Five Cars We’re Dying to See at the Rolex 24 at Daytona

New prototypes are going to make it a big year at Daytona

Brian Cleary/Getty Images

Daytona’s notoriously tough. Endurance racing, too, is notoriously tough. And developing a car? Breaking it in, getting to know its quirks and find speed without breaking the damned thing entirely? Tough. But there’s nothing like the reward of a new sun rising over your ride. And for fans the constant attrition, the incredible noise, the astonishing unflagging performance of modern sports cars, it all has to be experienced. The Rolex 24 at Daytona is a big weekend, packed with special cars, and a whopping 17 affiliated manufacturers. They’re all included in Andy Blackmore’s fantastic spotter’s guide, but here are a few of the racers we’re most excited about.

1. Cadillac DPi

Brian Cleary/Getty Images

Any new prototype is a big deal. Doubly so, if it’s flying an American flag. Add to that good looks, a fantastic driver lineup, and a turn of speed that landed the Cadillac atop the pole, and you’ve got an easy fan favorite—and a contender for an overall victory.

2. Mercedes-AMG GT3

Brian Cleary/Getty Images

While 2017 marks its first season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, endurance racing is old hat to the Mercedes GT3. The cars managed to sweep the top four positions at the Nurburgring 24-hour endurance contest, so expectations for a strong performance are high. Keep an eye out for the All-American WeatherTech duo of native Floridian Gunnar Jeannette and 24-year-old Cooper MacNeil. Jeanette won the 2011 Le Mans series championship, and the pair might prove to have that dangerous combination of drive and experience. 

3. Ford GT

Brian Cleary/Getty Images

Ford isn’t just starting at the front, Chip Ganassi Racing GTs swept the first three positions in the GTE class. A season out, the car is still living up to its hype. Barring trouble, the combination of veteran drivers Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais in the 66 car might prove unbeatable.

4. The Number 15 Lexus RC F GT3

Brian Cleary/Getty Images

Righteous though it may be, in the case of this Lexus GT contender, we’re interested in the man behind the wheel. Scott Pruett has racked up five overall victories at Daytona. He’ll be fast. We’ll be watching.

5. Mazda RT24-P

Mazda

Mazda’s prototype racer is stunning and underneath the sinuous bodywork is Riley and Multimatic P2-spec hardware, powered by Mazda’s turbocharged 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. While Mazda prototypes have had only agonizingly close calls with success recently, the all-new RT24-P showed fantastic potential at the Roar Before the 24 in early January. With a fantastic home-grown driver lineup, the new car has a real shot at success this year. And besides, it’s impossible not to cheer for a big prototype effort from a company with such such deep ties to grassroots racing.