The 45th anniversary of the Rolex 24 weekend is finally here.
The 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona entry list includes 21 former overall winners and 47 previous class winners of America's most prestigious endurance race in addition to a host of champions and superstar drivers from various forms of motorsport.
Of the 71 cars entered, 31 will include at least one driver with a class or overall victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. There are 28 Daytona Prototypes entered and 43 GT machines.
Thursday's schedule of events includes qualifying for the Rolex 24 At Daytona at 3:45 p.m. for the Daytona Prototypes and 4:15 p.m. for the GT machines. The Fresh from Florida 200 KONI Challenge Series qualifying begins at 5 p.m. and there's a night practice for the Rolex 24 at 6:30 p.m.
Five-time overall winner Hurley Haywood¿who owns six class victories in the Rolex 24¿heads the list of former winners entered for the Rolex 24, which goes green on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Haywood earned overall victories in 1991, 1979, 1977, 1975 and 1973 and a GT2500 class triumph in 1972. He will co-drive the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley with Rolex Series race-winner J.C. France, Portuguese sports car ace and 2003 GTS class winner Joao Barbosa, and Brazilian former Formula 1 and Champ Car pilot Roberto Moreno.
A pair of three-time overall winners, Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger, will be reunited once again in the No. 20 Howard Motorsports Pontiac Crawford. Wallace earned overall victories in 1999, 1997 and 1990, as well as a GTS class win in 2003, while Leitzinger's three overall wins came in 1999, 1997 and 1994. Wallace and Leitzinger will once again share the No. 20 machine with two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and 1997 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series champion Tony Stewart. The same three drivers co-drove the team's No. 4 Pontiac Crawford in last year's race.
Two-time overall winner Wayne Taylor will also return to the cockpit for the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona. Taylor, an overall winner in 1996 and 2005, will share the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley with Danish racer Jan Magnussen, four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and three-time Daytona 500 winner Jeff Gordon and 2005 Rolex 24 At Daytona overall winner Max Angelelli. In addition to their Rolex 24 triumph two years ago, Taylor and Angelelli also shared the Daytona Prototype championship, while Gordon will be making his Rolex 24 debut. Angelelli posted the fastest time Daytona Test Days last weekend.
Scott Pruett, the 2004 Daytona Prototype co-champion, heads the list of drivers with one overall victory. Pruett claimed his lone overall triumph in 1994, but owns a total of six class victories in the Rolex 24 with a GTS victory in 2002, a Group C class win in 1993, a GTP win in 1992 and GTO class victories in 1987 and 1988. Pruett will co-drive the No. 01 TELMEX/Target Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley with Mexican rising star Salvador Duran and Juan Pablo Montoya, the 1999 Champ Car champion, 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner, seven-time Formula 1 Grand Prix winner and 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Rookie of the Year candidate.
Also returning for the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona are defending overall winners Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon in the No. 02 Target/TELMEX Chip Ganassi Lexus Riley. Wheldon, the 2005 Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar champion, and 2003 IndyCar champion Dixon will share the ride with Mexican racer Memo Rojas, who will move to the team's No. 01 machine alongside Pruett for the remainder of the 2007 Rolex Series campaign after the Rolex 24.
The 2007 field will include at least one overall winner from every Rolex 24 since 1998. Joining the aforementioned overall winners will be Emmanuel Collard, who shared the 2005 victory with Taylor and Angelelli, 2004 overall winners Christian Fittipaldi, Terry Borcheller and Andy Pilgrim, 2003 victors Jörg Bergmeister, Kevin Buckler and Timo Bernhard, 2002 overall winner Max Papis, 2001 overall winner Johnny O'Connell and
2000 overall winner Karl Wendlinger.
Fittipaldi and Collard will share the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve/Cheever Racing Porsche Crawford with team owner and 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr. and Porsche factory driver Sascha Maassen, while Borcheller is slated for the No. 18 XM Satellite Radio/VICI Racing Porsche Fabcar alongside Robert Renauer, Gaston Mazzacane and 1998 Rolex 24 GT1 class winner Uwe Alzen. Pilgrim¿who owns 2002 AGT and 1997 GTS-1 class victories in addition to his overall triumph in 2004¿is entered in the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R in the GT class with Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins, who took a GT3 class victory in the 1999 Rolex 24.
Bergmeister, who also won the GT class in the 2002 Rolex 24 and the 2006 Rolex Series Daytona Prototype title, is slated for the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford alongside co-drivers Patrick Long and Romain Dumas, while Buckler¿with whom Bergmeister co-drove in 2002 and 2003¿is entered in the No. 66 TRG Porsche GT3 in the GT class with RJ Valentine, Mark Greenberg, 2006 Rolex 24 GT winner Spencer Pumpelly, and Andy Lally, a three-time Rolex Series class champion and SRPII winner in the 2001 Rolex 24.
Bernhard will co-drive the No. 47 TruSpeed Motorsports Porsche Riley with BJ Zacharias, 1996 Rolex 24 GTS-1 winner Rob Morgan, and Charles Morgan, who owns a pair of class victories in the Rolex 24, 1996 (GT-1) and 1989 (GTL). Papis, who won the SR class in the 2000 Rolex 24 in addition to his 2002 overall victory, is slated to co-drive the No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley with teenage Rolex Series sensation Colin Braun and Finnish veteran JJ Lehto.
O'Connell is entered in the GT class, co-driving the No. 06 Banner Racing GXP.R with Leighton Reese and Tim Lewis Jr., while Wendlinger returns to the Rolex 24 for the first time since his overall victory in 2000. The Austrian will co-drive the No. 05 Sigalsport BMW Riley with Matthew Alhadeff, Gene Sigal and Bill Auberlen, who owns Rolex 24 class victories in 1997 (GTS-3) and 1998 (GT3).
