IMSA Regulars Stay Busy with More Racing on Weekend After Rolex 24 At Daytona
Thursday, February 1, 2018

There’s no rest for the weary among several IMSA regulars who will be participating in a pair of high-profile international racing events just one weekend after the 56th Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Full-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship drivers Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya will join a handful of other 2018 Rolex 24 participants this weekend in the Race of Champions, which will be held in the Middle East for the first time in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia. The Race of Champions features drivers from a variety of motorsports disciplines competing in identical race cars typically on racetracks constructed inside stadiums.

This year’s race will be held at King Fahad International Stadium. Other stadiums to host the event in recent years include Marlins Stadium in Miami last year, the “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium in Beijing, London’s Wembley Stadium and the Stade de France in Paris, among several others.

Montoya, the 2017 winner of Race of Champions, is returning for his second consecutive appearance in the event. Castroneves also is participating in his second consecutive Race of Champions this year. Last weekend, Castroneves finished ninth in the Rolex 24 At Daytona alongside co-drivers Ricky Taylor and Graham Rahal in the No. 7 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05 DPi, one spot ahead of Montoya and his No. 6 Acura DPi co-drivers Dane Cameron and Simon Pagenaud.

This weekend in Riyadh, they’ll be joined by a few other drivers they competed against last weekend.

Lando Norris, who made his Rolex 24 At Daytona debut last weekend in the No. 23 United Autosports Ligier LMP2 car with co-drivers Phil Hanson and two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso, will participate in his first Race of Champions this weekend. Norris and the No. 23 team finished 13th in class last weekend.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, the IndyCar Series regular who co-drove the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R with Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande to a 15th-place Prototype class result in the Rolex 24, will participate in his fifth Race of Champions.

Rene Rast, who will contest the four Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup rounds in 2018 aboard the No. 77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda RT24-P DPi car and finished 17th in the Prototype class in the Rolex 24 with co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez, is partaking in his first Race of Champions this weekend as well.

Additionally, more than 20 drivers who competed in the Rolex 24 At Daytona – and two who raced in last weekend’s four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge, the 2018 season-opener for the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge – have made their way “down under” for this weekend’s Bathurst 12 Hour endurance race held on the famed Mount Panorama circuit.

Among them are six full-time WeatherTech Championship competitors. Australian Kenny Habul, who regularly races the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the WeatherTech Championship, will share a similar Mercedes race car this weekend in Bathurst with Jamie Whincup, Raffaele Marciello and fellow WeatherTech Championship regular, Tristan Vautier.

Last year, Habul and Vautier co-drove together in the WeatherTech Championship GTD class. This year, the Frenchman is one of the full-time drivers of the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Cadillac DPi-V.R alongside American Matt McMurry. Vautier and the No. 90 team – which also included Edward Cheever – finished 20th in the Prototype class in the Rolex 24, while Habul and teammates Thomas Jaeger, Maro Engel and Mikael Grenier finished eighth in GTD.

It also was announced this week that – in addition to competing in the full Prototype season – Vautier will reunite with Habul in the No. 75 Mercedes for the two GT-only rounds of the 2018 WeatherTech Championship, at Lime Rock Park on July 21 and VIRginia International Raceway on Aug. 19.

Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor – who are season-long co-drivers of the No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR in the WeatherTech Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class – are teamed up again this weekend in Bathurst. They’ll share the No. 991 Craft Bamboo Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R with Kevin Estre.

Bamber and Vanthoor finished sixth in the GTLM class in the Rolex 24 alongside co-driver Gimmi Bruni. Habul, Vautier, Bamber and Vanthoor all will compete in the PRO class.

A couple of GTD class regulars, Patrick Long and Jeroen Bleekemolen, also appear on the Bathurst entry list in the PRO-AM class. Long will co-drive the No. 12 Competition Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R with David Calvert-Jones, Matt Campbell and Alex Davison. Bleekemolen is teamed with Marc Lieb, as well as Tim Pappas and Luca Stolz – who both competed in the Rolex 24 as well – in the No. 540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R.

Long will contest the full 2018 WeatherTech Championship season in the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R alongside two-time defending GTD champion Christina Nielsen. They finished 19th in class last weekend with co-drivers Robert Renauer and Mathieu Jaminet.

Bleekemolen has returned for another WeatherTech Championship season with co-driver Ben Keating in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3. They finished fourth in GTD in the Rolex 24 with Adam Christodoulou and Stolz as their teammates in the No. 33 machine.

The Race of Champions “Nations Cup” race is on Friday, Feb. 2 starting at 8 p.m. local time – 12 p.m. ET in the U.S, with the “Race of Champions” on Saturday, Feb. 3 at 4 p.m. local time – 8 a.m. ET in the U.S. The Bathurst 12 Hour starts at 5:15 a.m. local time on Sunday, Feb. 4, which is 1:15 p.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 3 in the U.S.