Since 1962, racing legends from around the world have come to compete in this endurance sports car classic. The Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona is notoriously merciless on both driver and machine as sleep-starved crews perform mechanical miracles. From sunrise to sunset, fans watched drivers battle an army of rivals that span the auto racing universe in the first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race of the season.
Ricky Taylor won a back-and-forth duel, punctuated by late-race contact, with Filipe Albuquerque and delivered a dramatic – and historic – Rolex 24 At Daytona victory on Sunday to Wayne Taylor Racing. It was the first win in the top rung of professional sports car racing for Cadillac and the first win for the all-new Cadillac DPi-V.R prototype.
Sunday’s drama, which built over the last several hours as respective Cadillacs DPi Prototypes driven by Taylor and Albuquerque swapped the lead several times, peaked with seven minutes remaining.
Two other classes also produced remarkably close finishes in the 55th running of the endurance classic which opened the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship season:
In the GT Daytona class, the No. 28 Porsche 911 of Alegra Motorsports driven by Carlos de Quesada, Michael de Quesada, Michael Christensen, Daniel Morad and Jesse Lazare won by 0.293 seconds. In GT Le Mans, the No. 66 Ford GT of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing driven by Dirk Mueller, Joey Hand and Sebastien Bourdais won with a 2.988 margin.
The Prototype Challenge class was won in dominating fashion by the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA FLM09 co-driven by James French, Patricio O’Ward, Kyle Masson and Nicholas Boulle.
It was an eventful race for the new Mazdas, competing under IMSA’s Daytona Prototype international (DPi) rules, as they combined to complete exactly 1,000 laps of the 3.56-mile Daytona road course.The No. 70 machine, driven by the trio of Joel Miller, Tom Long and James Hinchcliffe, found drama on lap two, when a piece of plastic became lodged over the air intake. Later in the race, a pit lane penalty, combined with being slammed from behind by the eventual race-winning car, caused another delay to repair the rear wing assembly. With 18 hours remaining, clutch and transmission issues caused the team to return to the garage, where the crew changed the transmission assembly. After returning to the race, the car ran strongly until trouble returned on the final pit stop with less than 30 minutes remaining. The 70 car was classified in 12th-place among the Prototypes, and 46th overall.
Nissan engine customer team ESM showed impressive pace in its debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with the team scoring fourth and seventh place finishes in the opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Brendon Hartley charged the No.22 car into the race lead during the night hours. However, on his out lap, a GT car made contact with the Nissan Onroak Dpi, putting the car into the wall. Quick work by the ESM crew got them back into the race, but Hartley, Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek and Bruno Senna had to settle for a seventh place finish – 23 laps down on the leaders. The No.2 car – of Pipo Derani, Ryan Dalziel and Scott Sharp – ran a strong race, but it just finished off the podium in fourth place in the debut of the new Daytona Prototype International premier class in the IMSA series.
The Acura NSX GT3s starred in the overnight hours of the twice-around-the-clock contest, leading – and often running 1-2 – as both cars excelled in the steady rain and wet track conditions. In the closing hours, both cars appeared headed for top-six finishes. But with just 30 minutes remaining, the #93 NSX GT3 was forced to retire due to damage sustained in earlier on-track incident. But Segal was able to bring the #86 Acura home fifth in the GTD class, and also claim North American Endurance Championship honors for the “series-within-a-series” of endurance races within the overall IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
3GT Racing’s No. 15 Lexus RC F GT3 finished 14th in the GTD class (36th overall) in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, marking the debut of the RC F GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Lexus’ return to North American sports car racing. Drivers Robert Alon, Austin Cindric Dominik, Farnbacher and Jack Hawksworth piloted the No. 15 Lexus entry. Farnbacher (15 laps) and Hawksworth (11) each took turns leading the GTD class in the 24-hour race. Hawksworth turned the fastest lap in the No. 15 Lexus – a lap of 1:48.241 on the 3.56-mile road course. The No. 14 Lexus finished 27th in class (54th overall) after an early incident forced the race car to retire while Scott Pruett was piloting the RC F GT3. Drivers Ian James, Sage Karam and Gustavo Menezes did not make laps in the 24-hour race.
No. 29 Audi R8 LMS of Land Motorsports took second place following a nail-biting finish that was separated by less than three-tenths of second after 24- hours of racing. All three Audi R8 LMS teams finished in the top six spots, capturing valuable points which place Audi in striking distance for the lead in the championship.No. 57 of Stevenson Motorsports returned to Daytona for the second time in the Audi R8 LMS, this time running a flawless race and delivering an impressive fourth place finish less than six seconds behind the class winner. Stevenson Motorsports’ smart strategy, strong crew and skilled drivers were the force behind their success.