Completing the list of overall winners scheduled to appear in the 2007 field are Rob Dyson, Scott Sharp and Jim Pace. Dyson¿a 1997 overall winner and 2000 SR class winner in the Rolex 24¿will share the No. 16 Thetford/Norcold Pontiac Crawford with his son, Chris Dyson, and English sports car aces Guy Smith and Oliver Gavin with Howard Motorsports. Sharp, who earned an overall victory in the Rolex 24 and the IndyCar Series championship in 1996, is entered in the No. 58 Red Bull/Brumos Racing Porsche Riley with 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice and Rolex Series regulars David Donohue and Darren Law.
Pace co-drove to the 1996 Rolex 24 win with Sharp and Taylor and also earned a GTU class win in 1990. He is entered in the GT class, sharing the No. 64 TRG Porsche GT3 with Jim Lowe, Johannes van Overbeek and Ralf Kelleners, who also has Rolex 24 class victories in 2002 (SRPII) and 2000 (SR).
Previous Rolex 24 class winners entered in 2007 include Randy Pobst (GT in 2006 and 2001), 2005 GT class winners Wolf Henzler, Shawn Price, Pierre Ehret and Dominik Farnbacher, Robin Liddell (GT, 2004), Jean-Francois Dumoulin (SGS, 2004), David Empringham (Daytona Prototype, 2003), Don Kitch Jr. (SRPII, 2003), 2000 GTU winners Luca Drudi and Gabrio Rosa, Boris Said (GT3, 1998 and GTS-3, 1997), Tommy Kendall (GTS-1 in 1995 and GTS in 1993), Wally Dallenbach Jr. (GTS in 1991, 1992 and 1993 and GTO in 1985), Jimmy Vasser (GTL, 1992), Don Bell (GTL, 1987) and Jack Baldwin (GTU, 1984).
Competing in the GT class, Pobst will return to defend his class victory with co-drivers Sylvain Tremblay, David Haskell and Nick Ham in the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8. Henzler and Farnbacher will share the No. 74 Rembrandt Charms/Tafel Racing Porsche GT3 with Eric Lux and team owner Jim Tafel, while Bell and Price are entered in the No. 86 Farnbacher Loles Motorsports Porsche GT3 alongside Larry
Bowman and Lance Willsley. Ehret is entered in the No. 85 Farnbacher Loles Motorsports Porsche GT3 with co-drivers Leh Keen, Jörg Hardt and Dirk Werner, who posted the fastest GT class speed in Daytona Test Days last weekend.
Dumoulin is sharing the GT class No. 22 Alegra Motorsports/Fiorano Racing Porsche GT3 with Carlos de Quesada, Scooter Gabel and Marc Basseng, while Empringham will co-pilot the No. 61 AIM Autosport Lexus Riley Daytona Prototype with Mark Wilkins and Burt and Brian Frisselle. Kitch is entered in the No. 82 Team Seattle/Synergy Racing Porsche GT3 with Chris Pennington, Chris Pallis and Tony Bawcutt, and Drudi and Rosa will co-drive the No. 52 Mastercar Ferrari 360GT with Luis Monzon and Ceccato Andrea.
Said is sharing the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley with Nic Jönsson and team owner Tracy Krohn in the Daytona Prototype class, while Kendall is entered in the GT class, sharing the No. 30 Racers Edge Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R with Justin Lofton and Ross Smith. Dallenbach will co-drive the No. 84 74 Ranch Resort/Robinson Racing Pontiac Riley with his brother, Paul Dallenbach, team owner George Robinson and 2006 Champ Car rookie standout Katherine Legge.
Vasser is slated for the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley with co-drivers Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and Bob Stallings, and Baldwin is entered in the No. 12 RVO Motorsports Pontiac Riley with Roger Schramm and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series veteran Bill Lester. Paul Gentilozzi, a two-time Rolex 24 class winner and overall winner in 1994, may also compete in the No. 12 machine, but did not appear on the entry list.
The field includes several other intriguing entries in the Daytona Prototype class. Jimmie Johnson, the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion will co-drive the No. 91 Lowe's/Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley with Marc Goossens, Jim Matthews and two-time Champ Car race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay. The No. 19 Z-Line/Make-A-Wish/Finlay Motorsports Ford Crawford will include 2000 NASCAR Cup champion Bobby Labonte, as well as co-drivers Rob Finlay, Michael McDowell and Michael Valiante.
Team Penske IndyCar teammates Sam Hornish Jr.¿a three-time IndyCar Series champion and the 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner¿and two-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves will co-drive the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Riley with Rolex Series regulars Oswaldo Negri Jr. and Mark Patterson. They will be joined on the two-car team by 2003 Champ Car champion Paul Tracy and A.J. Allmendinger, a 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series rookie and five-time Champ Car race winner in 2006. Tracy and Allmendinger will co-drive the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Riley with Henri Zogaib and Ian James.
Other notable entries include the No. 00 Vision Racing Porsche Crawford for IndyCar Series regulars Ed Carpenter, Tomas Scheckter and A.J. Foyt IV and Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy Racing League CEO Tony George, the No. 3 Southard Motorsports Lexus Riley of Shane Lewis, Randy Ruhlman and rising open-wheel star Graham Rahal, the GT class No. 15 Blackforest Motorsports Ford Mustang Cobra GT for Tom Nastasi, Guy Cosmo, Lou Gigliotti and Champ Car standout Alex Tagliani, and the No. 77 Kodak/Doran Racing Ford Doran of Memo Gidley, Fabrizio Gollin and Champ Car race winners Michel Jourdain Jr. and Oriol Servia.
Tickets for the 45th anniversary of the Rolex 24 on Jan. 27-28 are available by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or by logging onto www.racetickets.com.