***DAC Motorsports will start the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona with a spare Lamborghini Huracan GT3, after prepping last year’s O’Gara Motorsport chassis overnight. The car was on display in Lamborghini’s hospitality tent in the infield prior to the Emmanuel Anassis’ accident in Friday’s final practice session, which destroyed their primary car.
***Click Here for the starting grid, featuring all 55 starters for this afternoon’s race.
***Dane Cameron predicts that Cadillac’s pace advantage during practice and qualifying will be “irrelevant” in the race and that “anybody in the class” can win the first race of the new DPi era. “At least in our camp, we’re pretty sure that whoever wins the race is going to win by a few laps,” he told Sportscar365.
***Andy Priaulx believes it is no coincidence that Ford’s strong performances at Le Mans and Daytona have coincided with their running all four cars together, which has caused each team member to raise their game. “I like it because it raises the level of everything,” he said. “Competition levels definitely go up and that can only be a positive thing for everyone to learn from that.”
***IMSA President and COO Scott Atherton said he expects 40 full-season WeatherTech Championship entries this year, between the four classes. “That’s a full house for us,” he said. “Many of the venues we call upon, that’s perhaps even more than a full house. Is there a room for more? From a sanctioning body perspective, we believe there’s always room for more. But we’ve very confident that we’re near capacity right now.”
***Head of Porsche Motorsport Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser has praised the impact of young professional Matteo Cairoli on his first visit to Daytona, after qualifying the No. 59 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R fourth in GTD. “He had maybe an hour of track time and then qualified as the best Porsche, so for sure we’re proud,” Walliser told Sportscar365.
***Walliser said the final full-season seat in the WEC driver lineup will be announced at Prologue test at Monza in March. Reports have continued to link Gianmaria Bruni to the seat, although it’s believed the Italian driver could end up in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Porsche post-Le Mans.
***Joest Racing Managing Director Ralf Juttner is in Daytona this weekend, with the hopes of assembling a DPi effort for 2018. Juttner told Sportscar365 he’s kept his staff employed this year, despite not likely having a race program. “We would love to have something with a manufacturer; we’ve done that for 20 years. We don’t want to step back,” he told Sportscar365.
***Juttner has also not ruled the former Audi LMP1 operation partner running a GTE program in America. “We’ll have a look,” he said. “There are some options coming up. There are more manufacturers over here than in the WEC at the moment. For sure, it looks interesting.”
***Ford Performance Global Director Dave Pericak said there’s been no update on the potential of customer Ford GTs for 2018. “We understand there’s a demand out there and we’re trying to understand how big of a demand it is and how it would all work. It’s different between the WEC and IMSA. It’s not one solution that fits all,” he told Sportscar365.
***Perciak said Ford currently does not have an interest in DPi. “If it ever served a purpose in the future, to develop new technologies, maybe it would play a role,” he said. “Right now, I don’t see anything in the near future where it would play a role to serve that need.”
***Former DTM champion Martin Tomczyk is hoping to be chosen for BMW’s return to Le Mans in 2018. The German is one of three drivers, along with Alexander Sims and Antonio Felix da Costa, who has been entrusted with developing the new car.
“For sure a race driver is aiming for racing in Le Mans, I was 11 years with Audi so I know how it is when you’re successful for a company in Le Mans,” Tomczyk told Sportscar365. “I know all the surroundings, I did a lot of testing for Audi with the Le Mans car and I am hoping I can prove it together with BMW.”
***Mazda Motorsports will have a large rice spoon (a skakushi) in their pit box for the race. The spoon, considered a good luck object in Japanese culture, came from the Miyajima Temple in Hiroshima, following Tom Long, Tristan Nunez and Mazda Motorsports boss John Doonan’s recent visit to Japan for the Mazda Fan Festival.
***A total of 54 drivers in the Rolex 24 have participated in either the Mazda Road to Indy or Mazda Road to 24 programs, with nine of the drivers having won Mazda driver development scholarships.
***Veteran Australian racer Paul Morris is linking up with compatriot Kenny Habul at SunEnergy1 Racing for his first appearance at Daytona since 2009, when he drove with current teammate Boris Said in a Blackforest Motorsports Ford Mustang. The former Bathurst 1000 winner has been reclassified to Silver for 2016 and confirmed to Sportscar365 that he is hoping for more opportunities in 2017.
***Michael Shank has been named the recipient of the 2016 Rolex Bob Snodgrass Award of Excellence. The announcement was made during the traditional prelude to the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the Grand Marshal Dinner, on Friday evening.
***Be sure to download Andy Blackmore’s Spotter’s Guide for the Rolex 24, featuring all 55 starters for today’s season-opening round of the WeatherTech Championship. Click Here to download the guide.
***Watch the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona across the FOX family of networks, beginning at 2 p.m. on the FOX Network, before switching to FS2 from 5-10 p.m. ET, then a one-hour break before returning to FS2 from 11 p.m. through 12 p.m. on Sunday. The final two hours will switch to FS1.
***In addition to flag-to-flag coverage on FOX Sports GO, and all but one hour broadcast on TV, European viewers can tune into MotorsTV for comprehensive coverage of the race. The European network will cover more than 14 hours of the race, anchored by Mark Cole, beginning at 7 p.m. UK time and running until 1 a.m. on Sunday, with coverage resuming at 12 p.m. through the end of the race.
James Newbold and Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report