The entry list for this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona has the promised 44 cars, and there could be at least one more by Thursday morning for the first official practice of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16.

Rolex 24 DP Class Photo by Mark Weber
Rolex 24 DP Class Photo by Mark Weber

It’s Wednesday and the cars have all posed for their class photos on the front straight at Daytona International Speedway.

The weather was bright and sunny, albeit a bit on the chilly side – mid to upper fifties with a brisk breeze. In Australia, it would be “fresh.” But, in the words of driver, PATRICK LONG/No.77 TRG/Flying Lizards Porsche GT3 Cup, “It’s not snowing!” The forecast is for increasing warmth Thursday and Friday and then cooler on Saturday with chances of rain. Sunday is set to be cloudy. We’ll see.

Rolex 24 GT Class Photo by Mark Weber
Rolex 24 GT Class Photo by Mark Weber

To the outsider, it seemed like a low key set up day in the Rolex garage. Teams were setting up shop, going through the Tech Shed for the obligatory Scrutineering process in an orderly fashion – DP, GT and the 81 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge cars. There were some drivers on campus, relaxed and under the radar. It was a good day for chatting.

The current Entry List shows 14 Daytona Prototypes, but there is a fifteenth car in the garage, which has already cleared Tech. What Beyer Racing hasn’t yet done is to officially enter. According to the team, the bright orange Chevy Crawford has five drivers – owner JARED BEYER, along with DANE CAMERON, ROMEO KAPUDIJA, CORT WAGNER, and a German driver, JEAN-LUC – surname unknown. The car is an ex Finlay car.

One of the two Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates cars has had a driver change since the earlier Rolex 24 test. Testing the No.01 BMW Riley at the Roar Before The 24 was MARINO FRANCHITTI of Scotland, brother of 2009 IRL and Indy 500 Champion, DARIO FRANCHITTI. However, Marino just signed on with Patron Highcroft Racing to run its factory Honda ARX-01c for the three endurance races in the 2010 American Le Mans Series; and he will be testing at Sebring with the Highcroft team Sunday, while his brother is racing with Ganassi at Daytona.

It was an easy choice for Ganassi Team Manager, MIKE HULL, to hire MAX PAPIS of Italy to fill the seat. Papis won the 2004 Grand-Am Championship with the Ganassi team, and ‘Mad Max’ has two Rolex victories – 2000 and 2002. The lanky Italian will co-drive with another tall topper, JUSTIN WILSON of England, and the car’s season-long drivers, SCOTT PRUETT of Auburn CA and MEMO ROJAS of Mexico.

The Ganassi team has three consecutive Rolex 24 wins, 2006-2008, and the No.01 car (with Pruett, Rojas and JUAN PABLO MONTOYA of Colombia) lost by a hair last year – 0.167 seconds to Brumos Racing’s Porsche Riley with American drivers DAVID DONOHUE, DARREN LAW, and BUDDY RICE, along with ANTONIO GARCIA of Spain. JPM is driving the No.02  sister car this weekend, with co-drivers SCOTT DIXON of New Zealand, Franchitti and NASCAR Sprint Cup driver, JAMIE McMURRAY of NC.

Hull and the Ganassi team was featured in Wednesday’s local Daytona Journal by GODWIN KELLY, who wrote, among other things, of the team’s Rolex 24 check list. Last year there were 490 items on the list. Hull said this weekend the list is down to below 400. Everyone on the team, from drivers to caterer and transport drivers, contribute to the list. Tuesday after the race, the team debriefs and works on the list for next year. “It’s a collaborative team effort,”  said Hull.

Trivia – In the early seventies, Hull used to race Formula Fords in Mexico against GUILLERMO ROJAS, father of Memo.

Thursday is a long day for the Rolex Series, with two practice sessions, qualifying to set the  top twenty cars on the grid in each class, and night practice.