2017 Rolex 24 Pitlane and Garage
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DAYTONA ROLEX 24 HOUR RACE | CHANCE OF A LIFETIME! | WHAT A RACE
Mariage proposal at Daytona Rolex 24
Easy to remember that date...
Published on Jan 31, 2017
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Rolex 24 at Daytona wasn’t decided until the final minutes Sunday, after a controversial move by winner Ricky Taylor that secured the lead for the No. 10 Cadillac DPi V.R.
Filipe Albuquerque was leading in his Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi with less then 10 minutes to go. Taylor was in close pursuit. After trying to pass Albuquerque several times, with the clock nearing seven minutes left, Taylor lined up behind Albuquerque as the two entered turn 1. Taylor dove into the corner and Albuquerque appeared to turn down. The two cars touched, with Albuquerque spinning. Taylor was able to streak by to take the lead. Albuquerque recovered and was soon catching him.
IMSA officials reviewed the incident and declared no penalties for the contact. Taylor and his team, including Jeff Gordon, celebrated the win while Albuquerque and his team had to settle for second.
Prototype (P): The top, fastest class of endurance racing prototypes in North America, geared primarily towards teams of professionals. This class is somewhat based upon the international LMP2 spec, for those of you familiar with the cars that run at Le Mans. However, IMSA and the manufacturers who back its series wanted to allow marques to customize cars more so they wouldn’t be giving mere lip service to branding a car a “Mazda” or a “Nissan.” This birthed the Daytona Prototype International (or DPi for short) spec of cars that runs here, although the regular LMP2s that are eligible to run at Le Mans can also run in IMSA’s P-class. It’s a little complicated, but tl;dr—these are the fastest things you’ll see on track, and they’re incredible both up-close and at speed.
Prototype Challenge (PC): Like the P class, PC is all purpose-built race cars that were designed from start to finish for track use—and track use only. These identical open-top cars are run by pro-am teams—in other words, with a mix of professionals and amateurs. This is the last year they’ll be running as a class, thought. These cars have been around for a while, and with more racers preferring a closed cabin for safety reasons, IMSA opted to scrap this class for 2018.
GT Le Mans (GTLM): The GT classes are the ones based on everyday road cars. GTLM cars are based on Le Mans’ GTE spec, and are driven by professionals. If you’ve ever wondered what’s possible with a modern-day roadgoing chassis, consider GTLM your weekend dose of inspiration. With cars like the BMW M6, the Porsche 911 and the Ford GT in the mix, this is where the next generation of mid-life-crisis-mobile tech is born.
GT Daytona (GTD): Not every amateur wants to race a PC car, and thus, GTD is here to save the day with a collection of everything from Lamborghini Huracán GT3s to the brand-new for 2017 Acura NSX GT3. Like PC, GTD cars are driven by a tightly controlled mix of professionals and amateurs. These cars all adhere to the global FIA GT3 specification, making it relatively easy to buy one from a manufacturer, already race-prepped and ready to go. GTD cars are a little slower than GTLM, but they’re also meant to be less expensive than the spec used by the pros.
Of course, who constitutes a “pro” versus an “am” is a hot mess of a debate in its own right, and there’s a lot of incentive to ask for a lower status than you actually deserve for bizarre political reasons you can read all about here. Many of the so-called “amateurs” (which include a five-time winner of this race!) are actually pretty good! Part of the reason for so many classes comes down to sources of funding—as in, it’s often an amateur with cash that keeps a team afloat, and those amateur drivers need a place to play with cars more suited to their non-pro status.
Jeff Gordon has taken a very serious approach to his participation in the weekend's Rolex 24 at Daytona. However, the four-time NASCAR champion was all smiles after climbing out of his Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi following his first stint behind the wheel Saturday evening.
Gordon is joined in Prototypes by IndyCar driver and Dancing With the Stars contestant James Hinchcliffe.
Hinchcliffe is driving the No. 70 for Mazda Motorsports with Tom Long and Joel Miller.
• Chip Ganassi has a host of familiar names driving for his four-car team in GT Le Mans. Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon are sharing the No. 67 car with Richard Westbrook and Sebastian Bourdais is one of the drivers in the No. 66. Tony Kanaan is a co-driver on the No. 69 car.
