The GTD category for the Rolex 24 at Daytona is by far the biggest category, like it was last year. Coming in at an impressive 20 cars, it features plenty of teams, cars and drivers to keep your eye on.
Entries in this massive GT3 field can generally be divided into one of three categories: newcomers to the series, teams returning to have another crack at winning a Rolex, and old faithfuls that have become a part of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship.
Let’s look at that first category to kick things off, as there are four completely new teams that make their series debut in this year’s Rolex 24.
The first of those four is NTE Sport, entering the #42 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo. The team is one of three squads graduating from the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, and the only outfit campaigning Audi machinery in this year’s event. The most eyecatching name in its line-up is that of IndyCar driver JR Hildebrand, best known for coming within seconds of winning the Indianapolis 500. He races alongside Alan Metni, Andrew Davis and Don Yount.
Another outfit making the step up from the Pilot Challenge is Winward Racing, entering the #57 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo. The team has operational backing from European GT3 stalwarts HTP Motorsport. Mercedes’ GT3 challenger is a proven race winner in Europe, so could be a force to be reckoned with, especially with factory driver Maro Engel a part of the team. He joins Russell Ward, Philip Ellis and Indy Dontje.
The third and final squad graduating from the Pilot Challenge is TeamTGM and their #64 Porsche 911 GT3 R. Alongside campaigning their usual set of Chevrolet Camaro GT4s in IMSA’s feeder series, it has entered a GT3 Porsche with operational support from Wright Motorsports. Driving duties fall to team regulars Ted Giovanis, Owen Trinkler and Hugh and Matt Plumb, all part of the Pilot Challenge squad.
The fourth and final debutant to the series is one that should be very familiar to fans of European sportscar racing, particularly the FIA World Endurance Championship. After winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans and nearly adding a WEC title to their already extensive trophy cabinet, TF Sport have made the journey across the Atlantic to compete in IMSA for the first time.
The British outfit have entered the #97 Aston Martin Vantage GT3, and it is not one to lose sight of. Not just because of its bright colour scheme, but also because of the driver line-up. Ben Keating, in his grand tradition of pulling double duty at Daytona, has paired with 2018 GTLM winner Richard Westbrook, Aston Martin factory driver Charlie Eastwood and Maxwell Root.
Aside from new arrivals, the field also features multiple teams making their return to Daytona, some of which are previous winners.
GRT Grasser Racing Team, class winners in both 2018 and 2019 (the last three years has seen Lamborghini win GTD), have returned with a two-car entry and should be considered favorites just because of their winning history.
Their line-ups are also nothing to sneeze at. The #19 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, decked out in the team’s familiar green, orange and black, sees veteran Misha Goikhberg join from Meyer Shank Racing. He partners Frank Perera (winner in 2018), Albert Costa and Tim Zimmermann.
Their #111 squad is perhaps even stronger, featuring Mirko Bortolotti and Rolf Ineichen, who both took wins in 2018 and 2019, Marco Mapelli, who came within grasp of a 2020 win, and Steijn Schothorst.
AF Corse, stalwarts of European sportscar racing, are also back with a single car. Driving the #21 Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo are two factory drivers: Nicklas Nielsen and Daniel Serra. They are joined by Matteo Cressoni and Simon Mann. The last few years of IMSA racing has proven that the 488 tends to creep up and be in the good spot at the end, so this entry should definitely not be counted out.
Another former winner back for another shot is Alegra Motorsports. The Florida squad, winners in 2017 with Porsche, have taken a leave of absence from IMSA for a few years, but have made their welcome return. They have traded in their 911 for the #28 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo and should definitely not be taken lightly.
Michael de Quesada and Daniel Morad, both 2017 winners, have returned. Ex-Ford man Billy Johnson has joined and the squad is completed by Mercedes Maxi Buhk, making for an all-round strong and experienced team.
Also back is SunEnergy1 Racing, with their ever-bright #75 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo. The team’s line-up banks heavily on Mercedes factory driver talent, as both Raffaele Marciello and Luca Stolz have come along. Both are mega quick drivers with considerable success in Europe, and with Kenny Habul and Mikaël Grenier completing the squad, one would be wise to not count this chrome blue AMG out for a class win.
Finally, the biggest number of entries comes from established squads that fielded full-season entries during the 2020 campaign, underlining the strong platform of support that IMSA’s GTD formula currently enjoys.
Paul Miller Racing, after winning the class in 2020, is back to defend their crown. Notably, they carry the #1 on their Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo this year, opting to instead give their usual number 48 to Jimmie Johnson for his IMSA debut.
Their line-up is identical to the one that won the race last year: Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, Andrea Caldarelli and Corey Lewis. With the same car and the same line-up, there is no reason to not consider them favorites for victory again.
After the COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupted their season, Pfaff Motorsports make their series return and are looking stronger than ever. Team regular Zacharie Robichon sees himself surrounded by a veritable who’s who of Porsche factory driver stars.
