The start of the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – and essentially the entire auto racing calendar – is upon us.
The 58th rendition of the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona gets under way on the 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway. Practice and qualifying starts Thursday, Jan. 23, with the green flag flying on the twice-around-the-clock battle just past 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 25.
NBC will have live network coverage of the start of the race beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 25, and also will televise the race finish beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday, Jan. 26 as part of NBC Sports’ complete coverage of the event that includes windows on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App and TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.
IMSA Radio also will have live coverage throughout race weekend on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com, with complete race coverage also airing on SiriusXM Radio.
Tickets for the 58th Rolex 24 At Daytona are available on DaytonaInternationalSpeedway.com.
In the first of a four-part series detailing the four classes that will compete in the 2020 Rolex 24 At Daytona, let’s take a closer look at the flagship, Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class.
No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing/JDC-Miller MotorSports
Sebastien Bourdais/Loic Duval/Joao Barbosa
For the first time since 2009 – when he claimed his first Rolex 24 At Daytona overall victory – Barbosa will compete in the Rolex 24 with a team other than Action Express Racing. The two-time WeatherTech Championship Prototype champion moves to the Minnesota-based JDC-Miller MotorSports squad in 2020 with support from longtime partner Mustang Sampling.
Joining Barbosa as a full-time driver in the No. 5 Cadillac DPi will be four-time Champ Car World Series champion Sebastien Bourdais, whose focus has shifted from IndyCar to sports car racing. Barbosa and Bourdais are no strangers – they won the 2014 Rolex 24, the 2015 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts and the 2015 Motul Petit Le Mans together.
Their co-driver in those victories was Christian Fittipaldi, who retired from driving at last year’s Rolex 24 and serves as the grand marshal for this year’s race. Fittipaldi is now a team advisor to the JDC-Miller team.
Barbosa and Bourdais will share the car with 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans overall winner Loic Duval in IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup rounds.
No. 6 Acura Team Penske
Dane Cameron/Juan Pablo Montoya/Simon Pagenaud
Cameron and Montoya are the defending WeatherTech Championship DPi champions and are returning for their third straight season as co-drivers of the No. 6 Acura DPi. They claimed the 2019 title through consistent podium finishes and a couple of well-timed wins. However, one thing that has so far eluded them since the team rejoined IMSA at the start of 2018 is an endurance race victory.
Helping them in their effort to deliver a sought-after endurance win is the 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2016 IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud. In fact, the trio is the only DPi driver lineup that includes all IMSA champions, as Pagenaud took the 2010 LMP1 title before heading off to IndyCar stardom. These same three drivers have comprised the team’s endurance lineup since the start of 2018.
No. 7 Acura Team Penske
Ricky Taylor/Helio Castroneves/Alexander Rossi
Taylor and Castroneves hold the distinction of being the first set of co-drivers to win a race in the Acura ARX-05 DPi car, which they did at Mid-Ohio in 2018. However, they haven’t been back to victory lane since then.
Nevertheless, 2019 was a successful season across the board for Acura Team Penske, with the championship-winning performance of the No. 6 team and the No. 7 squad parlaying podium results in exactly half of the season’s 10 races en route to third in the DPi championship standings at year’s end. But they’re definitely looking for more – wins and points – in 2020.
Co-drivers since the start of 2018, Taylor and Castroneves will be joined by 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi for the races at Daytona, Sebring and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. Rossi was part of the No. 7 lineup at Daytona and Sebring last year also, but missed the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans to compete in the Bathurst 1000 in Australia, giving way to another IndyCar racer, Graham Rahal, for that event.
No. 10 Konica Minolta/Wayne Taylor Racing
Renger van der Zande/Ryan Briscoe/Kamui Kobayashi/Scott Dixon
For the first time since the 2009 season, team owner Wayne Taylor won’t have at least one of his sons driving his signature No. 10 prototype. His eldest, Ricky, is starting his third season in the No. 7 Acura DPi, while Jordan Taylor has moved to the brand-new No. 3 Corvette Racing C8.R beginning in 2020.
Van der Zande is now the longest-tenured driver on the WTR roster and will open his third year with the team at Daytona with Ryan Briscoe, his new, season-long co-driver. Briscoe, whose history with Wayne Taylor Racing dates all the way back to 2006, rejoins the team following the conclusion of the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing GTLM program in 2019.
