The 54th Rolex 24 at Daytona in Florida, USA, will kick of this year’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (ex-TUSCC).
The race will see three new GTE cars compete for the first time, namely the Ford GT (which mark’s the make’s return to endurance racing), the Ferrari 488 GTE (which replaces the 458 GTE) and the BMW M6, as the German manufacturer celebrates its 100th anniversary. All three models will be in the hands of factory crews.
It was at Le Mans last June that Bill Ford himself unveiled the magnificent new Ford GT which is spearheading the make’s return to endurance racing, 50 years after the Ford GT 40’s resounding one-two-three finish in the French 24-hour race.
Two Michelin-equipped, Chip Ganassi Racing-run cars will be at Daytona for Joey Hand/Sébastien Bourdais/Dirk Muller (N°66) and Ryan Briscoe/Stefan Mücke/Richard Westbrook (N°67).
Two 3.5-litre bi-turbo V6-engined Ford GTs will also appear in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC),with four cars for the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours.
The GT LM battle will also feature the Ferrari 488 GTE (V8 bi-turbo, 3.9 litres) which succeeds from the 458 GTE, winner of some 100 races since 2011. There will be three cars at Daytona, including a Risi Competizione machine for Giancarlo Fisichella/Davide Rigon/Toni Vilander/Olivier Beretta. The Houston-based squad was also first to race the Ferrari 360 GT (in 2002), the Ferrari 430 GT (2005) and the Ferrari 458 (2011).
The similar Scuderia Corsa car will be shared by Alessandro Pier-Guidi/Daniel Serra/Alexandre Prémat/Memo Rojas, while the SMP Racing 488 GTE (N°72) will be in the hands of Viktor Shayar/Gimmi Bruni/Andrea Bertolini/James Calado.
The new BMW M6 GT LM (V8, bi-turbo, 4.4 litres) takes over from the Z4 GTE and there will be two examples run by BMW Team RLL for Bill Auberlen/Augusto Farfus/Dirk Werner/Bruno Spengler (N°25) and Lucas Luhr/Kumo Wittmer/John Edwards/Graham Rahal.
The German car is only expected to contest North America’s endurance racing championship in 2016, but both the Ford GT and the Ferrari 488 GTE are expected to attend the WEC’s prologue test in France at the end of March.
Michelin will also equip two Corvette C7.Rs (Garcia/Rockenfeller/Magnussen, and Gavin/Fässler/Milner) and two Porsche 911 RSRs (Pilet/Estre/Tandy, and Bamber/Christensen/Makowiecki) in the GT LM class.