Daytona

  • 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona: 10 Hour Report

    As the halfway point looms closer, it is the #5 Mustang Sampling Motorsport leading the way, as it has since the green flag started the race. Ford Chip Ganassi have found their footing in the GT Le Mans class and have steadily been increasing their lead over the Corvette Racing cars who round off the top three. It had been the #29 Montaplast GT Daytona car dominating the scene, but a long stop/go penalty just a few hours ago has handed the advantage to Mercedes-running #33 Team Riley Motorsport.

    Cadillac and tyres were the talk of the opening ten hours of racing at the 56th Rolex 24 at Daytona, with both aspects dominating the race. Cadillac had shown the pace over the week, but within the first hour the manufacturer had locked out the top four. Helio Castroneves and the #7 Team Penske have been the only non-Cadillac running Prototype to put in any sort of challenge for the overall victory, currently running second to the Mustang Sampling car.

    It was drama from before the green flag as the #58 Wright Motorsport Porsche suffered damage. On cold tyres, the car was lost on the formation lap and spun, hitting heavily into the barriers. The car limped back to the pits, unable to make the start. It returned to the track two and a half hours into the race, currently running in last place.

    The battle for the prototype/overall lead of the race originally looked to be a battle between the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing and the #5 Mustang Sampling, but a puncture saw the #10 drop down the grid with a lot of work to do if they wished to repeat their successes from last year. Punctures would quickly become the talk of the race as car after car made an unscheduled pit stop to replace damaged tyres.

    The battle was actually between #5 and #7 as the Team Penske crew fought hard to overcome the pace deficit they had on the Cadillac-running cars. Pit stop cycles keep swapping the cars, but at the time of publishing it’s the #5 Cadillac controlling the race.

    The only change to this came in the sixth hour of the race. The rain had started to fall, and Mike Conway pitted his #31 Whelen Engineering Racing at the perfect time to swap for wet weather tyres. He was rapid off the bat, blasting into the lead of the race with superior pace and skills on the damp track. Unfortunately, this only lasted until the rain stopped and the track began to dry. After that, normal proceedings of Mustang Sampling vs Team Penske returned.

    Fernando Alonso’s 24-hour race debut got off to a strong start as he finished his first hour stint in ninth place overall. His team mates Lando Norris and Phil Hanson continued his good work to get the #23 United Autosports placed eighth overall as the highest placed LMP2 car on track. However, just before publishing the #23 was taken behind the wall for repairs and has yet to return to the circuit.

    Only two full course yellows have hindered the racing in the first half of the race, with significantly better weather conditions this year compared to last. The #38 Performance Tech Motorsport was making an impressive debut at the IMSA Rolex 24 at Daytona when, in the third hour, it ran out of fuel at the oval.

    The second full course caution came in the early stages of the morning. The #52 Mathiasen Motorsport came out of the pits on cold tyres and pushed too hard. The result was a big spin into the barrier with a lot of debris to clean up. The second full course caution lasted about twenty minutes.

    GT Le Mans has been dominated by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing since the third hour. It had looked like Corvette Racing were going to put in a decent fight for the lead, but the two Ford GTs have disappeared into the distance with a competitive 1-2 in class.

    The Porsche 911 RSRs have started to come to life in the last few hours. The #911 Porsche GT Team car was competitively fighting for the last spot of the podium in hour six and seven; and is still in contention now as they battle with the #62 Ferrari Risi Competizione. They are still within a big chance of taking a podium finish in their first race of the year.

    James Calado had some misfortune in the #62 which dropped the car down to fourth in class. A loose door saw him have to take an unscheduled pit stop during the first full course caution, meaning that he lost time in his stop. The Ferrari team are currently in a close battle with the two Porsches holding the positions in front and behind them.

    The GT Daytona class looked to be in the hands of the #29 Monatplast, with the promise of a to-the-line battle with the #33. But race stewards dashed that hope when they handed the GTD leader a 5 minute stop and go penalty for a violation of the balance of Performance. Monatplast team boss thought the issue was to do with the fuel flow rate, but nothing further has been said on the matter.

    The Ferraris have dropped back a bit in GTD, leaving the lead to be taken and extended by the Mercedes #33. It had looked like the Ferraris were going to be a threat to the front runners, but such pace has not been seen since around the third hour of the race.

