Last weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona was billed as another battle for supremacy in the Prototype class between the Daytona Prototypes and the P2’s. Despite Michael Shank Racing dominating the time sheets, the P2’s did not factor much into the outcome.
From the drop of the green flag, the Ford EcoBoost V6-powered Riley DPG3’s from Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates swept the front and controlled much of the event. The two Ganassi entries combined to lead nearly 55 percent of the laps (405 of 740) between them. The Shank Ligier JS P2-Honda dropped back due to issues getting tires up to temperature, and John Pew’s late night excursion into the tires at the International Horseshoe put them out of contention.In addition to the Ganassi entries, the Chevrolet Corvette DP Evos were once again in the hunt. Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 shared by Max Angelelli and the Taylor brothers (Jordan and Ricky) tied Ganassi’s No. 02 for most laps led with 264. Action Express Racing’s No. 5 shared by Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais was also in the hunt, but spent much of the second half of the race playing catch-up after stopping on course and losing multiple laps getting repairs.
Despite having to spend a couple of minutes in the garage for splitter repairs during a full course caution, the No. 02 appeared to be the most consistent vehicle on the track. Verizon IndyCar Series regulars Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan, along with Sprint Cup regulars Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson, were all very quick and were able to avoid significant mistakes.
When the race came down to crunch time, the Ganassi team’s primary entry (No. 01) had clutch problems that took them clean out of contention. The team tried to fix the issue and briefly got the car back out on track before it was clear that the issue was terminal. For the No. 02, Ganassi chose to put Dixon in for the final 3.5 hours. Wayne Taylor Racing countered with Jordan Taylor. While Jordan Taylor is fast in his own right, it was here that Wayne Taylor Racing made a fatal mistake. During the final full course yellow, it was discovered that Jordan Taylor would breach one of the maximum allowable drive time rules (four hours in any six hour period) prior to the end of the race. As a result, the team was forced to enter a closed pit to put Ricky Taylor in the car. The stop and the drive-through penalty that resulted took Wayne Taylor Racing out of contention.
Dixon was able to hold off the No. 5 of Bourdais to take his second overall Rolex 24 win (the previous one was in 2006). For Larson, McMurray and Kanaan, they celebrated their first overall victories in the race. In McMurray’s case, he became only the third driver to win both the Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The other two who have pulled off the feat are A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti.
After the race, Dixon talked about how much he enjoyed the experience and how the victory was a true team effort.
“Today, the last two days, I should say, were a lot of fun in the car was very consistent and I think we had good speed,” Dixon said. “Everybody pulled their weight. Everybody did what they needed to do. That’s what gets you through this 24 Hours. Everybody kept the car in one piece. You have to be there in the end. You have to try to look out for the car so you have the speed in the end to try to compete for the win and we definitely had some obstacles, the 5 car had been very quick and the 10, I thought was going to be the one to beat with strategy and trying to save a little bit of fuel to open our window up, I sort of took a hop into the pits and that’s how we got it. I can’t emphasize how big of a team effort it is. It’s not one person who wins this race, it’s everybody involved. This weekend, everybody on the 02 team did their best job and that’s obviously enough to get a victory.”
Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 held on for a third-place finish, but they ended up roughly a minute behind the winners due to the forced driver change and penalty.
After the race, Jordan Taylor was simply crushed.
“I think it was just a simple miscalculation on drive time,” Jordan told FOX Sports’ Chris Neville after the race while fighting off tears. “You’re only allowed to drive four out of six hours, and I was going to go over that. It’s a bit disappointing, but we win and lose as a team. We’ve gone 72 hours now in this race without a problem, but we just can’t win it. We’ve got two seconds and a third. We’ll look back at it as a good points day going to Sebring second in points.”
In Prototype Challenge, survival was the name of the game as only three of the eight starters managed to finish. The race was ultimately dominated by CORE autosport’s No. 54 shared by team owner Jon Bennett, Colin Braun, James Gue and Mark Wilkins. Overnight, the team had a lead of more than five laps over second-place. Wavearounds under the 18 full course cautions put the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA FLM09-Chevrolet back on the lead lap late in the race, but still well in arrears.
