The TUDOR United Sportscar Championship is heading into it’s second season this weekend with the season kicking off with the world famous 24 hour race at Daytona. Among the 53 starters there is a healthy representation of WEC drivers that will be competing in the endurance classic. We take a look though each of the drivers ahead of their race stateside.
Heinemeier-Hansson was part of Aston Martin’s Le Mans and championship winning GTE-AM car in 2014 alongside fellow Dane Kristian Poulsen. In 2015 the Danish driver will return to the LMP2 class with championship new comers ESM in the new HPD. ESM are the team running Heinemeier-Hansson this weekend at Daytona, so the race will be key for both team and driver as it will be the first race for the new car as well as the first race in the team for Heinemeier-Hansson.
The young New-Zeelander debuted in LMP1 with the returning Porsche team last year and will be back with the team in 2015 in attempt to win Le Mans and the WEC drivers’ and teams’ championships. This weekend the Porsche driver will swap his 919 Hybrid for a Starworks Motorsport Riley in the Daytona Prototype category. He will be part of a 5 strong driver line up for the number 7 car, driving alongside 2012 IndyCar champion and last years Indianapolis 500 winner, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Former Ferrari Formula One driver and race winner, Rubens Barrichello.
The Frenchman will feel at home this weekend driving a Ligier JSP2 prototype, which is the same as the G-Drive LMP2 car he drove towards the end of last season’s WEC. The colours of his Ligier will however be different, but familiar to WEC and TUSC fans alike, the unmissable colours of Krohn Racing. Pla will be sharing driving duties of the Prototype classed car with team owner, Tracy Krohn, Nic Jonsson and another familiar face to the WEC, Alex Brundle.
The Brazilian will be back in the WEC in 2015 to drive the third Audi R18 at the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Albuquerque will be driving a the number 8 ORECA FLM09 in the PC category this weekend in Florida for Starworks Motorsport.
Patrick Long will compete in his first full WEC season this year driving for and alongside Patrick Dempsey in a GTE-AM Porsche. This weekend Long will be driving the Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 RSR in the GTLM class at Daytona. The American will share driving duties with TUSC regular Bryan Sellers and Porsche ace Wolf Henzler.
Gianmaria Bruni & Toni Vilander
Defending WEC GTE-PRO champions Bruni and Vilander will race into 2015 in familiar surroundings driving a GTLM Ferrari 458 Italia for AF Corse. The Italian and Fin will compete in the #51 car in the 24 Hour race sharing the driving seat with Le Mans veteran Emmanuel Collard and François Perrodo.
Davide Rigon & Pierre Kaffer
Another AF Corse driver racing in the states this weekend is Davide Rigon. He however will be racing against his WEC team this weekend, in his Risi Competitzione Ferrari 458 Italia GTLM. He will share the Ferrari with the same duo as he did at Le Mans last year, Lotus LMP1 driver Pierre Kaffer and class winner at Le Mans Olivier Beretta. Formula One race winner Giancarlo Fisichella will complete the quartet.
Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana, Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke & Matthias Lauda
The #98 Aston Martin V8 Vantage has the most familer faces to the WEC on the whole grid. The five strong driver line-up see’s four of Aston Martin’s works from last year and the new signing of Matthias Lauda, who will compete in the WEC this year with Aston Martin Racing. This race will prove important for the team and the Austrian to get used to working with each other ahead of the World Championship later in the year. There will be no shortage of Aston Martin experience for Lauda to call upon with Lamy, Dalla Lana, Turner and Mucke all sharing the car with him. The car will be going for glory in the GTLM class.
Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet & Marc Lieb
Pilet and Tandy will be in familiar surroundings at the famous oval circuit this weekend behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 in the GTLM class. Marc Lieb will be swapping his 919 LMP1 car in for the 911 this weekend, although the German has been busy recently shaking down the new generation of 919 hybrid, he has plenty of experience in a GT Porsche, having taken class victory at Le Mans in one on 3 occasions. The Porsche trio will be responsible for the driving of the #911 Porsche 911 entered by Porsche North America.
Jorg Bergmeister & Frederic Makowiecki
WEC Porsche GTE-PRO regulars Jorg Bergmeister and Frederic Makowiecki will be racing alongside experienced Porsche driver Earl Bamber. The Porsche trio will be responsible for driving the #912 Porsche 911 in the GTLM class for Porsche North America. The 24 Hours will be tough on all of the GT Porsche drivers this weekend with just 3 drivers in each car in comparison to the five drivers per car at Aston Martin.
Darryl O’Young had a podium in his #99 Aston Martin in the WEC last year. He will start his 2015 season at Daytona driving the #18 GTD Porsche 911. He will be one of five other drivers that will get to pilot the car in the race. The line-up includes former FIA GT1 champion, Marc Basseng.
The young Austrian had a strong year in 2014, taking second in the GTE-AM class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the Proton Competition Porsche 911. At this weekend’s 24 Hour race in Daytona, Bachler will drive for Konrad Motorsports in a GTD Porsche 911.
Rene Rast has been called into the Audi Sport Team Joest LMP1 squad for 2015 to drive the third car at Le Mans and Spa-Francorchamps alongside fellow Daytona 24 Hours competitor Filipe Albuquerque. This weekend the experienced and successful Audi GT driver will drive for Paul Miller Racing in a GTD Audi R8 LMS in a bid for class victory.
AF Corse duo, Griffin and Rugolo will be competing this weekend for AF Corse in a Ferrari 458 Italia in the GTD class. The WEC duo will be joined behind the wheel of the #49 car by Rui Aguas and British GT racer, Pasin Lathouras.
Grey’s Anatomy star and regular Le Mans competitor Patrick Dempsey will experience his first full world championship season in the WEC this year. But before his WEC exploits get under way, the American will compete on home soil in a GTD Porsche 911 for Wright Motorsports in the 24 Hour race at Daytona.
Runner up in the WEC’s GTE-AM class last year, Christoffer Nygaard will attempt to go one better this year in the WEC. Before the World Championship starts however, the Dane will get a chance to blow off the proverbial winter cobwebs at the 24 Hours of Daytona in a GTD Aston Martin.
The Italian competed in the GT classes of selected WEC rounds last year in a Ferrari. Bertolini will feel at home in his Ferrari 458 Italia this weekend in the GTD class at Daytona. He will be hoping to return to the WEC with AF Corse this year.
Coverage for the start of the TUDOR United Sportscar Championship can be watched from 18:30 (UK Time) this Saturday on Motors TV until 2am. Coverage resumes at midday until the end of the race at 19:30. The race also can be listened too in its entirety at Radio IMSA, with commentary from the team at Radio Le Mans.
Aston Martin Image – Rodrigomattar