in This Weekend's 47th Rolex 24 At Daytona
Grand-Am's Rolex Sports Car Series 2009 season opens Saturday with the 24-hour endurance classic
The Rolex 24 At Daytona may be the opening event on the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 schedule each season, but is also the unofficial start to the international racing calendar.
With drivers coming from across the globe, the Rolex 24 may also boast the biggest international flavor in all of racing. For the 2009 race, 26 countries - from the largest countries to the small principalities in land size - and two special regions from six continents are represented. The 24-hour race begins at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday and ends at the same time Sunday.
The U.S. has an overwhelming advantage in terms of drivers calling a certain country home, but that is to be expected as the majority of teams and drivers are based within the continental 48 states. However, the United Kingdom is second on the list, with 15 drivers either born in the U.K. or calling the U.K. home. Dario Franchitti (Edinburgh, Scotland) and Nick Ham (Yorkshire, England), who earned Daytona Prototype and GT victories, respectively, in the 2008 Rolex 24, were both born in Scotland and England respectively but now live in the U.S. The field will also include Alex Lloyd (Manchester, England) Robin Liddell (Newbury, England), Darren Manning (North Yorkshire, England), Oliver Gavin (Huntingdon, England), Darren Turner (Camberley, England), Andy Wallace (Oxford, England), Ryan Dalziel (Edinburgh) Richard Westbrook (London), Tim Sugden (London) and Jeff Ward (born in Edinburgh).
Italy and Canada and are third and fourth on the entry list with 12 and 10 drivers, respectively. Bologna, Italy born Max Angelelli won the 2005 race overall, becoming the first Italian since 2002 to take overall honors in the race. Several other Italians have claimed Rolex 24 class victories since 2000, including Max Papis, Luca Drudi and Gabrio Rosa, who is teaming this year with his 22-year-old son, race rookie Giorgio.
Canada has only one overall victory in the race, which came in 2001, when Ron Fellows won overall in a Corvette with three other drivers. However, the Maple Leaf has several class victories. Canadian-born Sylvain Tremblay (GT), who was born in Montreal but now lives in Sunrise, Fla., earned the pole and victory in last year's event and is riding a three-race Rolex Series winning streak at Daytona along with Ham; the two have also won the last two Daytona July races in GT. Two years ago, Trois-Rivières, Quebec, driver Jean-Francois Dumoulin took his second Rolex 24 victory in the GT class in four seasons.
Vancouver's Ross Bentley also won the race in the Rolex Series GT class in 2003, and anchors a four-driver Canadian-based team, the only team in the field with four Canadian-born drivers. Mark Wilkins of Toronto won the pole for last year's Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona and is entered with the Toronto-based AIM Autosport, which is also employing Toronto drivers David Empringham - who won the first Daytona Prototype race at Daytona in 2003 - and John Farano.
Germany has eight drivers on the entry list, headed by two-time race winners and Porsche Works drivers Jörg Bergmeister and Timo Bernhard, who took Rolex Series GT honors in the Rolex 24 in 2002 and 2003 and won the race overall in 2003. Another Porsche Works driver, Wolf Henzler, teamed with Dominik Farnbacher for the 2005 Rolex 24 victory in GT, a race in which Henzler started on the pole. Other Germans who have won in Rolex Series competition and are entered for this weekend's race include Sascha Maassen and 2007 GT champion Dirk Werner.
France has five drivers in the race, including two drivers - Christophe Bouchut (1995) and Emmanuel Collard (2005) - who have overall victories in the race. Seeking their first victories are Porsche Works drivers Romain Dumas - who will campaign the 2009 Rolex Series Daytona Prototype season fulltime with Bernhard for Penske Racing - and Patrick Pilet, who will drive for Wright Motorsports with another Frenchman, Phillip Martien.
Several other countries are represented, including some by drivers who have won the race overall recently. TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates boasts such an international lineup. Scott Dixon (2006) is from New Zealand, Juan Pablo Montoya (2007, 2008) is from Colombia and Memo Rojas (2008) is from Mexico. Three Brazilian drivers - Ricardo Zonta, Oswaldo Negri and Raphael Matos - are looking to give Brazil its second overall victory; the only previous overall win came in 1988 by Raul Boesel. Matos, however, did win the GT portion of the race last year, and Negri won the pole overall driving for Michael Shank Racing.
Other countries represented include Australia, Portugal and South Africa with three each; Austria with two and one each from Argentina, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Guatemala, San Marino, Spain and Sweden.
