DragonSpeed has confirmed that it will enter its new Oreca 07 Gibson in January’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.
As first revealed by Sportscar365 last month, the Elton Julian-led squad had been evaluating a single-car entry for Daytona, ahead of its planned two-car effort in next year’s European Le Mans Series season.
The team’s 2016 ELMS race-winning lineup of Nicolas Lapierre, Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman will be joined by ex-Audi LMP1 factory driver Loic Duval for the Florida endurance classic.
It will mark DragonSpeed’s first U.S. appearance since its fourth place overall finish at Sebring in March, in its LMP2 debut race.
“Daytona is the start of an exciting new direction in sports car racing, thanks to IMSA’s introduction of the DPi class alongside the LMP2 cars we run in the ELMS and WEC,” Julian said.
“With new cars for everybody, the race will be wide open. We’re targeting the win, not just for the prestige IMSA’s flagship event carries, but also with an eye on our goal of racing at Le Mans in 2017.”
DragonSpeed will utilize its brand-new Oreca 07 chassis, with the team’s 2016 chassis, updated to 07 specification, set to be on-hand as back-up.
It will mark both all four drivers’ Rolex 24 debuts, and reuniting Duval and Lapierre together in a car for the first time since their victory in the Twelve Hours of Sebring in 2011 in a ORECA-run Peugeot 908.
“It will be great to team up with [Nico] for the first time since we won Sebring together and to renew my long relationship with ORECA as well,” Duval said.
“I raced against Ben back in my karting days and know how competitive he is, so I’m very happy to have him on our side for Daytona. And I am really looking forward to working with Henrik, with his fantastic commitment and passion for winning.”
Lapierre added: “After such a successful season with DragonSpeed, we are coming to Daytona with great expectations. We already have a great driver combination, and with the addition of Loïc for Daytona, we have a very strong extra card to play.”
The team is coming off a strong maiden season in ELMS competition that included one win, three poles and four podium finishes in six races.
Julian told Sportscar365 they will miss next month’s IMSA-sanctioned test at Daytona due to the build of the new cars, but will be present at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 on Jan. 6-8.