    Amid all the damage and issues the cars have been having, particularly the two Mazda prototypes that hav been in and out of the pits for repairs and electrical issues througout the first half of the race, only one car has officially retired from the race. The #90 Spirit of Daytona Cadillac was forced to park in the garage as a misfire issue plauged the car in the ninth hour and was not repairable. A maximum of 49 cars will take the chequered flag.

    Images courtesy of imsaphoto.com

  • Roar Before the 24 2019

    Its 2019, IMSA’s 50th anniversary and the action kicked off once again this weekend at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

    2019 promises to be a fantastic season in the IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Championship with an unprecedented number of manufacturers set to take part throughout the season. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing driver Dirk Mueller, 2017 GTLM category winner at the Rolex 24 was ecstatic ahead of the first test day, “It’s just amazing. I don’t know how long we’ve been saying ‘It’s the best championship, it’s the best championship, it’s the best championship.’ It is the best championship, that’s for sure. It keeps on getting better and better. All the ingredients are in here: fantastic cars, really, really good teams, good manufacturers, good drivers and it keeps getting better. It makes me somewhat proud to be part of it. It’s like a huge community and people outside it, they’re getting jealous.”

    “You see great names coming already for this race,” said Helio Castroneves, who is returning for his second full season of WeatherTech Championship competition as co-driver of the No. 7 Acura Team Penske DPi with 2017 Prototype co-champion Ricky Taylor. “It sounds like we’re going to have a lot of cars with DPi, but also in GTD and GTLM. You have factories, there are so many in the series. When you have that kind of scenario, it shows that everybody is interested. I see no reason for it going down. It’s actually just going to continue going up.”

    The Rolex 24 At Daytona will again see some of the biggest names in motorsport. Fernando Alonso made his debut in 2018 and returns in 2019 with Wayne Taylor Racing, piloting the #10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi alongside Jordan Taylor, Renger van de Zande and his Toyota team mate Kamui Kobayashi.

    Alex Zanardi, the legendary Paralympics gold medallist makes his Daytona debut driving for BMW using a specially modified steering wheel with hand controls. Zanardi lost both of his legs in a high-speed Champ Car crash back in 2001.

    This year, the championship winning Prototype, the #31 Whelen Cadillac DPi-V.R with Felipe Nasr and Eric Curran at the wheel will be joined by Pipo Derani for the full season. Curran will take part in the four IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup rounds only.

    In GT Daytona, more commonly known as GT3 in Europe, the #48 Paul Miller Lamborghini Huracan will have Ryan Hardwick joining returning champion Bryan Sellers. Hardwick is no stranger to Lamborghini however, having won the Super Trofeo North American AM championship in 2018.

    The 2018 GTLM championship winning car, the #3 Corvette Racing car will be driven once again by Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia. The pair never won a race in 2018, it was their consistency across the season that saw them eventually crowned 2018 champions.

    The Daytona Prototype international category is going from strength to strength, with the 11 entries across four manufacturers for the Roar Before the 24. There are six entries from Cadillac, two Acura DPi’s 2 Mazda’s run by Team Joest and one Nissan. The #5 Mustang Sampling DPi-V.R won the Rolex 24 in 2018 and will return once again with Joao Barbosa, Feilipe Albuquerque Christian Fittipaldi and Mike Conway at the wheel. Fittipaldi announced his retirement from motorsport this week and will step down from racing at the end of January.

    LMP2 numbers have fallen this year with a number of prototype teams switching to DPi cars over the LMP2 spec chassis options with JDC Miller for one, having switched to the Cadillac DPi chassis. All four LMP2 entries are Oreca chassis combined with Gibson V8 engines.

    There are five manufacturers taking part in GT Le Mans with two cars each from Chevrolet, BMW, Ford and Porsche with Ferrari represented with just one entry. The 2018 GTLM championship winning car, the #3 Corvette Racing car will be driven once again by Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia. The pair never won a race in 2018, it was their consistency across the season that saw them eventually crowned 2018 champions.

    And in GTD, the class has grown once again with 23 GT3 cars on the entry list for the Roar Before. The class will be made up of five Lamborghini’s four Audi’s four Porsche’s three Ferrari’s, two Lexus, two Mercedes’s two Acura’s and one BMW. The #48 Paul Miller Lamborghini Huracan will have Ryan Hardwick joining returning champion Bryan Sellers. Hardwick is no stranger to Lamborghini however, having won the Super Trofeo North American AM championship in 2018.

    All images courtesy of IMSA

  • Thrilling end to Rolex 24 At Daytona

    With four hours to go, Cadillac continue to dominate.

    The 21st hour began with the continuation of the battle between the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac and the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac, meanwhile, in GTLM, the six leading cars were all within a matter of seconds. The beginning of the hour saw the #55 Mazda DPi pull in to the pit lane with an oil fire at the rear of the car. Spencer Pigot escaped the car unharmed but the car remained in the pits, dropping out of the top five. Another yellow flag for a PC incident brought out by the #8 Starworks car Motorsports car spinning into the inside of turn one. This brought the pack closer together once again. The gap between the top three in P closed down to five seconds as the race restarted. The battle in GTLM was beginning to hot up between the #62 Ferrari and the #69 Ford GT. The #912 Porsche dropped out of contention due to a drive through penalty and fell two laps down. The #33 Riley Motorsports Mercedes cycled back in to the lead of GTD under pressure from the Michael Shank Acura cars. Sam Bird took the lead in the #63 Ferrari towards the end of the hour. A third caution of the hour was called after the #81 DragonSpeed car hit the barrier, smashing its rear wing.

    With two hours left, Cadillac still held a comfortable lead, the VISIT FLORIDA Racing #90 was the best of the rest, running third. The two Cadillac’s were fighting hard between themselves, swapping positions. Filipe Albuquerque took the lead from Christian Fittipaldi and pulled out a 20 second advantage. Despite the clear pace advantage of the Cadillacs, VISIT FLORIDA Racing were still on the lead lap. Just one lap back, the #2 Tequila Patron ESM sat fourth with the #13 Rebellion Racing running fifth in class, eight laps down. Ben Hanley began the hour having just lost control of the DragonSpeed Oreca into the Bus Stop. The car limped back to the pits for repairs, body work littering the track. The #38 Performance Tech Motorsports car dominated the PC class, 24 laps clear of the second place #26 car.  The lead six cars continued to battle in GTLM, the #66 Ford leading the way from the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari second ahead of the #68 and #69 Fords. The #3 Corvette and #911 Porsche completed the six car train that was running almost nose to tail.

    Heartbreak hit in GTD, Sam Bird pulled off the circuit with smoke streaming from the back of the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari at the end of the hour. The #63 Corsa pulled over with the rear wheels locked on the inside of turn six. It would appear the engine had blown and seized. This handed the lead to the #29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi.

    The #90 VISIT FLORIDA car inherited the lead as the next pitstop cycle begun, the #10 Cadillac fell in to third with a slow stop. Felipe Albuquerque took the advantage in the #5 and set about building his advantage as the trio sliced through the traffic. Starworks Motorsport officially retired their cars from the race.

    Meanwhile, in GTLM, Corvette took the lead through the pit stops, holding on to the lead before eventually losing out to the #66 Ford and the #62 Ferrari towards the end of the hour. GTD was still a five way fight as the race reached the end of the 23rd hour. The #33 Riley began the hour on top, under pressure from the #29 and #28 cars, both of whom passed at the end of the hour. The #28 Alegra Motorsports car was on a charge as the race entered the final hour, passing three cars in as many laps. Michael Christensen put his car into second behind Connor De Phillippi. The hour ended under caution as the bonnet was ripped off the #93 Michael Shank Racing car.

    At the end of a fantastic, Rolex 24 At Daytona, it was the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac that took the win after a controversial move to pass the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac. The aggressive move down the inside into turn one with just five minutes remaining assured victory for the #10 which made contact and spun the #5 off the circuit. Albuquerque got the car restarted and set off after the #10. The move was investigated by the stewards and deemed legal. As a result, Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor, Max Angelelli and Jeff Gordon took the win by a margin of just 0.671 seconds. Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi took second place with the #90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Riley coming home an unexpected third. Marc Goossens, Renger van der Zande and Rene Rest bringing the car home one lap down. The trio put in a fantastic performance but were just unable to match the pace of the Cadillacs.

