New Zealand racing drivers will have a strong presence at the first major international endurance race of 2016.
Five Kiwis are expected to contest the Rolex 24 at Daytona on January 30-31 and are also named on the entry list for the “Roar Before the 24’’ three-day official test at the Florida track later this week (January 8-10).
IndyCar champion Scott Dixon returns with Chip Ganassi Racing as part the same 2015 Daytona winning foursome that includes IndyCar team-mate Tony Kanaan (Brazil) and NASCAR drivers Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson. The Ganassi number 01 is once again a Riley chassis with a Ford EcoBoost V6 engine.
And joining the driver roster for the second Ganassi Daytona Prototype is New Zealand’s FIA World Endurance champion Brendon Hartley, who teams with Alex Wurz (Austria), Canadian teenager Lance Stroll (who raced in New Zealand’s Toyota Racing Series last summer) and three-time world touring champ Andy Priaulx (Guernsey).
Three Kiwis are expected to line-up in the two GT categories that contest the Daytona 24 Hours.
Porsche factory driver Earl Bamber will race fulltime in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship during 2016 with Daytona being the opening round. Bamber is teamed in a Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR entry in the GTLM class with Fred Makowiecki (France) and Michael Christensen (Denmark).
The GTLM category sees the well-established Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette C7R machinery up against brand new Ford GT, BMW M6 and Ferrari 488 contenders.
Two Kiwis are expected to line-up in the GT Daytona (GTD) class which has progressed to full FIA GT3 specification cars for 2016.
Shane van Gisbergen continues his globe-trotting programme making his third Daytona outing with Alex Job Racing. The V8 Supercar star is part of a five-strong driver line-up listed for the WeatherTech Porsche 911 GT3-R entry with US drivers David and Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen and Gunnar Jeannette.
GP2 race winner Richie Stanaway (Tauranga) is set to make his Daytona debut as part of his continuing work as an Aston Martin Racing factory driver in 2016.
Stanaway and fellow FIA World Endurance Championship drivers Paul Dalla Lana (Canada), Mathias Lauda (Austria) and Pedro Lamy (Portugal) will pilot on Aston Martin Vantage V12 in a 22-strong GTD field that features Porsche, BMW, Audi, Dodge Viper, Lamborghini and Ferrari rivals.
Along with the much anticipated race debut of the new Ford GT in the GTLM category, the 2016 Daytona race will also see the first outings for the new BMW M6 racer in both GTLM and GT3 specification, the new Ferrari 488 (also in GTLM and GT3 specifications) as well as the IMSA series debuts of the Lamborghini Huracan and new Audi R8 LMS GT3 racers.