Mustang Sampling trio wins Daytona 24


IMSA’s 2018 season began in old-fashioned style at Daytona

Photo: Drew Gibson/Mazda

Filipe Albuquerque banished the demons of Daytona by helping Mustang Sampling claim the 2018 Rolex 24 Hours, partnering Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa in the Cadillac DPi, 12 months after the team lost victory on the final lap.

The trio beat Action Express team-mates Felipe Nasr, Mike Conway, Eric Curran and Stuart Middleton into second place, breaking the all-time distance record stemming from 1982. The third-placed CORE autosport’s Romain Dumas, Loïc Duval, Colin Braun and Jonathan Bennett’s consistent run ensured they were the best of the standard LMP2 cars in an attritional race.

It was always going to be Cadillac in Victory Lane come Sunday afternoon, so everyone thought; it was just a case of which one. The Cadillac seemed the fastest car, unless the Acura Penske was disguising its true pace, and, come qualifying, Penske appeared to have done just that.

Penske had certainly hit the ground running on its return to prototype racing, with Hélio Castroneves sitting on pole as the clock ticked towards zero. Then, Renger van der Zande, having replaced Penske-bound Ricky Taylor at Wayne Taylor Racing to drive its Cadillac DPi, crossed the line for the ninth and final time just 0.007sec quicker than the Penske veteran had posted to snatch pole.

The stage was then set for what could have been the closest of all Rolex 24s, with a field of stars from across the racing spectrum. The upshot of that quality up and down the field was a race of just four cautions, with just two in the opening half of the race, but punctures wreaked havoc and sent prototypes spiralling down the field and questions being asked. It soon became an endurance race of old, winning as slowly and safely as possible; unheard of in modern sports cars.

The Cadillacs had made the early running, with the impressive Patricio O’Ward just keeping grip of their coat-tails in the Performance Tech Oreca. But before midway the Cadillac quartet had effectively been cut in half – the quick Spirit of Daytona entry retired with a chronic misfire and the polesitting reigning champion WTR lost 10 laps when a puncture ripped its way through bodywork and the radiator. Four punctures later and the car was withdrawn, its owner not willing to risk his drivers. Continental’s investigations continues.

When the sun came up it was a case of counting down the laps for Action Express. Mustang Sampling was afforded a cushion when, having gone behind the wall to cure a water pressure problem itself, the Whelen was sent to the garage under green flag running to fix the same issue. That gave Mustang Sampling an unassailable three-lap lead, and a window in which to nurse home the car.

United Autosport’s Alonso-led inexperienced trio impressed, with Alonso out-qualifying World Endurance LMP2 champion and next-fastest Ligier Bruno Senna by more than a second, and quickly making good progress early on. It was Norris who shone brightest, lapping as quick as anyone in his first stint and lighting up the race’s short and sharp heavy shower. He moved the car into contention until a puncture dropped teenage team-mate Phil Hanson back and a failed brake cylinder cost the car 20 minutes. More issues saw the car drop to 38th.

The sister car of Senna, Paul di Resta, Will Owen and Hugo de Sadeleer’s clean run, but for a clutch issue, allowed it to creep into the top three. But that meant the car struggled away from each stop and cost it four laps by the flag.

In the middle of the night both Nissans retired, having shown race-winningly quick pace, and both Penskes were struck down. Dane Cameron was sent behind the wall from the lead to replace an alternator and contact dropped the sister car and cost it crucial laps. But mileage was gained and there’s a fast car beneath those niggling problems.

The Mazda Team Joest cars were fast enough, too, but beset with problems and out of luck. An early puncture was followed by a throttle sensor issue that left Olly Jarvis, Rene Rast and Tristan Nuñez repeatedly stranded in the pits and eventually retired. The sister car of Harry Tincknell, Spencer Pigot and Jonathan Bomarito shed a wheel among a raft of issues, before coming to a fiery end after sunrise.

In GTLM, the factory squads spent much of the 24 hours chasing the two Fords. A 40-second gap was quickly built and the Chip Ganassi cars rarely looked back. Patrick Pilet starred in the shower to take the lead, but Ford soon wrestled the lead back. The few cautions later allowed Corvette to threaten but never enough to deny Ford the perfect start to this IMSA season. It was the Ryan Biscoe, Scott Dixon and Richard Westbrook car that prevailed after 24 hours nose to tail with Joey Hand, Sebastian Bourdais and Dirk Muller.

Antonio Garcia, Mike Rockenfeller and Jan Magnussen were the lead Corvette in third, after Marcel Fässler gambled on slicks in the rain, eventually losing a lap. BMW’s M8 (on its debut) found life tough, also later complaining about balance of power, but the cars’ running was limited ahead of qualifying.

In GTD, Lamborghini’s Mirko Bortolotti-led quartet took victory, but there was midnight controversy when the dominant Montaplast by Land was deemed to have violated balance of performance. It was gaining time in the pits when refuelling, and handed a five-minute penalty. It fell from the lead to an eventual seventh in class.



Position Grid Drivers Car Laps
1 3 Christian Fittipaldi Felipe Albuquerque Joao Barbosa Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi 808
2 7 Eric Curran Stuart Middleton  Mike Conway Felipe Nasr  Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi 808
3 8 Jonathan Bennett Romain Dumas  Loic Duval  Colin Braun CORE autosport ORECA LMP2 808
4 15 Bruno Senna  Hugo de Sadeleer  Will Owen  Paul Di Resta  United Autosports Ligier LMP2 804
5 11 Ho-Pin Tung  Ferdinand Habsburg-Lothringen  Alex Brundle  Antonio Felix da Costa  Jackie Chan DCR JOTA ORECA LMP2 804


Position Place in class Grid Drivers Car Laps
11 1 25 Richard Westbrook Scott Dixon Ryan Briscoe Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT 783
12 2 22 Joey Hand Sebastien Bourdais Dirk Mueller Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT 783
13 3 21 Mike Rockenfeller  Jan Magnussen Antonio Garcia Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R 781
14 4 21 Tommy Milner Oliver Gavin Marcel Fassler  Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R 780
16 5 27 Toni Vilander Alessandro Pier Guidi Davide Rigon  James Calado  Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE 774


Position Place in class Grid Drivers Car Laps
21 1 50 Mirko Bortolotti 
Rik Breukers 
Rolf Ineichen 
Franck Perera 
GRT Grasser Racing Team
Lamborghini Huracan GT3
22 2 35 Katherine Legge
Alvaro Parente 
AJ Allmendinger 
Trent Hindman
Michael Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian
Acura NSX GT3
23 3 44 Bryce Miller
Andrea Caldarelli 
Bryan Sellers
Madison Snow
Paul Miller Racing
Lamborghini Huracan GT3
24 4 41 Ben Keating
Adam Christodoulou 
Jeroen Bleekemolen
Luca Stolz 
Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports
Mercedes-AMG GT3
25 5 42 Townsend Bell
Bill Sweedler
Sam Bird 
Frank Montecalvo 
Scuderia Corsa
Ferrari 488 GT3

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