As the Rolex 24 At Daytona approaches and with last weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 now in the books, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class field has taken shape. Here’s a quick, team-by-team look at what’s in store for each entry in the world’s most competitive, factory-supported GT class:
No. 3 Corvette Racing
Chevrolet Corvette C7.R
Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia/Mike Rockenfeller
Magnussen and Garcia return to defend their 2017 GTLM title as part of the two-car program celebrating its 20th season in 2018. They will go in search of their second Rolex 24 At Daytona victory as teammates – they won the 2015 race with Ryan Briscoe as their teammate – and will do so alongside Mike Rockenfeller, their endurance racing co-driver since 2016.
No. 4 Corvette Racing
Chevrolet Corvette C7.R
Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner/Marcel Fassler
Gavin and Milner won the 2016 WeatherTech Championship GTLM title and finished eighth in the GTLM standings last year with a victory in the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach. In addition to the 2016 GTLM title, Gavin, Milner and endurance racing specialist Marcel Fassler also won that year’s Rolex 24 At Daytona – in a thrilling 1-2 finish ahead of their teammates in the No. 3 Corvette – and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
No. 24 BMW Team RLL
BMW M8 GTLM
Jesse Krohn/John Edwards/Nicky Catsburg/Augusto Farfus/Colton Herta
The M8 GTLM is a brand-new model for the 2018 season, which BMW will field not only in the WeatherTech Championship, but also the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). For the full season, Krohn – who had a strong 2017 campaign in the WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) class in the Turner Motorsport BMW – steps up to GTLM alongside team incumbent Edwards. Catsburg and Farfus are lightning-quick international racers, while Herta, son of past IndyCar and sports car competitor, Bryan Herta, is a rising star.
No. 25 BMW Team RLL
BMW M8 GTLM
Alexander Sims/Connor De Phillippi/Bill Auberlen/Philipp Eng/Colton Herta
British racer Sims competed in his first full WeatherTech Championship season and won three races en route to a second-place finish in the GTLM championship alongside Bill Auberlen, his then-full-time co-driver. In 2018, Auberlen – who is currently second on the all-time IMSA win list with 58 career victories, trailing leader Scott Pruett by just two wins – shifts to an endurance-only role with BMW Team RLL while also becoming a BMW North America brand ambassador. De Phillippi, a 24-year-old American who has spent the past five years racing in Europe and competed in three IMSA enduros in 2017, returns stateside as Sims’ full-season co-driver. Austrian Eng is a BMW factory driver who competes in DTM and other major international GT events for the manufacturer. Herta appears on the entry list as part of the driver lineup for this car as well.
No. 62 Risi Competizione
Ferrari 488 GTE
Alessandro Pier Guidi/ Toni Vilander/James Calado
The Risi team had an abbreviated campaign in the 2017 WeatherTech Championship GTLM class, competing in seven of 11 races last season and earning five podium finishes. This year, the team will open the year at the Rolex 24 with Finnish racer Vilander, who has been part of the team’s driver lineup for the past several years and is a two-time winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, alongside a pair of 2017 FIA WEC GT world champions in Pier Guidi and Calado. Pier Guidi handled all driving duties for the team at last weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24. In 2018, the team also will add an entry in the GTD class.
No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing
Joey Hand/Dirk Mueller/Sebastien Bourdais
The No. 66 trio returns looking to defend its 2017 Rolex 24 GTLM class victory and got off to a quick start at the Roar, in which Hand posted the quickest time in Sunday’s qualifying session. Hand and his self-proclaimed “brother from another mother” Mueller return for the full 2018 season looking to improve one position from their runner-up performance in last year’s GTLM championship battle, which also included a victory at Road America. They’ll be joined for the enduros by IndyCar star and Le Mans native, Bourdais.
No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing
Ryan Briscoe/Richard Westbrook/Scott Dixon
Briscoe and Westbrook hold the distinction of being the drivers who delivered the first-ever victory for the Ford GT when they won at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2016, and then went on to win that season’s next two races also. Unfortunately for them, they haven’t won since that season’s race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, although they did have five podiums in 2017 en route to fourth in the final season standings. They’ll be joined again this season by the most successful active IndyCar racer, Dixon, for endurance races.
No. 911 Porsche GT Team
Porsche 911 RSR
Patrick Pilet/Nick Tandy/Frederic Makowiecki
Pilet, the 2015 GTLM driver champion, returns as a full-time WeatherTech Championship driver for the fourth consecutive season in the mid-engined RSR race car that debuted last season. Pilet and then-co-driver Dirk Werner gave the new car its first victory anywhere, taking the win at Lime Rock Park. This year, Pilet will be joined for the full year by Tandy – with whom he drove for all but two races in his championship-winning season. Tandy, who earned an overall victory in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans, is back full-time in IMSA for the first time since the 2016 season. Last year, he raced in Porsche’s 919 Hybrid in the FIA WEC. Makowiecki, who was a full-time WeatherTech Championship competitor in 2016 and won at VIR, fills out the endurance racing driver lineup.
No. 912 Porsche GT Team
Porsche 911 RSR
Laurens Vanthoor/Earl Bamber/Gianmaria Bruni
Vanthoor is back for his second straight full GTLM season in 2018. Last year, his co-drivers split the season as Kevin Estre co-drove the No. 912 in the first three rounds before Bruni – who moved over to Porsche in 2017 after being a long-time Ferrari factory driver – joined the team starting with the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. Bruni and Vanthoor earned the best results for the No. 912 team with back-to-back second-place runs at Lime Rock and Road America. This year, Bruni will be the team’s endurance racer, though, as Bamber is back to full-time WeatherTech Championship status for the first time since 2016. The New Zealander won the 24 Hours of Le Mans overall for the second time in 2017 in the Porsche 919 Hybrid and also won Porsche’s final FIA WEC LMP1 season title. Bamber’s first Le Mans win came in 2015 alongside Tandy and Formula 1 racer Nico Hulkenberg.