Mazda Team Joest may have had the fastest car for much of the race, but they were not perfect. Neither was Wayne Taylor Racing. They were able to come to the front during the overnight hours. When the Mazdas began to fall off, the Konica Minolta-sponsored Cadillac pulled away. When the clock struck 1:40 p.m., the No. 10 Cadillac of Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon, Kamui Kobayashi and Renger van der Zande claimed their second straight overall victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the third in four years.
The race was slowed by six full course cautions for 33 laps. The winner completed a race-record 833 laps, besting the 808 laps completed in 2018. This equates to 2965.48 miles.
“We fought so hard. At the end of the day we had such a strong car,” Van der Zande said in victory lane after the race. “We just executed so well. It’s just unbelievable to be in such a fast car and win this race again. I mean with Wayne [Taylor], you always have a chance to win. It’s such a fantastic feeling we won it twice in a row. I’m super happy, I’m super relived. My teammates did an awesome job. My team was a superstar team. We just won it. It’s unbelievable, I’m so happy.”
The early hours of the race were dominated by Mazda Team Joest. The team chose to utilize a two-pronged strategy. Pole winner Oliver Jarvis served as a rabbit. The goal was to run as hard as possible and try to break the competition. Meanwhile, the No. 55 team decided to go about things a bit more methodically.
Jarvis was able to pull out a small gap on the field, but not as much as he would have liked. Acura Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya gave chase early on, but he was eventually usurped by Action Express Racing’s Felipe Nasr. Wayne Taylor Racing’s strategy was to beat everyone on fuel mileage. It didn’t take long for the team to effectively get themselves off-sequence by stretching out their runs longer than anyone else. This was especially true when Dixon was in the car.
The No. 55 Mazda ran into trouble early in the fourth hour when Harry Tincknell made an aggressive move for position on Acura Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves in the Bus Stop chicane. Contact was made, spinning both cars out. While Tincknell was able to continue without damaged, Castroneves spun into the tire barrier, significantly damaging his Acura ARX-05.
Tincknell was judged by IMSA officials to be responsible for the incident, so he had to serve a drive-through penalty. The crash significantly angered Castroneves, more so than any on-track incident for years.
— IndyCar on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) January 25, 2020
What allowed Wayne Taylor Racing to jump the No. 77 Mazda was that Tristan Nunez was given a drive-through penalty in the 11th hour for passing under yellow. That dropped Nunez back to sixth in class. While it didn’t give WTR the lead right then, it put them in position to pounce;.
As the night wound on, WTR pulled away from the pack. At sunrise, they had a lap on the field. A caution just before 8 a.m. for the stalled Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Riley Motorsports’ Felipe Fraga allowed a number of their competitors to take a wavearound to get back onto the lead lap.
During the caution, Briscoe made a pit stop. When he left the pits, he failed to see the red light on at the end of the pit lane. Running that red light resulted in the team being given a stop and a 60-second hold penalty. That took Briscoe from leading the race on the restart to a lap down.
30 minutes later, the GEAR Racing Lamborghini driven by Christina Nielsen caught fire and brought out the race’s fifth full course caution. Here, Briscoe took the wavearound to get back onto the lead lap.
IMSA rules allowed Briscoe to line up at the back of the DPi class as opposed to the back of the line. As a result, he was immediately back in the hunt. 45 minutes later, WTR was back in the lead.
Once out front, the team slowly but surely opened up the gap over the final five hours of the race. Mazda Team Joest couldn’t do anything to keep Kobayashi from driving away. As a result, WTR pulled away to take a very comfortable victory
The margin of victory was 65.426 seconds over the No. 77 Mazda of Jarvis, Nunez and Olivier Pla. JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Joao Barbosa, Sebastien Bourdais and Loic Duval finished third in their Cadillac. Acura Team Penske’s Montoya, Dane Cameron and Simon Pagenaud finished five laps down in fourth after dealing with porpoising issues that resulted in a brief garage stay. JDC-Miller MotorSports’ No. 85 Cadillac for Matheus Leist, Chris Miller, Juan Piedrahita and Tristan Vautier were fifth.
Roughly the first half of the race in LMP2 was dominated by PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports. Ben Keating won the class pole on Thursday and promptly ran off and hid. He opened up four seconds on the class on the first lap and continued to drive away. a feat that amazed DragonSpeed’s Henrik Hedman. By the first stop, the advantage was already over half a minute. A driver change from Hedman to Ben Hanley allowed DragonSpeed’s No. 81 to move up to second and cut into the lead significantly.
Despite this, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports was able to hold onto the lead well into the night before Hanley was able to run down Simon Trummer. A flat tire for DragonSpeed gave PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports the lead back, one that they did not plan to relinquish.
PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports’ lead stretched to more than a full lap until a mechanical issue resulted in the front and rear bodywork being removed from the No. 52 ORECA 07-Gibson on pit road in the 18th hour. That allowed DragonSpeed to retake the lead.
From there, DragonSpeed expanded their lead up to as much as three laps. As the race continued on, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports was able to cut that down to just one lap. DragonSpeed was able to hold onto that advantage to take their second straight LMP2 class victory with the lineup of Hanley, Hedman, Colin Braun and Harrison Newey.
Due to the position of the overall winners on-track, the margin of victory was two laps over the PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports entry of Keating, Trummer, Gabriel Aubry and Nick Boulle. Era Motorsport’s No. 18 for Kyle Tilley, Ryan Lewis, Nicolas Minassian and Dwight Merriman finished third, 11 laps down.