Birth-countries aren't the only ones represented, though. Angelelli of SunTrust Racing was born in Italy but now lives in Monte Carlo, Monaco, as does Czech Republic-born Tomas Enge of Alegra Motorsports. Dumas was born in France but now calls Basel, Switzerland, home. Richard Campollo was born in Guatemala but now lives in the Dominic Republic. Matthew Marsh was born in England but now lives in the special administrative region of Hong Kong.
Teams, Manufacturer Supply Additional Flavor
While the drivers represent 24 countries spanning the globe, teams and crews add to that list. Farnbacher Loles Racing, for example, has crew members from 17 different countries and territories, including the British Virgin Islands, Greece, Guatemala, Luxembourg and Trinidad & Tobago.
Canada and Italy both have teams running in the race. Every driver and team member on Vancouver's Bullet Racing is Canadian, and the bulk of AIM Autosport - the only team to run fulltime in the Rolex Series Daytona Prototype category - is Canadian. The Mastercar/Coast 2 Costa team is comprised of several Italian citizens.
Manufacturers are also well-represented. After their victory in the 2008 Rolex 24 At Daytona, GT winners Sylvain Tremblay and David Haskell continued their media tour with a celebration in Japan, home of the Mazda engine. Porsche claims Stuttgart, Germany, as its headquarters, while BMW is located in Munich, Germany. Ferrari is based in Maranello, Italy.
Dallara, which had its chassis approved for Daytona Prototype competition in 2008, is based in Parma, Italy, while several parts of the Coyote chassis come from former Daytona Prototype chassis constructor Picchio, based in Ancarano, Italy. Lola, which is involved in the Proto-Auto design, is based in Huntingdon, England.
- Six of seven continents represented (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, South America, Oceania).
- An estimated 187 countries and territories across the six continents will be showing the race on television on a live or tape-delay basis or will be putting together a race highlight package. Among those broadcasting the race are SPEED and Fox and ESPN affiliates.
- Seven countries, represented by drivers in this year's field, have never earned overall victories in the Rolex 24. They include Australia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Portugal, San Marino, Spain and Sweden. Drivers from Australia and Portugal have claimed class victories in the Rolex 24, however.
- Nineteen countries have won the race at some point since 1962. The U.S. has claimed 62 overall victories in the race. Leading the international contingent is the United Kingdom with 17-claimed wins, followed by Germany (14), France (10) and Italy (seven).
Argentina (1): Claudio BurtinAustralia (3): Ryan Briscoe, Paul Morris, Allan SimonsenAustria (2): Martin Ragginger (now living in Germany), Richard LietzBelgium (1): Eric van de PoeleBrazil (3): Oswaldo Negri, Ricardo Zonta, Raphael MatosCanada (10): Jean-Francois Dumoulin, Mark Wilkins, Mike Forest, Michael Valiante, David Empringham, John Farano, Ross Bentley, Keith Carter, Steve Paquette, Sylvain TremblayColombia (1): Juan Pablo MontoyaCzech Republic (1): Tomas Enge (now living in Monaco)Denmark (1): Jan Magnussen (now living in United Kingdom)France (5): Romain Dumas (now living in Switzerland), Emmanuel Collard, Patrick Pilet, Phillip Martien, Christophe BouchutGermany (8): Sascha Maassen (now living in Belgium), Timo Bernhard, Marco Holzer, Jorg Bergmeister, Wolf Henzler, Dominik Farnbacher, Dirk Werner, Pierre KafferGuatemala (1): Richard Campollo (now living in Dominic Republic)Italy (12): Max Angelelli (now living in Monaco), Matteo Bobbi, Fabrizio Gollin, Diego Alessi, Max Papis, Luca Pirri, Luca Drudi, Roberto Sperati, Giacomo Petrobelli (now living in United Kingdom), Giorgio Rosa, Gabrio Rosa, Costantino BertuzziMexico (3): Memo Rojas, Josemanuel Gutierrez, Pepe MontanoNew Zealand (1): Scott DixonPortugal (3): Pedro Lamy, Joao Barbosa, Cesar CampanicoSan Marino (1): Christian MontanariSouth Africa (3): Mark Patterson, Dion von Moltke, Dave Lacey (now living in Canada)Spain (1): Antonio GarciaSweden (1): Nic JönssonUnited Kingdom (16): Dario Franchitti, Alex Lloyd, Andy Wallace, Ian James, Jeff Ward, Ryan Dalziel, Darren Manning, Oliver Gavin, Darren Turner, Robin Liddell, Tim Sugden, Nick Ham, Robert Nearn, Richard Westbrook, Matthew Marsh (now living in Hong Kong), Dan Watkins
Puerto Rico (1): Gerardo Bonilla
* (Drivers listed were born in country other than U.S. or have dual citizenship)