(image credit: Morgan Rhodes)
GTE GTLM class is loaded with factory entries from Ford, Porsche, BMW, Corvette and one privately-run entry from Houston’s Risi Competizione with Ferrari. The 2018 season, for all intents and purposes, will look extremely similar to 2017 with one exception – the BMW M8 GTLM. While still run by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, this is a new car and one that was fully built by the German factory. It was Corvette who claimed top honors on the season in 2017 and with an unchanged lineup, the yellow #3 will look to stay on top once again. While grid numbers are low compared to those in Prototype or GTD, GTLM is consistently the closest, most competitive class throughout the season and we can expect that to continue for 2018.
Corvette Racing, with Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, took the 2017 crown in the #3 and will be looking to continue their success starting this weekend. The #4, with Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner, finished 8th overall last season, but was extremely quick at The Roar and will look to climb back up to take the title from the sister car. Corvette, as usual, has a target on their back, but prove year and year they are the team everyone strives to be in IMSA.
As previously mentioned BMW Team RLL has a new-for-2018 machine and slight shakeup in the driver lineup. The M6 GTLM is out and M8 GTLM is in with Alexander Sims and 2016 ADAC GT Masters champion, Connor De Phillippi driving the #25 and Jesse Krohn and John Edwards in the #24. The #25 finished 2nd in class in 2017, but with a brand-new car it might take a few rounds for RLL to fully come to grips with the machine. The car was on the bottom of the charts at The Roar testing, so it will be interesting to see if they have found any speed for this weekend’s event. Also to watch: reliability.
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing returns with the #66 (Joey Hand/Dirk Mueller) and #67 (Ryan Briscoe/Richard Westbrook) Ford GTs – the two cars that finished 3rd and 4th in 2017, respectively. The #66 took the win at Daytona last season and will be looking to repeat that feat this weekend. The also #66 lead the class at the Roar and looks poised to stay on top.
Porsche also brings back their two 911 RSRs with Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy piloting the #911 and Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber in the #912. The team finished 5th and 6th last season, only taking 1 win between them, so they will be looking for a little extra oomph to help them get back to their 2015 championship-winning ways.
Risi Competitizione will bring back their red #62 prancing horse with a powerful lineup of Toni Vilander and Alessandro Pier Guidi. Pier Guidi won the 2017 FIA WEC GT Championship teaming with James Calado, who will be with the team for Daytona. While missing 4 races last season, the Ferrari 488 was extremely quick at every round it competed in and will look to continue that speed for the races it competes in. A partial season appears to be the most likely for the Houston-based squad, so hopefully they can make a run at the NAEC championship.
The 2018 season kicks off this weekend from Daytona International Speedway for the Rolex 24 Hours on Saturday January 27th @ 2:30pm ET and will be shown live on Fox