Wayne Taylor Racing wins 4th consecutive victory at the Rolex 24

By JENNA FRYER

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The team to beat will be in the lead when the Rolex 24 at Daytona kicks off Saturday with Wayne Taylor Racing leading the field to the green.

If the #10 Acura is still ahead after two laps at Daytona International Speedway, Wayne Taylor Racing will become the first team to win four consecutive Rolex Watches.

But making history won’t be easy at the 60th edition of IMSA’s prestigious sports car race: 61 cars entered Daytona this weekend – the most since 2014 – and Chip Ganassi brought two Cadillacs full of talent to try to stop Taylor.

Ganassi is the only other team owner to win the Rolex three years in a row.

“Definitely Wayne is the guy to beat lately,” Ganassi said Friday. “He’s the guy everyone’s shooting for right now.”

WTR’s return has brought a change to its lineup this year, as four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves is now a driver for Meyer Shank Racing in the top prototype class. Will Stevens, a veteran racer with six starts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, joined last year’s winning line-up of Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi, who will make his only sportscar start of the season at Daytona.

The WTR team was pleased with Stevens, who got the job purely on the basis of his reputation after just one phone call with team owner Taylor.

“You could tell right away he knew what he was doing,” Taylor said. “You don’t even have to put them in the car to know when you have the right guy.”

WTR has won five of the last six Rolexes.

But Ganassi is back and fully charged after CGR’s one-year hiatus from sports car racing in 2020. The organization returned last season as a one-car Cadillac team with at hardly any preparation time. This year, Ganassi moved to two entries and returned to the “star car” concept of charging its lineups.

The No. 01 is anchored by full-time IMSA drivers Renger van der Zande and Sebastien Bourdais, and flushed out by six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon making his 19th consecutive start, and defending IndyCar champion Alex Palou at his Daytona debut. No. 02 has newcomers Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who will drive the car for the entire IMSA season, and endurance additions Kevin Magnussen and Marcus Ericsson, another of his IndyCar drivers who will make his Rolex debut.

“You don’t go into the race saying, ‘Let’s put together cars with star power,'” Ganassi said. “I want to put together cars with drivers who we think can win the race.”

Ganassi has the same attitude about another addition to his IMSA programme: Danielle Shepherd, the simulation engineer for the IndyCar team in the Palou championship last season, has been promoted to chief engineer for the No. 02 car. IMSA.

“She’s a quality engineer, that was her next step,” Ganassi said. “It’s not about being a she or a he. It’s about the good work she does and that’s what we continue to do. She deserved this.

The top-tier Daytona Prototype includes two Acuras and five Cadillacs, including reigning IMSA champion Action Express. The team again has a second car headlined by seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, who put together the program with Hendrick Motorsports and sponsor Ally.

The No. 48 again includes Johnson, reigning Le Mans winner Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Rockenfeller, but this year added Jose Maria Lopez, one of Kobayashi’s teammates in the World Endurance Championship. The team finished second to Wayne Taylor last year when Simon Pagenaud was in the lineup – Pagenaud as Castroneves now drives the No. 60 Acura for Shank.

“For me, Jimmie and Rocky, we raced together last year and know what we have to do. We’re more together,” Kobayashi said. conversation. We are improving.

IndyCar has 12 drivers split across the five classes, while Austin Cindric is NASCAR’s sole representative. Cindric drives in the new GTD Pro category which replaced GT Le Mans and has 13 entries from eight different manufacturers. Corvette Racing won both the Rolex and the championship last season with the No. 3 entry of Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg returning with its lineup intact.

And starting on pole in the Le Mans Prototype 3 class, Andretti Autosport made its racing debut. Despite his rich motorsport history, Andretti has never competed in North America’s greatest sports car race, but is in Daytona to fulfill the vision of the late John Andretti.

John Andretti wanted to race sports cars with his son, Jarett, and the two started the project in 2019. John Andretti died of cancer two years ago on Sunday, the day his son hopes to mark the anniversary with a victory for Andretti Autosport at Daytona.

The Andretti car will start on pole for LMP3.

“I can’t think of a better way to honor my dad than to win this race for him and fulfill his vision,” said Jarett Andretti.

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