Just under three weeks removed from an exciting start to the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the circuit has officially revealed the members of its full time fleet for the remainder of the 12-race season. A total of 41 teams are committed to running in a majority of the events each division will contest, with no less than 40 car-driver combinations expected at all events featuring all the divisions offered by IMSA.
In the headliner Prototype division, eight teams are committed, with the noticeable absence of Scott Sharp and Ed Brown’s Tequila Patron ESM squad, which earned the overall win at Daytona last month. The black and green liveried Ligier-Honda coupe will contest the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring next month before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to contest the full complement of races in the FIA World Endurance Championship, including the 84th 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
The favorites for the 2016 P class championship are likely to be among the four Chevrolet Corvette DPs entered by Action Express Racing, Visitflorida.com Racing, and Wayne Taylor Racing respectively. AXR’s Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa, who came home in fourth overall at Daytona, have won the title in each of the last two seasons. Wayne Taylor Racing’s brother tandem of Jordan and Ricky Taylor finished second at Daytona for the second time in three seasons, while Visitflorida.com Racing looks to rebound after just missing out on the title in 2015. The Troy Flis-entered Corvette features two new pilots for 2016 in the form of Ryan Dalziel and Marc Goossens, who placed third last month in the Rolex 24.
LMP-2 eligible cars make up the second half of the fleet, with Michael Shank Racing’s Ligier-Honda coupe the most likely threat to the Corvettes. MSR is looking for its first win since acquiring the Onroak-designed machine at the start of last season and heads to Sebring next month looking to rebound from a disappointing result at Daytona, where they retired from the race short of half distance due to engine failure. SpeedSource’s Mazda Motorsports also looks to continue its marked improvement from its last two seasons with a new gasoline powered V-6 engine under the cowling, while DeltaWing’s unusual looking DWC13 coupe could be the fastest car on the circuit in 2016. DeltaWing’s entry in the hands of Katherine Legge and Sean Rayhall shined in the opening four hours at Daytona, only to be taken out in an accident not of their own doing.
The pro-amateur mix of teams in the Prototype Challenge class will feature seven full season runners in 2016, with surprise Rolex 24 winners JDC-Miller Motorsports leading the way into Sebring next month. The John Church-led squad had never won an IMSA championship event prior to Daytona, but have jumped into the title hunt with Mikhail Goikhberg as its primary full time driver. Looking to bounce back from its second straight DNF at Daytona is reigning PC champions CORE autosport, who were notably absent from the victory conversation at the World Center of Racing after an engine issue ended their challenge in the early going. Despite the setback, expect Colin Braun and Jon Bennett to begin a surge back toward the top, starting at Sebring next month.
The always popular with the fans GT Le Mans division, has increased in interest this season with the full time fleet swelling to ten cars after featuring only eight combatants in 2015. Fresh off a repeat win at Daytona, Corvette Racing looks to equal its 1-2 result from the Rolex 24 at Sebring. The No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R of full time drivers Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner took the victory lap last month, however teammates Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen will look to reverse the order in round two.
Porsche North America looks to regain its dominant form from the second half of 2015, after opening the 2016 campaign with a third place finish at Daytona. BMW Team Rahal also looks to move up on the scoring pylon at Sebring after placing fifth at Daytona with its all-new M6 twin-turbo propelled challenger in the Rolex 24, while Chip Ganassi Racing’s new Ford GT program hopes to increase its reliability after a multitude of maladies plagued its two-car roster in its official race debut.
Also new among the players in GTLM is Scuderia Corsa’s Ferrari 488 GTE. After initially planning to enter only the North American Endurance Cup events in 2016, the former Rolex Sports Car Series GT champions have extended to a full time effort alongside its planned run in the lower GT Daytona division. The brand new beast from Maranello, Italy placed fourth at Daytona. Corsa is one of two full tour entrants for the Prancing Horse, as Houston-based Risi Competizione returns in 2016 also with the new 488.
Finally in the aforementioned GT Daytona category, 16 teams are set to be track side at most of the races, with two additions to the roster who were absent from the Rolex 24. Paul Gentilozzi’s F Performance Racing team, will debut the new Lexus RC F GT3 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May, with five-time Rolex 24 champion Scott Pruett and IndyCar Series semi-regular Sage Karam sharing the driving duties. The car’s timetable has been moved up from what initially appeared to be a late June-early July debut, whilst featuring perhaps the most talented driving duo in the division. Also joining the field at Sebring will be Dream Racing Competition, which will add a fourth Lamborghini Huracan GT3 to the full time roster in 2016. The new Huracan only finished fifth in its IMSA debut at Daytona, but made a name for itself in terms of pace, running with and even pulling away from GTLM runners on the tri-oval sections of the Daytona International Speedway layout.
Also set to contest the full slate of races is Andy Lally and John Potter from Magnus Racing, who claimed the win at Daytona in their first outing with the Audi R8 LMS. A plethora of Porsche 911 GT3-Rs are also on the list, led by Tim Pappas’ Black Swan Racing group, who finished runner-up to Magnus in the Rolex 24. Despite not earning an entry to June’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, Ben Keating and Bill Riley’s Dodge Vuper GT3-R with Jeroen Bleekemolen at the controls can also be counted as a title threat in 2016, as the V-10 powered monster placed third at Daytona last month.
Stay tuned to OnPitRoad.com for continuing coverage of the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship.