In recent years, 24 hour endurance races have turned into sprint races. Much of the 55th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona was not a sprint, but a test of endurance and traction. Over half of the race was run in the rain. However, once the track finally dried out, the action came to life.
On Sunday afternoon, the 24 hour event came down to a battle between Wayne Taylor Racing’s Ricky Taylor and Action Express Racing’s Filipe Albuquerque, both driving new Cadillac DPi-V.R’s. Ricky had to overcome an ill-timed full course caution that trapped him back in the and an extremely questionable move on a restart from Mike Conway to be right on Albuquerque’s tail in the final ten minutes.
Ricky was able to get past, but Albuquerque got him back. With six minutes to go, Ricky got a big run on Albuquerque in the tri-oval and dove to the inside. Albuquerque then tried to close the door and spun himself out in the process. No action was taken by IMSA officials despite a brief investigation into the incident.
Albuquerque’s spin gave Ricky the lead, but didn’t guarantee victory for the Altamonte Springs, Fla. native. Albuquerque ran Ricky back down in the final couple of laps, but he could not get back to the No. 10. Ricky was able to hold off Albuquerque to take Wayne Taylor Racing’s first-ever Rolex 24 at Daytona overall victory.
Ricky was overjoyed after the race.
“Yeah, it’s unbelievable. I’m still shaking,” Ricky Taylor said in the post-race press conference. “You’ve got Cadillac’s unfinished business from the LMP program which Max and my dad were both a part of the first go around, and then wrapping that up with — starting off with a win here in Daytona, and then you’ve got Max [Angelelli]‘s last race, and we’ve been family for 20 years now, and he’s taught us everything we know.
“Well, it was a good fight, until I got hit, to be honest,” Albuquerque said. “There is not much to say. I had some GT’s ahead of me so I could not brake so late. I closed the door, but I got spun.”
Visit Florida Racing’s Riley Mk. 30-Gibson shared by Marc Goossens, René Rast and Renger van der Zande finished a lap down in third. Defending champions Tequila Patron ESM finished fourth with their No. 2 Nissan DPi shared by Ryan Dalziel, Pipo Derani and Scott Sharp. JDC/Miller MotorSports’ No. 85 ORECA 07-Gibson finished fifth in class (13th overall) with the lineup of Mathias Beche, Misha Goikhberg, Chris Miller and Stephen Simpson.
Prototype Challenge was really only competitive in the first couple of hours. James French won the pole and led early. BAR1 Motorsports’ No. 26 driven by Johnny Mowlem gave chase. However, after the first couple of stints, it was all Performance Tech Motorsports. While Kyle Masson did spin in the International Horseshoe to draw a caution, the team had a relatively clean race.
The other four teams in the class had miserable times with a number of on-track incidents. Starworks Motorsport’s No. 8 received a rare stop + ten minute penalty for John Falb‘s involvment in this crash that caused the retirement of Park Place Motorsports’ No. 73 Porsche:
The No. 88 ended up being turned into the wall by the No. 31 Cadillac DPi-V.R. After additional incidents for both cars, Starworks Motorsport retired both cars with a couple of hours to go.
Starworks Motorsport’s incidents, combined with a decent amount of trouble for BAR1 Motorsports’ two entries meant that the entry shared by French, Masson, Nick Boulle and Patricio O’Ward won the class by a full 22 laps (78.32 miles). The Performance Tech Motorsports entry ended up finishing 14th overall.
In GT Le Mans, much of the race was dominated by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s four entries. The pole-sitting No. 66 of Dirk Müller, Sébastien Bourdais and Joey Hand effectively led the first five hours by themselves until Marcel Fässler stalled the No. 4 Corvette on the backstretch to bring out the fifth full course yellow.
From that point on, Porsche North America’s two 911 RSR’s were able to put themselves right in the hunt, along with Corvette Racing’s No. 3. The last few hours were a veritable dogfight between Ford, Chevrolet, Porsche and the Ferrari from Risi Competizione. However, Ford had the advantage with four entries.
Corvette Racing had superior pit work and were able to get the No. 3 out in front on the final stop. However, Risi Competizione’s James Calado was able to get past for the class lead and bring Müller with him. Shortly afterwards, Müller was able to get past for the class lead.
From there, Müller was able to hold off the pack to take the GT Le Mans class victory and finish fifth overall. Porsche North America’s No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR for Patrick Pilet, Dirk Werner and Frédéric Makowiecki was three seconds back in second, followed by the Risi Ferrari of Calado, Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander. The No. 3 Corvette of Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller was fourth, followed by the UK No. 69 Ford GT of Tony Kanaan, Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell.
In GT Daytona, the race was an up and down affair with a number of teams moving in and out of contention. One of those team was the aforementioned Park Place Motorsports Porsche. Matt McMurry was wrecked out of third in class by Falb. The Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi for ADAC GT Masters regulars Connor de Phillippi and Christopher Mies (along with Jules Gounon and Jeffrey Schmidt) was up there as well, along with both of the Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3’s, the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus, Scuderia Corsa’s No. 63 Ferrari and Stevenson Motorsports’ Audi.
However, the winner on Sunday came from outside of that bunch as the leaders fell by the wayside. Scuderia Corsa’s No. 63 blew an engine while leading with Sam Bird at the wheel. The No. 15 Lexus blew a right rear tire and fell out of contention. The No. 93 Acura lost its hood in the final hour, then suffered additional issues that forced a late retirement.
As all of these drivers encountered trouble, the Alegra Motorsports No. 28 Porsche 911 GT3 R of team owner Carlos de Quesada, Michael de Quesada, Daniel Morad, Jesse Lazare and Porsche factory driver Michael Christensen slowly rose to the front. Morad handed the No. 28 to Christensen with three hours remaining. The Canadian racer could only sit back and watch Christensen move up from seventh to second quickly, then pressure de Phillippi for the lead.
When the leaders made their final stops under the 20th full course caution, Christensen was able to beat de Philippi and the rest of the GTD leaders out. From there, Christensen opened up a comfortatble gap and claimed Alegra Motorsports’ second class victory at Daytona.
Christensen’s margin of victory was only three-tenths of a second over the Montaplast-by Land Motorsport Audi. Riley Motorsports’ No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 for Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating, Mario Farnbacher and Adam Christodoulou was third. Stevenson Motorsports’ Audi for Lawson Aschenbach, Matt Bell, Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell were fourth, while Michael Shank Racing’s No. 86 Acura was fifth.
The next round for both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Championship is the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, which is scheduled for Mar. 18.