Rubens Barrichello and his best friend in motor sport Tony Kanaan will be team mates once again in 2013 when they join up as co-drivers of the Dener Motorsport #21 Challenge Brazil Porsche GT3 in the 51st GRAND-AM Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona later this month.
Barrichello - who announced last week that he was leaving the IZOD IndyCar Series after just one year of competition in order to race in the Brazilian Stock Car championship in 2013 (see separate story
) - was among those added to the driver list for this weekend's Roar Before the Rolex 24, the final three-day test before the race event itself.
Also added was Tony Kanaan, and former Champ Car and IndyCar star Paul Tracy was a further new addition to the scheduled line-up. The Canadian is listed as a co-driver of the #77 Doran Racing Ford/Dallara with Dr. Jim Lowe, Colin Braun and Jon Bennett. That means Tracy will be in a third-generation DP for the Rolex 24, significantly faster than the GT3-category car that Barrichello and Kanaan will be driving.
Dario Franchitti is also confirmed as racing, taking the wheel of the #02 BMW/Riley for the TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team where he will be joined by his Ganassi IndyCar team mate Scott Dixon as well as NASCAR Sprint Cup stablemate Jamie McMurray.
Franchitti's brother Marino will also be competing in this year's event, rejoining the South Florida team SpeedSource in the #70 Mazda aongside Sylvain Tremblay and Jonathan Bomarito. Other Scots lined up for this year's event include former F1 star Allan McNish and American Le Mans Series driver Ryan Dalziel, teaming up at the wheel of the #2 Starworks Motorsport Ford/Riley with Alex Popow and four-time Champ Car title winner Sebastien Bourdais.
“I have found contesting the Rolex 24 is a very good way to focus on the coming season after the winter break," said McNish, explaining why an increasing number of top drivers from around the world are seeking a seat in the event. "It allows me to 'shake off the cobwebs' and, although a 24 hour race is a hard way to start the year, it's very good in terms of physical fitness and a race mentality point of view."
Team Sahlen has signed up experienced sportscar endurance driver and 2012 IndyCar rookie of the year Simon Pagenaud to make his Daytona 24 Hours début for them, putting him alongside Champ Car veteran Bruno Junquiera in the team's #42 Riley-BMW. The other drivers sharing the seat will be Wayne Nonnamaker and Dane Cameron.
"Team Sahlen is showing great promise and together we will face a fantastic challenge," said Pagenaud. "I want to thank them for giving me the opportunity to compete in the Rolex 24 At Daytona for the first time."
Juan Pablo Montoya - former star of Champ Car and F1, and now competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship - will rejoin Scott Pruett in the #01 TELMEX/Target BMW/Riley fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates along with Memo Rojas and IndyCar's Charlie Kimball, who takes over the seat previously occupied by Graham Rahal who has since left the Ganassi team.
Rahal himself is not yet slated to race in this year's Daytona 24 Hours, but could still be added to the driver line-up over the coming weeks before the race on January 26. Ryan Briscoe, EJ Viso and Alex Tagliani are also thought possible late pick-ups as teams firm up their Daytona plans. There has also been speculation that two-time CART champion and London 2012 gold medalist Alex Zanardi might be interested in appearing in this year's race.
Andretti Autosport's James Hinchcliffe will be racing in the brand-new GX class, driving for the factory Mazda team in the #70 Mazda6. At one point, it looked possible that all three Andretti IndyCar drivers would be teaming up in a Daytona Prototype, but although series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay is still keen to clinch a ride it's now likely that Marco Andretti will opt to sit out this year's event.
Last year's winner of the Daytona 24 was the #60 Michael Shank Racing car driven by Justin Wilson, AJ Allmendinger, Ozz Negri and John Pew. It marked the first return to competitive racing for Wilson who had missed the latter half of the 2011 IndyCar season after sustaining a serious bank injury in practice at Mid-Ohio in the summer. Wilson is expected to return to the #60 in this year's Daytona event in order to defend his title, along with his team mates and co-drivers.
Also returning to the competition is GP2 driver and 2011 British Formula 3 champion Felipe Nasr. As well as winning last year's Sunoco Daytona Challenge, he was part of the line-up on the second Michael Shank Racing car along with Firestone Indy Lights duo Gustavo Yacaman and Jorge Goncalvez.
It's not yet confirmed whether Nasr will re-team with Yacaman and Goncalvez in the #6 MSR Riley-Ford, but 2012 Firestone Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier has been announced as one of the drivers behind the wheel of the #00 Mazda/Yellow Dragon Mazda6.
Vautier impressed at the most recent IndyCar winter test at Sebring International Raceway in Florida in December, and may be set to enter IndyCar full-time with Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsport, especially now that Rubens Barrichello is no longer in the running for a full-time race seat in the series. (See separate story