Early on, Tower Motorsport by Starworks was breathing down the neck of PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports. However, a series of mechanical issues hindered their efforts, as Ryan Dalziel described here:
It’s 5am and i just finished my second triple stint. 1st one we had a water leak which I now know after finding a blister on my ass was leaking boiling water under my seat. Second stint a front aero piece fell off causing so much vibration it gave me a nose bleed in the car. WTF
— Ryan Dalziel (@ryan_dalziel) January 26, 2020
The team also had an issue that cost him top speed and required fixing as well. As a result, the team of Dalziel, John Farano, David Heinemeier Hansson and Nicolas Lapierre finished 13 laps down in fourth.
For much of the week, the new Porsche 911 RSR-19 has been dominant on timesheets. The race itself was more of the same early on. Porsche GT Team’s Nick Tandy started from the pole and led early. He was eventually joined by teammate Laurens Vanthoor in a Porsche one-two. The first four hours of the race were like this.
In the fifth hour, BMW Team RLL’s No. 24 with Jesse Krohn at the wheel came into the picture. Krohn took the class lead for the first time just after the restart from the first caution of the race early in the sixth hour. For the rest of the race from that point, it was the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE versus the Porsches.
Much of the final three hours ended up being an all-out duel for the lead between Krohn and Mathieu Jaminet in the No. 912 Porsche. The two swapped the lead multiple times before Jaminet exited the car in favor of Earl Bamber. Despite the change, the battle picked right up where it left off.
With Bamber in the No. 912, the battle continued until the final stops of the race. Here, Tandy in the No. 911 beat both Krohn and Bamber out of the pits. Krohn then put up the best laps of the race to run down the No. 911 from six seconds back. Krohn was able to get by Tandy for the lead with 45 minutes to go.
The Porsches ended up spending the final hour of the race fighting among themselves. This allowed Krohn to open up the advantage and take the victory for himself, John Edwards, Augusto Farfus and Virgin Australia Supercars Championship regular Chaz Mostert.
BMW Team RLL’s margin of victory was 14.010 seconds over Porsche GT Team’s No. 912 Porsche for Bamber, Jaminet and Laurens Vanthoor. The No. 911 Porsche of Matt Campbell, Frederic Makowiecki and Tandy were third, while Corvette Racing’s No. 3 Corvette C8.R for Nicky Catsburg, Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor finished fourth in the new car’s debut. The No. 25 BMW of Connor de Phillippi, Philipp Eng, Colton Herta and Bruno Spengler were a distant fifth.
The GT Daytona class early on was very similar to the rest of the weekend. PFAFF Motorsports’ Zacharie Robichon tried to run off and hide from the start. The team was not seriously challenged until the first full course caution came out in the fifth hour when The Heart of Racing’s Alex Riberas ran square into the back of Precision Performance Motorsports’ Eric Lux, putting both cars in the grass. Lux was able to continue while Riberas was done for the race.
During the yellow, Lars Kern accidentally took a wavearound that he was not entitled to. He ended up having to stop on track and have the field catch up. The move ultimately cost PFAFF Motorsports the lead that they had held from the drop of the green flag.
PFAFF Motorsports having to battle back opened up the race significantly. It brought Paul Miller Racing, GRT Magnus and others into play. PFAFF Motorsports did eventually get back to the class lead, but it wasn’t until the ninth hour. Eventually, the team suffered a mechanical failure just after 5 a.m. and had to go to the garage. The 90 minute stay ended any hopes for a decent run. They would eventually finish 13th in class.
With PFAFF Motorsports out of the way, the race came down to a duel between GRT Magnus, which failed to set a time in qualifying due to a differential failure, and Paul Miller Racing. For hours, Paul Miller Racing’s Andrea Caldarelli and GRT Magnus’ Marco Mapelli, who normally race as teammates in Europe, battled for the lead.
It was only in the final 90 minutes of the race that Caldarelli was able to pull away from Mapelli. After the final pit stops, Paul Miller Racing’s lineup of Caldarelli, Madison Snow, Bryan Sellers and Corey Lewis were home free as they earned their first-ever Rolex 24 at Daytona class victories.
The margin of victory was 21.908 seconds over Mapelli, Andy Lally, John Potter and Spencer Pumpelly. WRT Speedstar’s Audi for Mirko Bortolotti, Rolf Ineichen, Daniel Morad and Dries Vanthoor were third, more than a minute back. Wright Motorsports’ Klaus Bachler, Ryan Hardwick, Anthony Imperato and Patrick Long were fourth. Finally, Black Swan Racing, using a spare chassis from Wright Motorsports after writing their original chassis off on Thursday, finished a lap down in fifth with the lineup of Jeroen Bleekemolen, Trenton Estep, Sven Mueller and Tim Pappas.
Kyle Busch ended up 26th overall, ninth in class in his Lexus RCF GT3 for AVS Vasser Sullivan. The team struggled with pace for most of the weekend, but Busch was able to put up competitive times in the car. During his post-race press conference, Busch noted that he is on the fence about doing another IMSA race.
Many of the drivers and quite a few of the media members are leaving Daytona and heading to Australia for next weekend’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour at the Mount Panaroma Circuit. For IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams, they’re going to take the next few weeks off. The second race of the season is the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring on March 21.