The inherent all-star flavor of the Rolex 24 At Daytona has become a tradition, one that will be especially well-served on Jan. 27-28 at the 56th running of the sports car endurance classic at Daytona International Speedway.
Champions from various other forms of motorsports will once again come to the “World Center of Racing” for the International Motor Sports Association’s (IMSA) season-opening event weekend, helping to form respective “dream teams.” One of those teams, Acura Team Penske, tested on Friday at DIS. Team owner Roger Penske has returned to sports car racing with Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal, Dane Cameron and Ricky Taylor co-driving new Acura ARX-05s at the Rolex 24 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Prototype class.
Castroneves and Montoya are former Indianapolis 500 champions who will drive full-time this year in the WeatherTech Championship with Cameron and Taylor, Prototype class champions the last two seasons. In addition, Pagenaud and Rahal are IndyCar Series regulars on board for the Rolex 24.
Montoya is a three-time (2007-08, ’13) Rolex 24 champion and two-time (2000, ’15) Indianapolis 500 champion. Castroneves has three Indy 500 victories (2001-02, ’09) and has competed in the Rolex 24 twice, co-driving to a third-place finish in 2008.
“It’s always exciting to come to the Rolex 24 and it’s exciting being involved with Team Penske and Acura,” Montoya said. “I feel like we’re going to start off being really competitive. This car is insane; it really moves. I think with Acura and Team Penske you come in knowing you’re going to probably be the best well-prepared team. With the background of Acura and Team Penske and the driver lineup which is unbelievable … I think we’re going to be tough to beat.”
“When you’re talking about [events like] the DAYTONA 500, the Indy 500, the Super Bowl … the Rolex 24, for the IMSA series, is definitely one of those,” said Castroneves. “It’s the big one. If you’re going to win one race this is where you want to make it happen. Plus it’s a challenge. It is big and that’s why we’re here testing. We want to prepare as much as we can.”
Further adding to this year’s all-star appeal is the entry of two-time (2005-06) Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso, who will co-drive a Ligier LM P2 Prototype for United Autosports.
“Fernando is in kind of the same boat as myself,” said Montoya, who also has raced in F1 and NASCAR. “He’s wanting to try a lot more racing. And he’s passionate about racing.”
Acura Team Penske and other WeatherTech Championship teams will return to DIS on Jan. 5-7 for the annual Roar Before The Rolex 24 – the official preseason test sessions on the 3.56-mile DIS road course.