While most Formula 1 fans are currently in hibernation as they wait for the 2018 season to launch, some of this year’s biggest races are just around the corner with the Rolex 24 at Daytona the first of many.
American endurance racing gets no bigger than the Rolex 24 that is set to feature its biggest and best field of international drivers in over 20 years. Within the field, both past and present F1 stars will take to the track as they prepare themselves for 24 hours of demanding competition at the Daytona International Speedway.
The event marks the opening event of the 12-round International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) GT Championship, the United States’ premier sports car series. The championship features three tiers of sports cars: Prototype (equivalent to LMP2 spec cars), GT Le Mans and GT Daytona.
No one internationally bigger than McLaren’s own Fernando Alonso will suit up for his first 24-hour endurance race that sees him run under the watch of McLaren F1 CEO Zak Brown’s United Autosport entry. He will race alongside Phil Hanson and McLaren test driver and upcoming British talent Lando Norris.
Brown has also chosen to run a second car for the 24-hour event featuring former F1 talents Paul di Resta and Bruno Senna who currently competes in the LMP2 class of the World Endurance Championship. They will also partner up with Hugo de Sadeleer and Will Owen from the USA.
This year’s monster Rolex 24 entry list will also see current F1 driver Lance Stroll get an opportunity to lead the driver line up of the number 37 entry Jackie Chan DCR Jota. He will be accompanied by Formula E championship leader Felix Rosenqvist, while Sapnish racer Daniel Juncadella and former Formula E Andretti driver Robin Frijns complete the driver line-up.
F1 and IndyCar ace Juan Pablo Montoya will compete in his eighth Rolex 24 – his last being in 2013 – with the Acura Team Penske team. Montoya formerly raced for Team Penske in the IndyCar series – famously claiming a ‘last to first’ victory at the 2015 Indianapolis 500 – and he will fit in comfortably when coming back to battle at Daytona. The Colombian runs with 2016 IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud and Dane Cameron from the USA.
Meanwhile, former Sauber F1 driver Felipe Nasr will race for Action Express Racing in the prototype class. The Brazilian finished third overall in his last attempt back in 2012.
Additionally, former Scuderia Toro Rosso talent and current IndyCar runner Sébastien Bourdais will race in the GT Le Mans Class under Chip Ganassi Racing who he won the class with at last year’s Rolex 24. The Frenchman will compete in the #66 Ford GT.
Other ex-F1 drivers on this year’s entry list are former Minardi pilot Gianmaria Bruni (driving a factory Porsche in the GTLM class) and one-time Grand Prix driver Markus Winkelhock (driving a Magnus Audi R8 LMS in the GT Daytona class).
This year’s Daytona event also sees some famous surnames in action. Alex Brundle – son of ex-F1 driver and SKY F1 commentator Martin Brundle – will compete in the second Jackie Chan DCR Jota prototype entry alongside Formula E race-winner António Félix da Costa, Ferdinand Habsburg and Ho-Pin Tung.
Former Grand Prix driver Christian Fittipaldi – nephew of the great Emerson Fittipaldi – will suit up in the #5 Action Express Racing Team in the sister car to Nasr. The 44-year-old father of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, Jan Magnussen, will work the wheel in the GT Le Mans Corvette Racing entry in his 13th attempt at the Tri-Oval.
The Rolex 24 at Daytona kicks off at 2:40 PM Eastern Time in America on the 27th of January. It will be the 56th running of the event.
Image via GT Planet