The defending champions of the class are Corvette Racing, and the Chevy team is back with a two-car team.
• The class with the most cars is GT Daytona (27). It includes two Acuras from Michael Shank Racing, who won the 2012 Rolex 24 with AJ Allmendinger behind the wheel at the end of the race. Allmendinger isn’t driving for MSR this year, but Ryan Hunter-Reay is in the No. 86 car for the team. Graham Rahal is sharing duties in MSR’s No. 93.
Rolex 24 Rewind part 1
Friday, 03 February 2017
Marshall Pruett / Images by Pruett & LAT
A look back at the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona, some of its major themes, and points of interest as seen by RACER's Marshall Pruett:
We'll get this one out of the way early: IMSA made the perfect non-call to close the race.
There was no reason for a penalty to be assessed in the contact between Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque as they fought for the overall win. Taylor did nothing wrong, which resulted in IMSA race director Beaux Barfield leaving the situation alone.
Once I saw the replay of the incident, it took a matter of seconds to review and dismiss, but for some, it raged on as contact that actually warranted extended debate. Although some have suggested Taylor hit and knocked Albuquerque out of the lead with minutes left on the clock, the reality of the situation is fairly simple.
Race leader Albuquerque, in his No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac, left the inside lane open on entry to Turn 1, Taylor went to fill it and make a pass for the lead in his No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac, Albuquerque was late in realizing it – after the pass had started – and turned hard left in an ill-fated attempt to defend. As the front of Taylor's car was already occupying that lane, Albuquerque's car hit Taylor, bounced out of the lead, and surrendered the win.
Unlike some other incidents, this one doesn't require an exhaustive investigation, slow-motion replays or deep testimonials from the drivers involved. Albuquerque, whose talent and decision-making skills are beyond reproach, made a simple mistake and unknowingly admitted as such in the post-race press conference.
"I closed the door, but then I got spun," he said.
Had Taylor turned right and barged the No. 5 out of the way, we'd be having a different conversation about how Albuquerque and the AXR team was robbed. But that isn't what took place.
With the door open and a car moving to take the position from the inside, action A: closing the door, led to action B: spinning. In the same post-race press conference, moments after the No. 5 team left, Albuquerque's self-induced problem had Taylor asking why the contact took place.
"If you get enough alongside, you can make it work, and I think he saw me coming, he saw me committing, and like he said, I guess, he closed the door," Taylor added. "But I think Beaux always talked about shared responsibility, and if he knew I was committing, why would you close the door and make us crash?"
A retaliatory hit from the No. 5 on the cool-down lap added to the damage incurred by the No. 10. In the moment, IMSA also left that exchange alone.
To reflect, the Taylor/Albuquerque incident seems like the kind of thing that would have received less attention and scrutiny a few years ago. With the hyper focus placed on any and everything today, we've gotten to a place in racing where almost any form of contact is treated like an episode of "The First 48." Two cars collide, a detective pool is mobilized, seeks to identify the victim and the attacker, and then we wait until the end of the show to learn the sentence. That kind of thinking is a far cry from my own.
Forget 48 hours; this non-issue didn't require 48 seconds to resolve. In fact, my pal David Hobbs only needed seven words to reach an instant verdict:
Between the prolonged bouts of rain and ice-cold temperatures, furious racing took place at the Rolex 24. Even during the chilling hours that spanned the long stretch from sundown to daybreak, a track full of incredible driving performances were produced. Rarely have so many drivers been asked to maintain such a high level of concentration in gripless conditions and made so few costly errors.
As a whole, the Rolex 24 in 2017 was about surviving – the true nature of endurance racing. It wasn't the fastest Rolex 24, but it also wasn't boring or formulaic.
Some pre-race predictions were realized; only four of the 12 brand-new cars in Prototype made it to the finish line without blowing up, shorting out, hitting something or losing significant time in the garage. GTLM was the best race of the event and deserves to have a 24-hour film of its relentless action commissioned by IMSA. PC, with only five cars on the entry list, was a rolling calamity for all but one car, and GTD, IMSA's biggest class, was turned upside down by a one-off entry made on a dare. Complex and nuanced, the WeatherTech Championship's grand opener was filled with surprises.
