On Tuesday, BAR1 Motorsports officially announced the nine drivers that will be driving for the team in the Rolex 24 at Daytona at the end of the month. The team is currently the only operation that has confirmed entries in the Prototype Challenge class for the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
The No. 20 entry, which will be the full-time entry for the season, will be shared by Chapman Ducote, Mark Kvamme, Buddy Rice, Gustavo Yacaman and Don Yount. Yount and Rice will drive the No. 20 for the full year. The car will have primary sponsorship from Gas Monkey Energy Drink.
Like many lineups in Pro-Am classes, the five drivers that will share the No. 20 have varying amounts of experience. Yount has eight career starts in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, all of which have come in one of BAR1 Motorsports’ PC entries. His best career finish is a third in class in the 2015 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
Rice is likely the biggest name of the group, but the vast majority of his experience is in open wheel racing. Rice has 99 career INDYCAR starts. He won the rain-shortened Indianapolis 500 in 2004 and two other races that year on the way to a third-place finish in points. An injury resulted in Rice missing Indianapolis in 2005, and he was never really the same after that. In sports cars, Rice has 30 starts in the Grand-AM Rolex Sports Car Series. His only career victory was a big one; Rice shared the overall winning No. 58 Porsche Riley for Brumos Racing with David Donohue, Antonio Garcia and Darren Law in 2009.
Ducote is a known quantity to BAR1 Motorsports. Ducote has five previous starts in PC equipment for the team dating back to 2012 in the American Le Mans Series and a dozen PC starts overall. Ducote’s best PC finishes are back-to-back second-place finishes at Road Atlanta in 2010 and 2011 for Intersport Racing.
Kvamme drove full-time in the PC class in 2016 for Starworks Motorsport, sharing the Popcorn Sutton-sponsored No. 88 with a revolving door of drivers. With the addition of Richard Bradley to the team at Watkins Glen in July, Kvamme earned his first career podium finish. However, much of the season was marked by Kvamme being off the pace of much of the rest of the class.
Yacaman is an enigma. He is very fast on-track, but also not very well liked. He was publicly accused of taking out KCMG’s LMP2 car during the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Fuji, but was exonerated by the stewards. In IMSA, he has an overall victory for OAK Racing at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park from back in 2014. Last year, he started only two races for Starworks Motorsport in their No. 7 with a best finish of fourth at Road America.
BAR1 Motorsports owner Brian Alder will not be driving this year. However, he is anxiously looking forward to what the No. 20 can do on the track.
“I’m very excited with our line up,” Alder stated in a press release. “Don [Yount] and Buddy [Rice] are paired up for the full season. I think they’re going to do really well together and it’s a big advantage to the team knowing you’ll have two drivers committed to pursuing both the WeatherTech Championship and the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Championship. Obviously, Buddy brings a lot of knowledge and experience to our program.”
The part-time No. 26 has a fairly strong driver lineup. Adam Merzon is the only returning driver to the car from last year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. He’s joined by veteran Johnny Mowlem, who is coming out of retirement for the race. The lineup is rounded out by Tom Papadopoulos and Trent Hindman.
Mowlem has decades of racing experience in all kinds of different cars. He has class victories in the American Le Mans Series, the United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC) and in Grand-AM. Last season, Mowlem drove the No. 20 full-time for BAR1 Motorsports. He was the fastest prototype in the rainy qualifying session and earned himself the PC pole for the second year in a row. Problems in the race dropped the No. 20 to a third-place finish in class. The season saw a number of disappointments, including a big crash at Watkins Glen.
Papadopoulos is a long-time teammate of Mowlem from years back in a number of different series. Having just turned 50, Papadopoulos is likely a bronze-rated driver. He has six career starts in PC equipment, the most recent of which was the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona in BAR1 Motorsports’ No. 16. His best career finish is a second in class (fourth overall) back in 2010 in the ALMS Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park for PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports with Alex Figge as his co-driver.
Merzon has two previous starts in PC equipment. One for Starworks Motorsport and last year’s Rolex 24 for BAR1 Motorsport. Both races ended in fifth-place finishes in class. Prior to that, Merzon raced Porsches part-time in the American Le Mans Series and Grand-AM.
Finally, for Hindman, Daytona will mark his debut in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. However, the 21-year old New Jersey native won the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge’s Grand Sport championship in 2014, won three races last season for Bodymotion and is bringing a lot of momentum into his new venture.