Joining Robichon aboard the #9 Porsche 911 GT3 R is 2019 GTLM champion and Le Mans class winner Laurens Vanthoor, fellow factory ace Matt Campbell and Lars Kern, Porsche’s test and development driver, whose dayjobs involves hurling cars around the Nürburgring Norschleife.
Vasser Sullivan, racing without partners AIM after a split at the end of 2020, are back with their pair of Lexus RC F GT3s. The team saw their title bid last year end in tears when both cars crashed out of the Twelve Hours of Sebring simultaneously due to fluids on the track, but they are back with a vengeance.
The most notable new name in the Lexus camp is that of IndyCar refugee Zach Veach, who joins the team to drive the #12 Lexus. He is joined by last year’s regular pairing of Frankie Montecalvo and Townsend Bell, while 20-year-old Indy Lights race winner Robert Megennis completes the squad to make his IMSA debut.
The team’s second car is perhaps even stronger. Aaron Telitz, who spent 2020 turning heads with strong performances in the Sprint Cup, has been rewarded with a full-season drive alongside Jack Hawksworth. Kyle Kirkwood also returns, but the most notable addition is that of Oliver Gavin, joining Vasser Sullivan after calling time on a massively successful career with Corvette.
Wright Motorsports, consistent podium threat in 2020, also returns. The team was forced to make a last-minute change to the line-up for its #16 Porsche 911 GT3 R when Ryan Hardwick suffered a concussion in a Michelin Pilot Challenge practice crash. Hardwick has been replaced by 2019 GTD champion Trent Hindman. The rest of the team’s line-up is unchanged: Patrick Long and Jan Heylen are joined by Klaus Bachler.
After making their IMSA return in 2020, a cautious start saw the Heart of Racing squad end their campaign on a high with a class podium at Sebring. This year, the team is back for more, with an almost unchanged line-up compared to the end of the season.
Ian James, Roman de Angelis and Darren Turner all return. Joining them at Daytona, however, is Aston Martin prodigy Ross Gunn. Gunn will want some retribution after he ended his 2020 Rolex 24 with a crash into the pit exit wall.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, the saying goes. This can definitely be applied to Magnus Racing, which has gone through a host of changes for 2021. For starters: a new car. The team has traded in its Lamborghini Huracan for the Acura NSX GT3 Evo campaigned by Meyer Shank Racing in the past.
Also new is its partner: Archangel Motorsports. The two parties know each other well, and have reunited to take on this new challenge. The driver line-up, meanwhile, has also seen very little change.
Andy Lally, John Potter and Spencer Pumpelly are tried and tested trio, and they are joined by Mario Farnbacher, who has carried the Acura NSX to two consecutive GTD titles with Meyer Shank Racing. His knowledge in helping the team get up with its new platform will be invaluable.
The team also gets major credit for its new livery, which is a homage to the 1960s manga and television series Speed Racer.
Meanwhile, Italian squad Scuderia Corsa will be forced to go it alone for 2021 after its previous partner WeatherTech Racing stepped up to GTLM with Porsche. That means: gone is the white livery and gone are the likes of Cooper MacNeil and Toni Vilander.
In its places is a new, striking red colour scheme and a strong team of drivers. Headlining the #63 Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo is triple Daytona winner Ryan Briscoe, joined by newly minted Dale Coyne Racing IndyCar driver Ed Jones. Marcos Gomes, who took class pole at Daytona in 2019, completes the line-up alongside experience gentleman driver Bret Curtis,
Team Hardpoint is back for a second stab at the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship after an up-and-down first season, but the team is unrecognizable from its former self.
For starters, team owner Rob Ferriol has entered into a partnership with double Le Mans winner Earl Bamber and its EBM operation to form Team Hardpoint EBM.
The team has also traded in its Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo for a Porsche 911 GT3 R, with Ferriol and Bamber both taking the wheel for a full-season effort.
Completing the line-up for the #88 Porsche are Christina Nielsen and Katherine Legge, the only two female drivers on this year’s grid. Legge’s inclusion is especially notable, as she makes her racing return after suffering serious injuries in a high-speed crash while testing an ORECA 07-Gibson at Paul Ricard last summer.
Finally, we come to Turner Motorsports. The consistent GTD frontrunner is back for what will most likely be the last season with its race-winning BMW M6 GT3.
Bill Auberlen, the most successful IMSA driver of all time, is still going strong at the age of 52. He spearheads the line-up for the #96 BMW, which one again includes his full-season partner Robby Foley.
Joining the team is multiple-time IndyCar race winner Colton Herta, who took a GTLM class win upon his Daytona debut with BMW Team RLL in 2019. Completing the line-up is Aidan Reed, who makes his IMSA debut after racing GT3 machinery in Europe and Asia.