Rolex 24 Rewind part 2
Starting with Prototype, here are some takeaways from a rollicking Rolex 24:
- Barring a dumb move by a GTD driver that put Brendon Hartley's Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi into the wall while running second, there was a very real possibility at least one of the most low-mileage, unproven cars in Prototype would have been on the podium. Although Hartley's No. 22 fell out of contention while repairs were made, the sister No. 2 ESM Nissan still managed to claim fourth, three laps down to the winning Cadillac. If I had to place $100 on whether both Nissans would be parked and covered before midnight or one would almost land on the podium, I'd have gone with the first option without hesitation. After the race, I was reminded why I don't gamble because I'm always wrong...
Considering all the sleepless hours and numerous problems the team endured once the cars arrived just prior to Christmas, and the sheer absence of extended testing time (other than three problem-filled days at the Roar Before the 24), all involved with the program – and especially the ESM crew – deserve a giant congratulations for their achievement.
- Every WEC–spec P2 encountered race-altering problems at the Rolex 24, except for one: the lone Riley/Multimatic Mk 30, which started last among prototypes. On sheer pace alone, the other WEC P2s had it covered; ORECA's 07 was 3.4 seconds faster than the Mk 30 in qualifying, and in the race, the gap was still a glaring 1.8 seconds. The one gap the Visit Florida Racing Mk 30 did not possess, however, was in the reliability department. It might not be a low-downforce rocket like the other WEC P2s at Daytona, but it didn't matter as the Riley/Multimatic led the race and finished third, just one lap behind well-sorted Cadillac DPi-V.Rs in first and second.
As the ORECAs and the Ligier fought all kinds of electronic, engine and mechanical problems, the tank-like Mk 30 continued motoring as the VFR machine kept the Cadillacs honest. This came after blowing its race engine while warning up the car in the shop before heading to the race. As the team demonstrated, reverting to its test motor for the 24-hour was not a hindrance, and it's also interesting to consider how quickly the Mk 30 achieved a high state of reliability with only one WEC-spec chassis in action. At the rate of malfunctions experienced by its WEC rivals at Daytona, and with the next stop on the calendar coming at the 12 Hours of Deadly Vibrations in Sebring, the Riley/Multimatic could be primed for another podium visit
- Piggybacking on VFR's result, the consistent stream of reliability woes experienced by all four of the French-built WEC P2s (three from ORECA, one from Ligier) was a astonishing. The Rebellion Racing team encountered a drive-by-wire motor failure, an electronics master relay failure, and dire handling problems at the rear of the car. After looking like a potential race winner at the Roar, the Swiss team finished 50 laps down to the WTR Cadillac. The only Ligier JS P217 in the field came home 75 laps down after the PR1/Mathiasen team (pictured) persevered through gearbox problems and other setbacks. And the race was even less kind to the DragonSpeed team which went through hell to replace a damaged tub on Thursday and Friday. From losing power to losing bodywork, the team's ORECA 07 surrendered 97 laps to new-car problems. Only the JDC-Miller PC team – new to the Prototype class – and its ORECA 07 gave a positive account of its potential in the race by finishing fifth (albeit 13 laps behind the winning Cadillac). Like ESM and VFR, the JDC-Miller team should be more than pleased with its outcome at the Rolex 24.
- Heartbreak befell the Mazda Racing team and its new RT24-P DPis throughout the race. Its ultra-conservative plan to run at a reduced pace – well below what it showed at the Roar – to ease the mechanical strain on its Riley/Multimatic-based DPis should have left at least one of its cars in contention for a podium. That well-crafted idea came to naught as an early clutch problem in the No. 70 car grew into a transmission issue that necessitated a complete change of the drive system. With 30 minutes left in the race, a different drive problem manifested that parked the No. 70 for good. The sister No. 55 experienced far fewer problems, yet met a fiery end as an oil line was punctured after chafing against a piece of bodywork. The resulting fire in the engine bay ended its run with four hours to go. Having chosen a measured pace instead of an all-out attack from the start, watching the checkered flag wave without the No. 55 or 70 on track was never a consideration for the team.
