The 2021 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona International Speedway gets underway later today and has a real international feel with a total of 27 countries represented on the grid with drivers from many different disciplines competing in the race. Renger Van der Zande has joined Chip Ganassi Racing this season as the team return to the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship and speaking ahead of the race he said:
Everywhere around the world, they are watching this race like they are watching Le Mans.. “Daytona has a name, and it’s the only race in January. It’s something that the whole world watches because everybody is waiting for the first race of the season. All of that together makes it very appealing for fans and drivers around the world. To win this race is the highlight of my career, for sure.”
One of the favourite teams to take the overall victory is Action Express Racing who are fielding four drivers from four countries, Jimmie Johnson, from the USA, Mick Rockenfeller, Germany, Simon Pagenaud from France and Kamui Kobayshi from Japan. Drivers within the Rolex 24 Hours come from IndyCar, NASCAR, DTM and the World Endurance Championship.
Speaking about Jimmie Johnson’s addition to the Action Express team, Kamui Kobayashi commented saying:
I think Jimmie is still motivated by racing – maybe not by NASCAR, but just by racing different cars. “I’m very happy to be part of his program with the Ally Cadillac. With Simon and Mike, it’s great because we have someone who won the IndyCar championship (Pagenaud) and someone who won the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters, Rockenfeller). With people coming from all these categories, it shows what a big and competitive championship the IMSA WeatherTech (Championship) has become.”
Sebastien Bourdais commented on the upcoming race saying:
(The Rolex 24) has a huge appeal internationally because of history. “It’s a race that every race car driver wants to put on their résumé. Also, it’s so early in the season that there’s really no conflict with other series. There’s such a wide variety of cars and entries and one-offs.“It allows people to come here just for this specific event. Deep in the season, when they’re all tangled in their own championships, they can’t do it. That’s why you see all nations and backgrounds coming together and kick-starting the season. That’s what’s so unique about Daytona. No other series starts racing at the end of January.”
“They always refer to me as a two-time Daytona winner. “On top of that, the biggest newspapers are always asking me for interviews around this time of the year about the Daytona 24 Hours. It’s an endurance classic, and it’s one of the biggest races in the world if you are in endurance racing. I feel it at home in Holland, for sure. People recognize this race.”
There are a ton of race fans that show up on site from all around the world.. “It’s not a huge number, but it’s impressive. Even if it’s a decent number, because of the size of the venue, it doesn’t look crowded. But the racing community gathers together for a party that starts the season every year.