Race Weekend Central

Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Repeat As Rolex 24 At Daytona Champions

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian’s Tom Blomqvist won the race off of pit road during a caution with 105 minutes to go. From there, Blomqvist was able to pull away from the pack to successfully defend the Rolex 24 at Daytona Sunday (Jan. 29). For Helio Castroneves, it is his third straight Rolex 24 victory, having won in 2021 for Wayne Taylor Racing. Blomqvist and Simon Pagenaud went to victory lane for the second straight year, while Colin Braun claimed his first Rolex 24 overall victory.

“My life was made easier with the car that I had under me today and all week,” Blomqvist said during the post-race press conference. “I can’t really thank everyone at HPD and Acura, even Oreca, MSI, and even WTR really, because this has kind of been a joint effort from the early days.

“The first time we hit the ground running with this car for the very first time, it was, ‘wow, I think we’ve got something here.’ Every time we drove we were like, this is — we’re quick. We obviously thought everyone was playing big huge games because we were always quick, but I think it proves just how good our car is.”

The margin of victory was 4.19 seconds over Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport’s Filipe Albuquerque, Louis Deletraz, Brendon Hartley and Ricky Taylor. Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 01 Cadillac for Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon and Renger van der Zande was third, followed by teammates Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn and Richard Westbrook. Action Express Racing’s Jack Aitken, Pipo Derani and Alexander Sims were 12 laps down in fifth.

Blomqvist started from the overall pole and ran off and hid early on. The Acura ARX-06 appears to have a top speed advantage over the other LMDh cars and Blomqvist was able to take advantage to pull away and catch up when they were behind.

Reliability issues were considered to be a big story in the race, but eight of the nine GTP cars were running at the end of the race. That said, there were problems.

BMW M Team RLL’s No. 25 had an MGU failure in the second hour, which resulted in Nick Yelloly having to use the new Hybrid Vehicle Safety Area. The team spent a couple of hours in the garage changing the MGU before rejoining. Additional issues meant that the team finished 131 laps down, but still managed to finish.

Both of the Porsche 963s ran into issues. The No. 7 Porsche had to change a battery early on, costing the team 15 laps. The No. 6 was the only one not to finish after they had a catastrophic gearbox failure.

The Acuras had a contamination issue that resulted in flushing the oil being necessary. The first time this happened was at the halfway point. It went off without a hitch for MSR.

However, the oil couldn’t be flushed on the WTR No. 10 due to a broken bracket. That resulted in a quick trip to the garage in order to fix the bracket. That resulted in the team losing two laps. They spent the majority of the race trying to catch back up.

MSR also had a gearbox issue of their own. The gearbox was too hot internally. As a result, the team made the decision to run it until it broke.

With the WTR Acura removed from contention, the race was between the MSR Acura and Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 01 Cadillac. The two teams traded the lead back and forth multiple times. A series of cautions brought the rest of the field closer.

LMP2 was a back and forth affair. PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports was very strong early on and strong in the middle of the race. However, extra time spent in the pits cost them laps. They were able to recover their lost time and get back to the front before more trouble struck.

One of the strongest lineups in the class was in Tower Motorsports’ No. 8 entry with Team Penske INDYCAR regulars Scott McLaughlin and Josef Newgarden. Their chances at winning were done in the first mile of the event when the car’s air conditioning leaked water onto the ECU, causing car owner/driver John Farano to stall and bring out a yellow. After a stint in the garage, the team got back on-track 10 laps down and spent the remainder of the race catching up.

Nearing the one-quarter mark of the race, TDS Racing was running one-two with their No. 11 in front. Then, Thomas was clipped by a GT car and put in the wall on the backstretch. While the team did make repairs and send the No. 11 back out, they chose to retire the car nine hours in.

The class came down to a battle for the win between Job van Uitert in the TDS Racing No. 35 and Crowdstrike Racing by APR’s Ben Hanley. The two traded the lead back and forth multiple times after the final restart. However, with 20 minutes to go, van Uitert made an aggressive move to the inside of Hanley entering the infield.

Hanley ran van Uitert hard down to the grass. That was enough for van Uitert to lose control and spin out. The incident was judged to be a racing incident and Hanley ended up with a two-second lead over AF Corse’s Nicklas Nielsen.

Over the final 15 minutes, Nielsen ran down Hanley to try to take the class victory away. He made a couple of moves, but couldn’t make them stick. What did happen was that he allowed Proton Competition’s James Allen to get into the mix.

Allen ended up taking second away from Nielsen with four laps to go and ran down Hanley for the lead. Using the draft, Allen was able to get alongside at the white flag, but Hanley pushed him wide in turn 2.

The final lap saw Allen pull off effectively the same move. He peeked to the outside of Hanley entering the tri-oval and side drafted the Crowdstrike entry. That slowed Hanley down just enough for Allen to pip him at the line for the victory. Naturally, Allen was very pleased with himself afterwards.

Allen, Gianmaria Bruni, Francesco Pizzi and Fred Poordad‘s margin of victory was a mere .016 seconds over Hanley, Esteban Gutierrez, George Kurtz and Matt McMurry. AF Corse’s Nielsen, Julien Canal, Francois Perrodo and Matthieu Vaxiviere were third, while TDS Racing’s No. 35 for van Uitert, Francois Heriau, Josh Pierson and Giedo van der Garde had to settle for fourth. Tower Motorsports’ Farano, McLaughlin, Newgarden and Kyffin Simpson ended up fifth, two laps behind the winner.

The victory for Proton Competition comes after Pizzi crashed the car in practice Thursday. That wreck required a significant amount of time to repair, including after hours time Thursday night.