- The last nod belongs to Cadillac, which earned all of the headlines for its triumphant return to prototype competition. Its trio of entries went from silly mid-pack pace at the Roar to earning the pole, setting the fastest lap and dominating the entire race. Only an unplanned meeting with a GT car and the wall by Eric Curran in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac ruined what had been a 1-2-3 run for GM's luxury brand. The No. 10 WTR car and the No. 5 AXR entry had the race covered once the No. 31 made the first of a few trips to the garage, and with most of the other nine cars in the Prototype class being struck repeatedly by the cartoon anvil, it quickly became apparent which brand was destined for glory.
Although some electrical issues were experienced in the Cadillac camp, they paled in comparison to what the DPi-V.Rs endured at the mid-December test and, to a lesser degree, at the Roar. Thanks to completing the most pre-season mileage of any prototype model, the Cadillacs demonstrated the value of that preparation and the outright speed we always knew they had on the way to Victory Lane.
- Cadillac's DPi.V-Rs set 48 of the 50 fastest top speeds in the race. The second-place No. 31 AXR Cadillac won the peak number battle with a 197.628 mph blast across the front straight. The only two non-Cadillac top speeds in the top 50 belonged to Tequila Patron ESM's No. 22 Nissan Onroak DPi, which reached a best of 196.207 mph.
- Speaking of cartoon anvils, the universe appeared to settle its bizarre feud with Brent O'Neill's Performance Tech PC team at Daytona. The driver-turned-team owner has seen his No. 38 PC on pole, in the regular hunt for wins, and has been all but assured the victory one more than one occasion since IMSA launched in 2014, but the racing gods continued served O'Neill steaming piles of defeat.
Starting from pole, the No. 38 led almost the entire 24 hours during PC's swansong at Daytona. In the one class where routine disaster is a guarantee in the big races, O'Neill's team bucked the trend, executed a flawless race with no contact, mechanical breakdowns, or costly driving errors. Taking nothing away from the other PC entrants, it felt like the right result for a team that has come to define perseverance in IMSA's pro-am prototype class.
- BAR1 Motorsports' Johnny Mowlem insists his 243rd attempt at retirement will stick after coming up short to win the PC class last weekend. The 47-year-old serial retirerer (not a word) has called time on his career at regular intervals in recent years, and the comical nature of those retirements (and eventual returns to the cockpit) had friends like Dario Franchitti and Allan McNish poking fun at the Briton after his latest insistence that he was done for good after Daytona. For now, we'll celebrate Johnny Boy on a marvelous career and await the announcement of his 244th retirement tour.
- Conor Daly was introduced to the less savory side of last-minute calls to drive at the Rolex 24. The budding IndyCar star was already in Florida for a two-day test with his new AJ Foyt Racing team and was excited to make the drive up from Sebring to join Starworks Motorsport in the No. 88 PC. Despite being fastest by many seconds per lap in the wet, spins and contact from some teammates blighted their efforts. Unless it's in a Prototype or GTLM, Daly's limited enthusiasm for pro-am competition could leave the Hoosier watching at home during future Rolex 24s.
- Ford had a perfect GTLM run with a pole and win, but that hardly tells the tale of what took place from flag to flag. My lasting memory will be trains of factory cars running nose to tail, sometimes five and six deep, locked in battles that were only suspended when pit stops were required. In Prototype, it was an all-Cadillac affair once the race started at 2:30 on Saturday, and the same was true in PC with the No. 38 Performance Tech entry, but GTLM had the look of a race where half the class should have emerged victorious. Ferrari and Porsche could have knocked off Ford at various points in the event, which was a nice change after both brands spent most of 2016 struggling to crack the top five. The Ford-Ferrari-Porsche GTLM podium reads like a sports car fan's dream top three.
- With its unforgettable 1-2 finish at the 2016 Rolex 24 and its eventual GTLM championship in mind, the Corvette Racing team never factored in the race. Its C7.Rs led six out of the 652 completed in the class. BMW also weathered an uncompetitive outing as gearbox problems halved its effort early in the event and the remaining entry, the "art" car, finished eighth.
