Bathgate’s Dario Franchitti, defending the title he won 12 months ago, leads the triple Scottish challenge in Saturday’s Daytona 24-Hours. The 35-year-old goes head-to-head with Wishaw’s Ryan Dalziel and Edinburgh’s Robin Liddell in the traditional season opener.
Franchitti, partnered by New Zealander Scott Dixon and American Alex Lloyd, will again race with the Target Chip Ganassi team driving their Lexus-Riley Prototype in the 47th running of America’s most famous sportscar race.
“Winning the race last year was just awesome,” the former Indy500 and IndyCar Championship winner explained at the 3.56-mile, 12-turn road course in Florida today.
“It’s good to be in the car with Scott, because we’ll be team-mates in this year’s IndyCar championship as well. We’ve raced against each other for a long time, so it’s nice to be in the same car because it gives us a chance to work with each other.
“I know how tough it was last year, and I’m under no illusions that it’s going to be any easier going for back-to-back wins. But we’re up for the challenge.”
While Franchitti will face stiff competition from the second Ganassi car piloted by Scott Pruett and Juan-Pablo Montoya — who both partnered the Scot in the winning car last year — Dalziel is also looking to deny him outright victory.
“We’re gunning for victory,” the 26-year-old, making his competitive debut for the Miami-based Alegra Motorsports team, smiled. “It may be my first race with the team, but we’re ready to push for the win.
“Testing has gone really well and I think we might just surprise a few people with our performance. Having already won the Daytona GT Championship, I know we have a car and a team which has a winning reputation.”
The talented young Scot will be partnered by American owner-driver Carlos de Quesada, fellow American Chapman Ducote, Canadian Jean-Francois Dumoulin and Czech ace Tomas Enge.
Liddell meanwhile, partnered by Americans Andrew Davis and Jeff Bucknum, is bidding for glory in the lesser-powered GT class behind the wheel of his Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R.
And the Scot, who sensationally claimed second overall and GT class honours five years ago, is eager to get his season off to a winning start.
“Daytona is still one of the great endurance races which every sportscar driver wants to win,” he explained. “The combination of the high-banked oval with the tight and tricky infield section makes it a great challenge.
“I won the GT class and finished second overall at my first attempt but since then we have had some problems every year. There is such a huge number of competing cars that avoiding an incident is the main challenge throughout the race.
“It’s a really tough race, but we know the car’s reliable and we can’t wait for the action to get started. I’ve won here before and winning again would be a terrific way to start the year.”