As reported this past week during OnPitRoad.com’s IMSA Silly Season updates, Troy Flis’ Visitflorida.com Racing team was after overseas-based drivers to fill out its 2016 roster, following the defection of Richard Westbrook to Chip Ganassi Racing’s new Ford GT project and the agreement to part ways with Michael Valiante. Indeed, Flis has focused outside of the North American continent to set his full-time pair for 2016, but the additions of both Ryan Dalziel and Marc Goossens does raise not only eyebrows, but questions. In this article, I will focus on what both European sports car racing stars bring to the table as the former Spirit of Daytona squad looks to claim the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship with its multi-shade blue Chevrolet Corvette DP.
Ryan Dalziel: The Englishman is a proven commodity, with several triumphs in the Rolex Sports Car Series, American Le Mans, and the FIA World Endurance Championship already to his credit. Although he has yet to score an overall win in the unified IMSA WeatherTech Championship, part of the blame for that could be pointed to the fact his Extreme Speed Motorsports entry, with which he will also compete for in 2016 in races that do not interfere with his IMSA duties, was at a decided disadvantage when put against the plethora of Daytona Prototypes faced in 2014, despite Dalziel claiming multiple pole positions for ESM that season with the Honda ARX-03b LMP-2 styled challenger.
One should not look to 2015 results in the FIA WEC when assessing what Dalziel can provide for VFR. ESM struggled through a season in which they ran three different car options (Honda ARX-03 and ARX-04, plus the Ligier JS P2 coupe) and were forced to play catch up against a field that not only had extra circuit reference, but also a leveled situation with car type and setup. Those hurdles proved too much for ESM to overcome and despite some outstanding single drives by the Englishman, the results failed to show it.
While Dalziel is a solid addition from top to bottom for the team, the addition of Marc Goossens is the question mark.
Marc Goossens: Now I am not necessarily saying the Belgian-based star is overrated by any means. His recent success however, has been in grand touring sports cars, such as the Dodge Viper SRT and not in prototypes. Although Goossens made his start in sports car racing with the short-lived Cadillac NorthStar LMP project in 2001, he is a good seven years removed from his last major effort in the prototype category and over a decade removed from his last full time role with Riley & Scott’s factory squad. So early on, a little rust could be expected. Once that subsides however, the man known as “Marc the Goose,” could provide a solid second hand next to Dalziel in 2016.
North American Endurance Cup drivers: Even though Mike Rockenfeller did not get the promotion to full-time service in 2016, expect the German to still make a run at it at both Daytona and Sebring. Rockenfeller is a full-time runner for Audi in the popular German DTM touring car championship and is likely going to keep that as his primary focus for 2016. Despite that, he should still provide solid support especially in the opening two rounds of the IMSA championship.
Outlook: Obviously, Visitflorida.com Racing’s ability to match their near championship run this year in 2016 will be difficult, however the pieces are there to certainly make a run for it. Of course, when compared to fellow Corvette DP runners Action Express Racing, who may consist of a triumvirate of Barbosa, Fittipaldi, and Pruett plus an equally stout second team of Dane Cameron, Eric Curran, and Max Papis, the road to victory in next January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, will still be a tough one at best.
Stay tuned to OnPitRoad.com’s for Matt Embury’s continued 2016 IMSA silly season updates and analysis.
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