Kobayashi, who was one of the fastest drivers in the field en route to the 2019 Rolex 24 victory in the No. 10 Cadillac DPi alongside Jordan Taylor, van der Zande and two-time F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso, is back for his second straight Rolex 24. And completing the team’s four-driver lineup is none other than five-time IndyCar champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon.
The four members of the driving quartet have a combined seven Rolex 24 winner’s watches. Dixon has three, with overall wins in 2006 and 2015 and a GTLM win in 2018, Briscoe has a pair of GTLM wins in 2015 and 2018, and van der Zande and Kobayashi got their first last year. They’ll be looking to bring Wayne Taylor Racing its fourth Rolex 24 win next weekend.
No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing
Pipo Derani/Felipe Nasr/Filipe Albuquerque/Mike Conway
The No. 31 team is the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup champion two years running. Nasr and Derani finished second in the overall WeatherTech Championship DPi standings last year, a year after Nasr and then-co-driver Eric Curran took the Prototype title.
Derani and Nasr will be likely title contenders again in 2020 aboard the No. 31 Cadillac DPi as the lone representatives of Action Express Racing and they’ll have plenty of muscle at Daytona and throughout the endurance events also. Albuquerque, a two-time Rolex 24 class winner who claimed his first overall win in the race two years ago, is onboard for the full Michelin Endurance Cup campaign.
And Conway, an IndyCar race winner turned Toyota Gazoo Racing driver in the FIA World Endurance Championship, is onboard for the Rolex 24, which will be his third appearance and first since 2018. Derani and Albuquerque already have winner’s watches in their collection. Will Nasr and Conway join the club?
No. 55 Mazda Team Joest
Jonathan Bomarito/Harry Tincknell/Ryan Hunter-Reay
Bomarito and Tincknell have been reunited for the full 2020 WeatherTech Championship season after delivering Mazda Team Joest’s long-awaited first victory at the 2019 Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen with then-endurance co-driver Olivier Pla. It will be the third consecutive season for Bomarito and Tincknell as co-drivers of the No. 55.
The Watkins Glen victory touched of a run of three straight victories for the two-car team. Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez won the following weekend in the No. 77 Mazda DPi at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park before Bomarito and Tincknell won again at Road America.
For 2020, 2012 IndyCar champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay has joined the No. 55 team for endurance events. Hunter-Reay previously raced in the No. 55 at the 2019 Mid-Ohio round and finished third alongside Bomarito, as Tincknell competed in the FIA World Endurance Championship event at Spa for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.
No. 77 Mazda Team Joest
Oliver Jarvis/Tristan Nunez/Olivier Pla
Jarvis and Nunez have been reunited for a third consecutive year in the No. 77 Mazda DPi after finishing a team-high fifth in the WeatherTech Championship DPi standings in 2019, highlighted by a victory at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. They had a total of four podiums last season.
The duo welcomes a new endurance co-driver for 2020 in Pla, who moves over to the No. 77 squad after driving the No. 55 in 2019 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup rounds. Pla unofficially broke Jarvis’ Daytona International Speedway track record in garage and pit qualifying at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
It was the second consecutive year the No. 77 left the Roar atop the time charts. In 2019, Jarvis also unofficially broke what was then a 26-year-old track record set by PJ Jones in 1993 at the Roar before making it official in qualifying on race weekend.
As a result, the No. 77 has to be the favorite come Thursday’s qualifying session. Are they favorites to win the 58th Rolex 24 At Daytona as well?
No. 85 JDC-Miller MotorSports
Juan Piedrahita/Matheus Leist/Chris Miller/Tristan Vautier
The “Banana Boat” will have a revised driver lineup in 2020 as Colombian driver Piedrahita will be joined by Brazilian IndyCar racer Leist for the four Michelin Endurance Cup races. Piedrahita is expecting to compete in additional WeatherTech Championship rounds this season as well.
Miller rejoins the team at Daytona, where he and the team have fond memories as winners of the Prototype Challenge (PC) class in 2016. Also back with the team at Daytona is Frenchman Vautier, who drove the full 2019 season in the No. 85 entry alongside Misha Goikhberg, who has moved to the GT Daytona (GTD) class with Meyer Shank Racing in 2020.
Piedrahita’s history with the JDC team dates back to 2011 in the U.S. F2000 National Championship. He also has experience in Star Mazda/Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. Leist has raced in IndyCar the last two seasons with A.J. Foyt Enterprises, scoring a career-best result of fourth in 2019 in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
Vautier also has a long history with JDC, winning the 2011 Star Mazda title for the team before moving to Indy Lights and winning that championship the following year with Sam Schmidt Motorsports.