Following the Ultra-Intense 2023 Finish, Teams and Drivers Are Eager to Get Back on Track
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It will be incredibly difficult to replicate the intense competition last season in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, with the championships in both classes decided in the final laps of the final race.
Then again, knowing the history of close competition in the popular race series, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the 2024 season build toward another dramatic conclusion. The process for teams and drivers to vie for those championships starts this weekend with testing during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.
Thirty-nine cars are slated to participate in five test sessions running Friday through Sunday on the 3.56-mile DIS road course. Among them are the teams that finished 1-2 in the Grand Sport (GS) class last year – separated by just 10 points (one race finish position) – but both have undergone significant changes. Meanwhile, the top three finishers in the Touring Car (TCR) class all return, though one is skipping the Roar and will make its on-track debut next week at the four-hour BMW M Endurance Challenge race to open the season.
Robby Foley is back behind the wheel of the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 (G82) as the reigning GS champion following a two-victory season. He’s paired with a new co-driver in Francis Selldorff, who was the first GSX class champion driving a similar Turner BMW in the VP Racing SportsCar Challenge.
“We have a lot of momentum after a hugely successful 2023, but we’re well aware of the challenge to try to defend in 2024,” Foley said. “This series is ultra-competitive and there’s a lot of strong lineups. I’m going to miss driving with Vin, but super excited to have Francis Selldorff on the (No.) 96 car this year. As a VP Racing Challenge) champ he’s got the speed and talent. I’m looking forward to showing him the ropes as he moves up to Michelin Pilot Challenge.”
Rebel Rock Racing finished just 10 points behind Turner in the 2023 standings. The familiar pairing of Frank DePew and Robin Liddell returns to the No. 71 entry, but the car boasts a different look as the team switches from a Chevrolet Camaro to the Aston Martin Vantage GT4 Evo. Andrew Davis joins the team for the Daytona race.
Becoming more familiar with the Aston Martin will be tantamount for the team this weekend.
“After five years racing with Chevrolet and a relationship dating back to 2008, it was always going to be a tough decision choosing a new manufacturer with which to realign ourselves,” said Liddell, who’s also the Rebel Rock team principal. “We are confident that we have picked the right partner with AMR and we are delighted that they have also chosen us to help represent them with the new car.”
Seventeen GS cars on tap for the Roar test, including a pair of interesting Toyota Supra GT4 entries. NASCAR drivers Bubba Wallace, John Hunter Nemechek and Corey Heim will test in the No. 23 Smooge Racing Toyota, while reigning IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) class champion Jack Hawksworth steps into the No. 50 Hattori Motorsports Toyota with co-driver Tyler Maxson.
TCR champions Robert Wickens and Harry Gottsacker return to defend their crown in the No. 33 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR. So will their teammates and co-drivers of the No. 98 BHA Hyundai, Mark Wilkins and Mason Filippi, who finished second in the ’23 point standings including a triumph at the season finale.
“We’ve been out of the car for a little while so our goal here is to get back into the groove that we had last year,” Wilkins said. “Specifically on the No. 98 car, nothing’s really changed: same people, same crew, same driver pairing, same engineer. We’re excited to just pick up where we left off with the win at Road Atlanta.”
Chris Miller and Mikey Taylor, who won three late-season races in the No. 17 JDC-Miller MotorSports Audi RS3 LMS TCR and placed third in the final TCR standings, will not test this weekend but will race next week.