    The #38 Performance Tech Motorsports car came home first, twenty two laps ahead of the #26 car. The #20 BAR1 Motorsports car completed the podium, the other two cars in class, both run by Starworks were retired.

    The final half hour of the race, went down to the wire in GTLM with three different cars leading the class. But eventually, it was the #66 Ford GT with Dirk Mueller at the wheel coming out on top. Mueller fought his was passed the #62 Ferrari of James Calado through the first couple of corners with just 30 minutes to run, the pair traded paint as they fought their way through the infield. The close fought battle allowed the #911 to sneak through a gap and into second place, demoting the Ferrari into third. Ferrari fought back though, Ginacarlo Fisichella crossed the line just a matter of tenths off the Porsche. After 24 hours, the top seven in GTLM, were split by just 7.5 seconds. The # Corvette took fourth ahead of the #69 Ford, #912 Porsche and #68 Ford.

    Going into the final hour in GTD, it was a five way battle for the win; ultimately, it was the #28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche which took the win by just 0.293 seconds over the #29 Audi. The #33 Riley Motorsports Team AMG Mercedes crossed the line 5.5 seconds off the lead with the #57 Stevenson Motorsports Audi and the #86 Michael Shank Racing Acura rounding out the top five, all of which, were separated by just 10 seconds.

    Jeff Gordon became the fourth driver in history to win both the Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24 after the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac took first place.

    "This is very surreal to me, this whole experience and moment, to have this on my resume," said Gordon. "It's a very elite group that's won the Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24 together. That’s something I'm very, very proud of. But I think more than anything is this experience for me of – not to take anything away from 2007 [where he finished third] with Max and Jan [Magnussen] and Wayne [Taylor] – what amazing race car drivers both Ricky and Jordan are and how difficult this race is.

    You know, this experience to me was about building this bond and this friendship that I didn't expect to happen because of the way they welcomed me in, and we had a lot of fun along the way, they answered all my questions because I had a lot of them, and they helped me adapt, and that’s what helped us as a group, I think, to go out there and win.

    And then I was able to learn just how talented they are. I mean, I was so impressed while watching all night. I was glued to the TV every second, every lap. I couldn’t sleep because I wanted to watch these guys do what they did in the rain, in the cold, in the most treacherous conditions, and they did it at a level, that I'll be honest, I'm not capable of doing, and I was so impressed. Then you go to the last stint of a 24 hour race and you see it come down to that, and it was a thrill of a lifetime, and I’m just so honoured to be sitting here and be a part of this experience."

    Gordon’s team mate, Max Angelleli will take retirement now that the race is done.

    "I'm very happy. Happy for what I did and what I’ve achieved with the boys and Jeff today, to finish my career with a win, a big win like this one in the Rolex 24, it's great. You know, I'm thankful to the Taylors, the family." said Angelleli.

    The biggest talking point of the final moments, has to be the coming together between Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque.

    "The way I saw it, we came through GT traffic and I was closer than I had been" said Taylor. "He’d been struggling in turn one. Their car didn’t look very good there, and we were really strong on the brakes. I had thought about doing this for years and years, and this has always been something – people always open up after that little kink in turn one – they open their hands a little bit, and it’s just so easy to release the brake there and pop in there.

    If you get enough alongside, you can make it work, and I think he saw me coming, he saw me committing, and he closed the door. If he knew I was committing, why would you close the door and make us crash?"

    Understandably, Albuquerque saw things rather differently.

    "It was a good fight until I got hit, to be honest,” said Albuquerque. “There is not much to say. I had some GTs ahead of me so I could not brake so late.

    I closed the door and then I got spun. The officials took the decision, it is what it is, and we finished second. In Tour de France, when one guy falls, the other guys wait for him. This is a big race, and we dive in and brake late. It happens. We could see Wayne Taylor, the dad, with his hands on his head.

    If he’s a true racer who did a mistake, just back off. Wait, don’t leave. And he left! A true racer, in my opinion, in the end, deep inside, I’d feel a little bit ashamed of the win."