're talkin' DPi.
#55 Mazda Motorsports DPi - The good part of having only seven cars in a tightly bunched field means that they're all "contenders", so I only have to come up with one section heading. Score! Anyhow, by dint of the fact that they're the only manufacturer among the three in the DPi class not to have won a championship, the Mazda DPi is last on my depth chart, even though they finished 2nd here last year and finished 1-3 at the last race of 2020, the much delayed 12 Hours of Sebring. Sorry, the other two manufacturers just seem better suited to win this year, especially since Mazda dropped from two entries to one (meaning if something befalls the team, there is no second car that might be able to soldier on). Odds - 10 to 1.
#60 Meyer Shank Racing w/Curb-Agajanian Acura DPi - Welcome back to the top class, Mike Shank! It's seriously great to have the "little team that could" back around and running for overall wins after a few years in the GTD class. The driving lineup is basically second to none, with full timers Olivier Pla and Dane Cameron being joined by "I'll drive anything...fast" Juan Pablo Montoya and A.J. Allmendinger. That's a frightening combo. However, they've seemed to be just a tick off of the frontrunning pace for a good chunk of the month, and I think they may struggle to match the pace of the Cadillacs in their first Acura DPi outing. Odds - 7 to 1.
#10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 Acura DPi - An essentially identical story to the Meyer Shank Acura, the Wayne Taylor squad only took delivery of their Acura DPi a couple months ago and appear to still be getting used to it. They have the advantage of having three guys on the team that are intimately familiar with this car in Ricky Taylor, Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi, and Felipe Albuquerque has proven that he can drive anything, but even a small missed technical item can derail your 24 hour race. Meanwhile, the Caddys look pretty bulletproof...as usual. Odds - 7 to 1.
#48 Ally Cadillac Racing Cadillac DPi - It's basically "pick a car number out of a hat" in this class when it comes to who'll win, but it's especially hard when it comes to the Caddys. For me, the #48 falls to the bottom of the depth chart. Kamui Kobayashi has won this race in a Caddy, and Mike Rockenfeller and Simon Pagenaud can make anything go fast (although Rocky is returning to the top class after several years in a GTLM Corvette), but their fourth driver is a liability. Yeah, yeah, that fourth driver is seven time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, but he's new to these cars. I think he'll do fine, but in this company, "fine" is not exactly "enough". Odds - 6 to 1.
#01 Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi - Another controversial pick! Sure, Chip Ganassi's cars have won the 24 Hours of Daytona 83 times (number estimated), but they've been away from the top class for five years while campaigning the Ford GT in the GTLM class (plus sitting out last year). They're obviously always great here, but you do have to wonder if they'll slot right back in to top form after this long away. Also, we know that Scott Dixon and Renger van der Zande (both winners last year with Wayne Taylor) know their way around the place, but Kevin Magnussen is making his endurance debut this weekend. Those don't always go smoothly, especially for somebody who's used to full-on attack for 90 minutes worth of Formula 1 racing... Odds - 6 to 1.
#5 Mustang Sampling/JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi - It's Team France! Seriously, all the drivers are French. I checked and everything. Not only are they all French, but Tristan Vautier, Loic Duval and Sebastien Bourdais are all top flight drivers. Honestly, I can't even decide who is theoretically the "closer" among them. They might have to have some type of fight among them to sort it out. Except French guys....fighting.....sorry, it was way, way, way too easy. Odds - 5 to 1.
#31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi - Not a shock to find the #31 Caddy here, is it? They were quickest in pre-Roar Before Pole 100 qualifying, but got sent to the back for a technical infraction, but then still won the Pole 100 at a canter, anyway. The Whelen/Action Express team knows this car and track inside and out, and among Felipe Nasr, Mike Conway, Pipo Derani and defending NASCAR Cup champion Chase Elliott, there isn't a soft spot in the driver lineup (I know you could make the same argument for Chase that I made for Jimmie above, but Chase has cleaned up on the road courses in Cup lately...I think he's just simply quicker). If somebody else wants to win this race, they've got to come through the #31. Odds - 4 to 1.
And with that, we're down to the last class! Oh, and side note: if I were betting my own actual money, I'd be putting some down on that #5 Caddy..... Anyway, see you all back here very soon, as we wrap up our class previews and head into Blogathon!