- The attrition in Prototype wasn't enough to promote a GTLM car to the overall win, but it came much closer to happening than expected. Due to the repeated problems with the new prototypes and approximately half the race being run in wet conditions, Michelin's soft, grippy rain tires and intermediates gave GTLM competitors a clear advantage for a considerable period of time. Had the rain continued to fall over the last six or seven hours of the event, it's entirely conceivable the fifth-place GTLM-winning Ford GT would have move farther up the running order.
Even with the rain diminishing and a dry line starting to form an hour or so after sunrise, the winning WTR Cadillac was only able to complete 659 laps to the 652 turned by the No. 66 Ford. It probably would have taken an absolute flood (like the one that helped the Michelin-shod GTLM Porsches to score the overall win at Petit Le Mans in 2015) to move the GTLMs ahead of the prototypes (on spec Continental tires), but it's still remarkable to think a fleet of factory GT cars took P5-12 overall and had a chance to score a major Daytona upset like the one recorded by TRG in 2003.
- If the feel-good story of the Taylor brothers finally winning the Rolex 24 as their teammate and mentor Max Angelelli rode into retirement with a win (along with some old NASCAR dude named "Gordon") wasn't enough, Alegra's shock result in GTD should be remembered as one of the great stories from 2017. The team's entry for the race – almost conceived as a joke at the 2016 Porsche Cup banquet – from owner/driver Carlos de Quesada toppled 26 cars in IMSA's most densely packed class.
- Ringer entries from teams with close factory affiliations to Acura, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lexus, Mercedes-AMG and Porsche were humbled by Alegra's odd combination of age/experienced and youth/inexperience in a Porsche 911 GT3 R that was an afterthought compared to Porsche's most celebrated GTD teams. While some GTD driver line-ups could have been mistaken for all-pro DPi or GTLM squads, Alegra's five-person roster was led by Porsche factory driver Michael Christensen, a how-is-this-guy-not-a-full-time-pro in Daniel Morad, and de Quesada, his teenage son Michael and fellow teenager Jesse Lazare, who were completely overlooked as threats. (I'm certainly guilty.)
- It's hard to figure out exactly what their win means in the context of how Rolex 24 teams are formed; it either says cars packed with big-name drivers are a luxury but far from a necessity, or that the challenges posed at Daytona over 24 hours – at least in GTD – are somewhat reasonable and can be handled by a proper pro-am blend. Whatever the answer might be, we do know Alegra's formula is worth analyzing and possibly copying before the 56th Rolex 24 arrives.
- The second-place Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 (pictured) added to the feel-good finishes in GTD as another unheralded team made a statement at IMSA's biggest race. Of the many impressive drivers on the team, former open-wheel and Porsche junior standout Connor de Phillippi made a strong case for full-season employment with one of the familiar GTD teams. Blindingly fast at every test and again in the race with the Land R8, the 24-year-old American used the event to increase his stock by a considerable amount.
- How great was it to see Alex Job and the familiar combo of Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell (along with their co-drivers) deliver a strong sixth-place run while working with an Audi for the first time? From having nothing as December approached to a fine showing in the race, Job's ability to deliver for his clients is one of the few constants in North American sports car racing.
- Two of the three new GTD manufacturers make statements in the race. The Riley-run Mercedes-AMG effort, which had the win within its grasp, took a find third-place with the lead entry, and the Michael Shank Racing-led Acura NSXs were stout when the ambient conditions were at their worst. The 3GT Lexus program had the lion's share of problems and disappointments, but enough potential was shown to indicate the big sedans should join Acura and Mercedes-AMG in the fight for podiums at some point this year.
- We readily attribute heroic performances to the hundred-plus drivers and hundreds of crew members that staffed the 55 cars entered in the Rolex 24, but with so much rain and frosty weather hanging over the event, the all-volunteer assembly of SCCA corner workers who braved the conditions deserve the most applause. They, collectively, gave more for less than anyone at the race.
