A HOST of drivers will attempt to complete 36 hours of racing across two weekends and on opposite sides of the world over the next 10 days.
10 drivers will contest both this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour endurance classics, split by a more than 15,000km trip in between where they will cross the international date line as part of a 20-plus hour journey from airport to airport.
The WeatherTech Sports Car Championship’s iconic opener in Florida pits the best of America’s sports car scene against the high banks of Daytona this weekend, the annual kickoff of the US racing season.
A week later Australia’s season bursts into life with the Liqui-Moly 12 hour, which this year features it’s best ever field.
The drivers completing the enduro double are some of the most competitive names in GT racing and are set to feature in the results in both races should all go to plan.
Finland’s finest Toni Vilander will share a Risi Competizione Ferrari with Giancarlo Fissichella and James Calado in the GTLM class, before joining Maranello Motorsport and teammates Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup at Bathurst.
Porsche duo Laurens Vanthoor and Kevin Estre will race the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR at Daytona with Richard Lietz, before jumping into the No. 911 GT3 R at Bathurst alongside Earl Bamber.
Double 12-hour winner and Audi factory pilot Christopher Mies will race in the GT Daytona class this weekend, racing an Audi R8 LMS GT3 alongside Connor De Phillippi, Jules Gounon and Jeffrey Schmidt. He’ll tackle the B12hr in a similar JAMEC-PEM Racing R8 alongside Garth Tander and Chris Haase.
Defending 12-hour champion Shane van Gisbergen will commence his new relationship with a new brand this weekend, teaming up with Cooper Macneil, Gunnar Jeannette and fellow B12hr winner Thomas Jaeger in a WeatherTech racing AMG GT3. SVG will return to defend his Bathurst crown with Scott Taylor Motorsport, driving with Craig Baird and Maro Engel.
Engel’s Aussie comeback will also start a week early – he’ll be kicking off his year in an AMG GT3 at Daytona racing with ex-pat Aussie Kenny Habul and former 12hr winner, Paul Morris. Boris Said – no stranger to our shores – and ex-IndyCar ace Tristan Vautier are also amongst the SunEnergy1 AMG squad.
Engel was also confirmed recently to return to Mercedes-Benz DTM team in this year’s German-based championship.
Patrick Long will also race in the GT Daytona class, sharing a Porsche 911 GT3R run by CORE Autosport with Jonathan Bennett, Colin Braun and Nic Jonsson. At Bathurst, he’ll race for Competiton Motorsports in the Ice Break 911 GT3R alongside Matt Campbell, Marc Lieb and David Calvert-Jones.
Finally, Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy will team up together in both races – racing with Marco Sorensen at Daytona in an Aston Martin Vantage GT3 before switching to a HTP Motorsport-run AMG GT3 at Bathurst.
As well as the drivers, several members of the media and the Bathurst 12 Hour broadcast team will also make the trek.
Commentators John Hindhaugh, Graham Goodwin (also the editor of Dailysportscar.com) and Shea Adam will both cover the Daytona race for IMSA Radio, while Sportscar365’s John Dagys is another who is known to be making the trek.