Star-studded Acura Team Penske Lineup Shakes Up Prototype Grid in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship
IMSA comes to Monterey for Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix Sept. 6-9
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship boasts some of the best racing in motorsports today. The addition of two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya and three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves to the two-car Acura Team Penske team that also lured IMSA stars Ricky Taylor and Dane Cameron from previous rides to its full-time driver lineup demonstrates the accelerating momentum of North America’s premier sports car series.
For the endurance events that open the 2018 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season – the Rolex 24 contested in January and this weekend’s upcoming 12 Hours of Sebring March 14-17 – the drivers of the No. 6 (Montoya, Cameron) and No. 7 (Castroneves, Taylor) Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPis are joined by 2016 IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud and second-generation IndyCar star Graham Rahal, respectively.
Prior to this season, Penske’s most recent efforts in top-tier sports car racing was with LMP2 entries in both the 2009 American Le Mans Series and 2009 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series. (The two series merged in 2013.) The addition of one of the most successful teams in motorsports as well as Mazda Team Joest and the ongoing success of existing teams reflects the current enthusiasm of top talent, manufacturers, and fans toward the Prototype category in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The Prototype class features the fastest and most technologically advanced cars in North America and are designed and engineered specifically for the race track. Models include the Acura ARX-05 DPi, Cadillac DPi-V.R, Mazda RT24-P, Nissan DPi, Onroak Ligier JS P217, ORECA 07, and Multimatic Riley MK30. The power comes from either a naturally-aspirated V8 or a turbocharged V6 or inline-4. Drivers in the Prototype category compete with each other as well as drivers in the GT Le Mans and GT Daytona classes for the overall win.
Last September’s AMERICA’S TIRE 250 at the 2017 Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix featured a thrilling finish in which Renger van der Zande executed a daring pass on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew turn to overtake Cameron with one lap to go that elicited comparisons to Alex Zanardi’s famous pass in 1996. Both drivers changed teams in the offseason with Cameron going from Action Express Racing to Team Penske Acura and van der Zande going from Spirit of Daytona Racing to Wayne Taylor Racing, filling the void left by Ricky Taylor. Taylor, who won the 2017 Drivers’ Championship along with co-driver and brother Jordan, seized the opportunity to drive for Team Penske Acura in what will surely create storylines when family members battle on the race track.
“It was a great experience getting a chance to test an Indy car with Team Penske, but to get a call from Roger Penske offering the opportunity to drive one of his race cars full time – well, that’s a life-changing opportunity,” said Taylor. “We have had a lot of success in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship the last few seasons with my dad’s team, including winning both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Championship last year. I’m definitely ready for the next challenge in my career, and I couldn’t be more excited to join Team Penske and work with Helio, Juan and Dane to launch the new factory Acura effort and start winning with the ARX-05.”
Action Express Racing claimed the top two steps on the podium at the Rolex 24 at Daytona while both Acura Team Penske cars finished in the top 10 in class. Eyes will be glued to this weekend’s results at Sebring and at the remaining events on the schedule to see how teams in the Prototype category respond.
Tune in to the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Advance Auto Parts on Saturday, March 17, on FOX Sports stations and IMSA.com. Tickets, camping, and VIP hospitality packages are currently available for the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix featuring AMERICA’S TIRE 250 on Sept. 6-9.