As the 2015 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season begins with today’s BMW Performance 200 at Daytona International Speedway, there’s significant intrigue over what is expected to come later in the season almost more than here at Daytona.
The GS and ST classes are expected to see several new cars premiere later in the year. So for Daytona, it’s mainly tried-and-true, venerable, several-year-old machinery that will make up the majority of the 56-car field.
Yet while Daytona is unlike any other circuit on the CTSC schedule, last year’s race still served as something of a harbinger for the rest of the season.
Both Fall-Line Motorsports and Murillo Racing emerged victorious, and by year’s end at Road Atlanta, those two teams were celebrating hard-earned season titles.
Fall-Line’s aging but still reliable BMW M3 – driven by veteran John Edwards and upstart Trent Hindman – held off the challenge from Stevenson Motorsports’ new Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R driven by Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell.
In ST, Murillo needed a midseason switch to the new class pacesetter – the Porsche Cayman – from its BMW 328i to sustain momentum and results and keep up its own title chances. Eric Foss held off the fellow Cayman of Wayne Nonnamaker, who brought Team Sahlen within the title’s reach.
For 2015 in GS, Fall-Line will see Hindman back with new full season co-driver Ashley Freiberg. The pairing lacks the age and experience of either Stevenson pair (Davis and Liddell, and Lawson Aschenbach and Matt Bell) but will no doubt put up a significant fight for the Michael Harvey-led team throughout the season.
Multimatic Motorsports should pose a consistent threat throughout the year with its pair of Mustangs. Scott Maxwell and Billy Johnson should be a winning threat at most rounds and likely title contenders, while Jade Buford and Austin Cindric will likely grow together as the year goes on.
Former series champions Rum Bum Racing are a wild card with its Porsche 911; the team hopes a strong Daytona result can propel itself forward for the rest of the season.
Beyond those teams it’s hard to see other title contenders, at least at the outset. Any of the four Nissan 370Zs, Rebel Rock Porsche 911, Compass360 Racing Subaru WRX-STi, pair of Mantella Autosport Camaro Z/28.Rs, TRG-AMR and/or Automatic Racing Aston Martins and leftover Ford Mustangs may sneak the occasional podium as the year progresses.
The ST field, meanwhile, is Cayman-heavy with no less than 13 entered this weekend at Daytona, and more possible as the year goes on.
Murillo returns, but the Eric Foss and either Jeff Mosing or Justin Piscitell-driven No. 56 Cayman will have its hands full from several other Caymans in class.
Team Sahlen should pose a threat with the Nonnamakers and new recruit Jeff Segal; the new Next Level European effort features the combined prowess of CTSC veterans Bimmerworld and BGB Motorsports; and the new Rennsport One team enters the series with a bang, and a solid driver lineup across each of its three Caymans.
Bimmerworld’s primary cars, the BMWs, should remain contenders at certain tracks. The same is true for former series champions Burton Racing with its BMW 128i.
Beyond that, Mazda will hit its high points at certain circuits – it won three races last year at such diverse tracks as Sebring, Mazda Raceway and Lime Rock.
Honda’s Civic Sis remain popular, although the loss of de facto Honda CTSC team leader Karl Thomson’s C360R operation to Audis after Daytona will likely hurt their overall results by year’s end.
The Audi S3s – which debut at Sebring – are the ST class wild card. If the S3s come out of the gate close to the Caymans, they could play spoiler. Otherwise, it’s likely the ST champion will be driving the most popular make and model in the field.