Saturday, January 28, 2017

2017 Daytona 24hr preview: Prototype

Mazda Motorsports 70: Hinch is here. Quite some star power outside of Jeff Gordon. They have the same chassis as the #55 Mazda and Visit Florida. We expect reliability issues.

Mazda Motorsports 55: Fast drivers, but we have begun to question their race craft, and pit wall decisions. The chassis remains to be proven.

VisitFlorida Racing: Very good crew, but we're just not sold on the Riley P2 car. Given the suspension troubles they had at the roar there could be more gremlins waiting to be exposed by the race.

PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports: On pace alone there's no way they finish ahead of the 3 teams we have placed them above. But we believe having a Ligier places them above the Riley chassied teams. We believe those teams will have lengthy delays back in the paddock. To make the most of other's misfortunes, RC Enerson and especially Tom Kimber-Smith have to log some serious time behind the wheel.

DragonSpeed: This car wouldn't be here without Henrik Hedman deciding to come. But without him in the car we would have ranked them higher. However he is bringing some show stoppers with him. They came to win. The practice crash has also dampened their expectations and torpedoed their ranking. The car might still not be 100%. But what a lineup still.

Tequila Patron ESM 22: Ed Brown has to drive 2 hrs in the race to be eligible for points, and most of the attention will be focused on their #2 car. But it's still the Oak operation with Bruno Senna and Brendon Hartley in tow.

JDC-Miller Motorsports: A very good crew for the Prototype Challenge class. They could have won Daytona again in LMPC with this crew. But this is the main class now, so the pool runs deeper. Aside from Mathis Beche they all border on being barely "gold drivers" or "super silvers".

Wayne Taylor Racing: Being second the past 2 years is getting old for them. But we don't have good news. Having two guys looking forward to retirement isn't the best recipe to win this race. We assume Max Angeleli will get the last couple stints for a final hooray. But it really should be Jordan Taylor.

Whelen Engineering Racing: The sheer presence of Mike Conway here will push Dane Cameron to try to reach for higher limits of perfection and speed. Dane Cameron has done well for himself, but Conway has achieved some of the things Cameron once dreamed of, while coming up the ranks. Seb Morris can be fast but he has a lot of adapting to do.

Tequila Patron ESM 2: This is Oak racing making the strategy calls here. They have proven to be very adept at making strategy calls, and have the confidence of having won the race last year. Let's see if the Nissan engine is as good as the Honda. We don't believe so, but they will make the most of it.

Mustang Sampling Racing: Ever since Dane Cameron joined the #5 sister car in 2015, a fascinating intra mural scrap has added flavor to the top class, and has only been settled with the winner carrying the championship home. Last year Barbosa and Fittipaldi seemed to be giving up hundredths or thousandths of seconds to the #5 car whenever Dane Cameron was driving; but we believe their steady lineup and camaraderie between the drivers can take them far...barring any issues encountered during the test days.

Rebellion Racing: They have a full pro lineup, and are endurance race specialists. Having stood against giants like Audi, Toyota, and Porsche, nothing will rattle them. They came with full respect for the race by bringing in the best drivers available to them, and making their intentions clear. They feel they're the best and have layed down their cards.