With 25 minutes to go and a 42 second lead, disaster struck for Braun. First, Braun spun out in the West Hairpin in the infield. He was eventually able to recover from the spin, but trouble struck again half a lap later. In the Bus Stop chicane on the backstretch, Braun was hit by an unidentified prototype and backed into the outside wall. The resulting wall contact sparked a sizable fire and caused the final full course yellow of the race. With CORE autosport out, the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry shared by Mike Guasch, Tom Kimber-Smith, Andrew Novich and Andrew Palmer took a surprise class victory in ninth overall. Their margin of victory was one lap over the No. 16 BAR1 Motorsport entry shared by team owner Brian Adler, Tomy Drissi, Johnny Mowlem, Tom Papadopoulos and Martin Plowman. The stricken CORE autosport No. 54 completed enough laps to be credited with third in class.
In GT Le Mans, the race on paper looked like the Corvettes controlled much of the proceedings. While they were in the hunt for nearly the entire race, much of the rest of the pack was as well. In the tenth hour, the top seven in the class were nose to tail.
The two international entries were eliminated from contention in different ways. Aston Martin Racing’s entry (the No. 98) spun out early with Paul Dalla Lana at the wheel. Dalla Lana was able to restart, but the car coasted to a stop on the other side of the infield, leading to a series of garage visits. The AF Corse Ferrari driven at the time by Francois Perrodo spun out in turn 6 after contact with the GTD-class Porsche entered by GB Autosport. Perrodo then appeared to drive into the right front corner of the GTD-class No. 007 Aston Martin V12 Vantage driven by Brandon Davis in a display that clearly angered TRG-AMR owner Kevin Buckler. Perrodo’s No. 51 was out of the race after the crash.
A series of bumping incidents in the last couple of hours resulted in the race coming down a duel between the No. 3 Corvette shared by Ryan Briscoe, Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen and BMW Team RLL’s No. 25 shared by Bill Auberlen, Augusto Farfus, Bruno Spengler and Dirk Werner. While the BMW Z4 GTE handled better in the infield, the Corvette C7.R had the speed advantage and exploited that. In the end, Garcia in the Corvette held off Auberlen by a second to win the GT Le Mans class and finish fifth overall. The No. 4 Corvette shared by Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Simon Pagenaud finished third in class, but ended up seven laps behind the leaders after contact with a prototype necessitated a long pit stop for nose repairs.
In GT-Daytona, the SRT Viper GT3-R’s were the fastest cars during the Roar Before the 24 team a couple of weeks ago, and they proved to be very fast in the race as well. Both the No. 33 and 93 were right up in the hunt until the No. 33 stopped on course and drew a caution shortly after sunrise. The issue left Scuderia Corsa’s two entries as the primary competition to the No. 93. The No. 63 Ferrari was hit with clutch problems that slowed the car’s pace significantly. The No. 64, driven by Francisco Longo at the time, spun and backed into the wall after hitting oil laid down by Andy Lally’s No. 44 Porsche GT America for Magnus Racing. While the crash did not put the No. 64 out of the race at first, it did remove them from competition.
Eventually, the only team left that could compete with the No. 93 was Alex Job Racing’s No. 22 Porsche shared by Andrew Davis, Leh Keen, Cooper MacNeil and V8 Supercar regular Shane van Gisbergen. However, the Viper GT3-R was quick enough to pull away from the Porsche at will, allowing the No. 93, shared by Al Carter, Dominik Farnbacher, team owner Ben Keating, Cameron Lawrence and Kuno Wittmer to take the class victory.
Behind the No. 22 was the Dempsey-Wright Motorsports No. 58 Porsche two laps behind in third with the driving lineup of Patrick Dempsey, Philipp Eng, Jan Heylen and Madison Snow. For Dempsey, it is his second podium finish in the Rolex 24 at Daytona (he previously finished third in GT in 2011).
The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship returns to the track in March at Sebring Raceway for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. The race is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. on March 14th.