Daytona 24 Hours report


This year’s Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona was all about the usual suspects, led by defending United SportsCar champions and last year’s race winners Action Express with João Barbosa/Christian Fittipaldi/Sébastien Bourdais; five-time Daytona winners and Grand-Am champions, Chip Ganassi’s pair of cars were led by Scott Dixon/Tony Kanaan/Kyle Larson/Jamie McMurray; and Wayne Taylor’s equally accomplished team with Max Angelelli/Jordan and Ricky Taylor at the wheel.

In the end Ganassi’s lead Riley-Ford prevailed by just over one second from Action Express’s lead Corvette DP Coyote-Chevy as Dixon/Kanaan/Larson/McMurray scored Ganassi’s sixth Rolex 24 Hours win. Dixon did a tremendous job, spending the most time in the car and pushing hard over the final three hours while saving as much fuel as possible on the way to his second Daytona win. Scott was also on Ganassi’s winning team in 2006.

“It’s such a team effort here,” Dixon said. “We kept the car clean and we tried to look after it as much as possible. A big thank you to my team-mates. We just had the speed this year with the Ford Ecoboost engine. The last part of the race was just horrible because you think something is going to break or you’re going to go off at a corner or do something silly.”

Dixon’s IndyCar team-mate Tony Kanaan and Ganassi’s NASCAR drivers Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson enjoyed their first Daytona 24 Hours wins and McMurray paid tribute to Dixon’s contribution. “It’s all about Scott Dixon,” McMurray said. “He did just an amazing job all through the race and over the final three hours. I’ve learned so much from him and he’s become a good friend of mine. I’m honoured to call him a friend.”

Young Larson said he enjoyed this year’s race much more than his rookie start in last year’s 24 Hours. “I hated this race last year,” Larson grinned. “I was terrible, but I felt comfortable right off the bat this year and had a lot of fun. I’m just a dirt oval guy and to come here and race a sports car at Daytona on the road course is pretty awesome.”

Ganassi’s general manager Mike Hull praised Dixon’s team leading abilities. “Scott is one of those people that has enormous ability and always has,” Hull said. “He has terrific passion and wants to make himself better every day. He’s never complacent. I’ll guarantee you he’ll come back here to race again and he’ll want to improve himself.

“He’s in the Indy shop two or three days a week. He’s with the guys all the time working on the cars with the engineers. He’s very direct about what he wants with his race car and then he’s unselfish. He gives back. Our younger drivers have a great mentor in Scott Dixon. That’s the kind of person he is and that’s why he’s so great to be around.”

Last year’s winners Barbosa/Fittipaldi/Bourdais lost three laps at one point because of a fuel pressure problem but came back to finish a close second after using every one of the many full-course yellows to best effect. “We’ll take it because from the get-go we never had the car we wanted,” Fittipaldi said. “We were struggling with the car through the whole race. We made some changes and it got better, then it got worse. It didn’t go our way, so we’ll take the points. They will be very important to the championship especially when it comes down to the last race of the year.”

The challenge from Wayne Taylor’s team fizzled in the race’s final 15 minutes when Colin Braun crashed his class-leading Prototype Challenge Oreca prompting a full course yellow. Under the yellow Jordan Taylor was compelled to pit to hand over to brother Ricky because he had completed the maximum of 14 hours behind the wheel. Jordan had to come in when the pits were closed so there was an additional stop and go penalty for Ricky to serve after the restart.

The GTLM class was won by the factory Corvette C7.R driven by Jan Magnussen/Antonio García/Ryan Briscoe after a close battle with one of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s BMW Z4 GTEs with Bill Auberlen/Dirk Werner/Augusto Farfus/Bruno Spengler. The leading GTLM cars finished fifth and sixth overall. Werner made a big effort in the closing laps inching up on García so that he was within half a second of the Corvette when the chequered flag fell.

“I had to work hard to keep the BMW behind at the end,” García grinned. “But the car finished the race in perfect shape and we brought it home in one piece. That’s what it takes to win one of these races.”

The PC class was won by Tom Kimber-Smith/Mike Guasch/Andrew Novich/Andrew Palmer’s PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca-Chevrolet after Colin Braun crashed his class-leading Core Autosport car with barely 15 minutes to go. “There was a slower DP ahead of me that was pretty off the pace,” Braun explained. “I’m not sure if he missed his braking point but he hit me in the right rear and as a result the suspension collapsed.

“It wasn’t as if that was a banzai move. It was something I did many times through the race. But it was just one of those things: wrong place at the wrong time.”

Kimber-Smith was delighted to inherit the class win after a long night. “The last 11 hours of the race were tough because we lost our power steering,” Kimber-Smith said. “But we knew if we stuck to our plan something good would happen to us. It’s not nice to see a car go out like that on fire, but we’ll definitely take the win. I’ve been coming here the last seven years and it’s an amazing feeling. I was second last year and now we’re on the top step. So it’s awesome.”

Winners of the GT Daytona class were Ben Keating/Dominik Farnbacher/Kuno Wittmer/Cameron Lawrence/Al Carter aboard Riley Motorsport’s Dodge Viper SRT. Finishing second on the same lap was the Alex Job Porsche 911 GT driven by Cooper MacNeil/Leh Keen/Andrew Davis/Shane van Gisbergen.


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