See also
Richard Westbrook Quickest in Early Daytona WeatherTech Practices

In LMP3, attrition was the name of the game. That wasn’t necessarily a surprise given the previous track record of the class, but the degree in which attrition played a role was substantial.

For most of the weekend, the Riley Motorsports No. 74 was the car to beat. Felipe Fraga had been the class of the field for most of the week.

Unfortunately, they didn’t even make it three hours before their race was over. Late in the third hour, the Nissan engine expired while Gar Robinson was driving the car. They were out on the spot.

That left four teams to fight it out. Both cars from Andrew Wojteczko Autosport (AWA), along with Andretti Autosport and Sean Creech Motorsport. Slowly but surely, the contenders were whittled down.

Moritz Kranz ran into the back of Dixon while trying to avoid a spinning Farano in West Bend and damaged his nose. During a full course caution for MRS GT-Racing’s Danial Frost going up in flames, Andretti Autosport’s Dakota Dickerson ground to a halt, ending his night.

That put the Sean Creech team in the class lead with a two-lap advantage over AWA’s No. 17. That lead held steady for six hours until the team encountered transmission problems. A long pit stop to get the car out of gear and install a new gear actuator cost him more than 10 laps.

As a result, Thomas Merrill went from two laps down to leading Performance Tech Motorsports’ John DeAngelis by eight laps. The lead only continued to expand from there as Merrill, Wayne Boyd, Anthony Mantella and Nico Varrone claimed a dominant win.

The AWA No. 17 team won by 12 laps over Sean Creech Motorsports’ Joao Barbosa, Nico Pino, Nolan Siegel and Dr. Lance Willsey. Third went to Performance Tech’s Connor Bloum, John DeAngelis, Cameron Shields and Christopher Allen. AWA’s No. 13 for Kranz, Matt Bell, Orey Fidani and Lars Kern were fourth, while JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Till Bechtolsheimer, Mason Filippi, Luca Mars and Tijmen van der Helm rounded out the top five.

In GTD, the big story of the race was Winward Racing. Last weekend, the team qualified on pole. However, Lucas Auer crashed the car in the opening practice session Thursday, writing the car off.

See also
Lucas Auer Suffers Back Injury In Practice Crash

The team had to dispatch a small team back to the team’s Houston shop to get the backup car and haul it back to Florida. The team worked until 4 a.m. ET Saturday to get the car prepared, then raced it with no hardship laps allowed.

Starting from the rear, the team quickly put themselves up into contention, along with The Heart of Racing’s No. 27 Aston Martin. The strongest team during the race was Team Korthoff Motorsports with their Mercedes.

The Korthoff team led for hours until a wheel bearing burned up in the 18th hour while Mikael Grenier was leading. It was a demoralizing breakage for the team, which was punctured with anger from the crew.

The wheel bearing was replaced and the Korthoff No. 32 got back on-track, but they lost 14 laps. They would eventually finish 15th in class, 20 laps down.

Winward Racing was right in the hunt for the win until the car faltered with less than 40 minutes to go on a late restart. They were ultimately credited with a 13th-place finish.

The Heart of Racing’s Marco Sorensen ended up with the lead in the closing stages with Magnus Racing’s Nicki Thiim giving chase. Thiim hung with Sorensen for a few laps but Sorensen was able to hold on to give The Heart of Racing the win.

Sorensen, Roman DeAngelis, Ian James and Darren Turner‘s margin of victory was 5.363 seconds over Thiim, Andy Lally, John Potter and Spencer Pumpelly. Inception Racing’s McLaren for Brendan Iribe, Ollie Millroy, Marvin Kirchhoefer and Frederic Schandorff were third, then Gradient Racing’s Mario Farnbacher, Katherine Legge, Marc Miller and Sheena Monk. VasserSullivan’s Kyle Kirkwood, Frankie Montecalvo, Aaron Telitz and Parker Thompson were fifth in their Lexus.

GTD Pro was a battle for much of the race between WeatherTech Racing and The Heart of Racing’s No. 23 Aston Martin. The two teams fought hard for the first 12 hours until a mechanical issue put them in the garage for 15 laps.

That issue brought VasserSullivan’s No. 14 Lexus and Corvette Racing into the fold. The yellow Chevrolet had a decent race to that point that had been marred by a cut tire that resulted in a brake change.

The race came down to a late charge. Maro Engel insisted upon the anchor role and did his best to prove his worth. Jack Hawksworth had the lead with less than 90 minutes to go. Antonio Garcia was second and Engel third.

Hawksworth proceeded to open up a decent gap while Engel and Garcia fought each other for second. After a long battle, Engel cleared Garcia, then ran up to battle Hawksworth. The two drivers dueled for a few laps before Engel took the lead prior to the final caution.

Once the race restarted, Engel pulled out a comfortable gap and held on take the win for himself, Daniel Juncadella, Jules Gounon and the retiring Cooper MacNeil. The margin of victory was 3.916 seconds over Corvette Racing’s Garcia, Tommy Milner and Jordan Taylor. Hawksworth, Ben Barnicoat and Mike Conway were third.

Iron Lynx’s Andrea Caldarelli, Mirko Bortolotti, Romain Grosjean and Jordan Pepper finished a lap down in fourth, while Pfaff Motorsports’ Klaus Bachler, Patrick Pilet and Laurens Vanthoor overcome the new Porsche 911 GT3 R’s lack of pace to finish fifth. The top seven GT finishers (four in GTD and three in GTD Pro) finished on the same lap.


About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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