- On a closing personal note, it was wonderful to have J.J. O'Malley as a first-time member of RACER's Rolex 24 coverage team. O'Malley, who worked for IMSA through the end of the 2016 season, started with the series in 1984 – just as the beloved GTP era was building momentum – and brought decades of relationships and reporting excellence to help RACER.com set all-time traffic records during race week. Before we know it, Sebring will be here.
VIDEO: Victory at Daytona - Ford celebrates 2017 Rolex 24 win
Chip Gannasi GT
Endurance: The Very Spirit Of The Rolex 24 At Daytona
Friday, February 3, 2017
DAC Motorsports' No. 18 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 completed the 55th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on the final weekend in January to kickoff the first round of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
After receiving the brand new Lamborghini Huracan GT3 just one week prior to the Roar, the new team used every minute available to ensure their drivers had a well prepared car to bring to the test.
Once at the Roar, fine tuning from engineer John Shapiro and crew started, with hopes of not only taking the car to the checkered flag but also becoming competitive in the 27 car GT Daytona (GTD) field. After returning from the Roar with test data in hand, the thrashing continued, prepping the car and ensuring its new sponsor La Champagnerie was well represented.
The crew worked tirelessly before even getting to the main event, and were confident in the quality of the Lamborghini, having no doubts they had a chance be a real contender once the green flag waved.
Throughout the multiple on-track sessions leading up to the Rolex 24, the No. 18 ran flawlessly, providing excellent feedback to the DAC Motorsports team and confirming their hard work and preparation was about to pay off.
During the final practice on Friday, the No. 18 La Champagnerie Lamborghini Huracan GT3 was entering Turn 1 when it was suddenly sent into a spin, hitting the wall and sustaining significant damage to the right rear suspension that was beyond repairable at the track.
DAC Motorsports immediately formulated Plan B, purchasing the Forza Motorsport show car that was on display in the Daytona fan zone from Change Racing. At 4 p.m. ET the afternoon before the race, less than 24 hours before the green flag, IMSA granted the team permission to race the new car. The DAC crew worked tirelessly to prepare the new Lamborghini overnight and rolled out race ready with just seconds to spare.
Although the No. 18 Lamborghini had to start from the back of the 27 GTD car field, Emmanuel Anassis began the race behind the wheel of the Lamborghini, quickly gaining track position and overtaking some of the most talented GT drivers in the world.
“I cannot recall at any time in recent history that a team, after having a four week old car with hundreds of hours of preparation to run the Rolex 24 destroyed, bought an untested, undriven display car and within hours started the race, with only seconds to spare," Anassis explained. "Buying another car and continuing the weekend was an easy decision for us because after all, no good story starts with, 'we packed up and went home.' I was strapped in, waiting to be pushed out of the garage while the crew continued to put body parts onto the car. I could hear the national anthem playing as the crew hustled to push the car from our garage to the back of the false grid. Our team engineer, John Shapiro, stuck his head into the cockpit and offered these comforting words, 'Boss, I have no idea what kind of car you’re sitting in right now,' and with that, we began racing.
"Somehow saying thank you to the team does not seem to have sufficient meaning," Anassis continued. "From the drivers, to the support staff, to the engineers, to our sponsors (LA Champagnerie), we experience an overwhelming level of commitment, dedication and support for without them, overcoming this incredible adversity would have not been possible. In addition, I would like to thank Chris Ward and Giorgio Sanna from Squadra Lamborghini as well as all the IMSA officials that helped us achieve this goal. We now turn our attention to the 12 hours of Sebring where we will hope to be fielding a two-car effort.”
Fellow driver Anthony Massari noted, “There are really no words to describe what the our team was able to accomplish at the Rolex 24. This race chews up and spits out the best prepared teams, cars, and drivers. For our crew to take a car that was on display and even get it to the track to start the race was something spectacular. I don't think anyone believed we would finish. But the team knew if they pooled their experience and didn't leave any bolt untouched we would have a fighting chance, and fight we did. The crew started the race exhausted and had the skill and tact to carry out flawless pit stop for 24 hours. In the 20th hour they overcame major adversity and got the car back on the track.
"I cannot thank our crew enough," Massari went on to say. "These guys are truly the best in the business (I think they proved that), my co-drivers Emmanuel, Brandon, and Zach, who didn't put a wheel wrong in the most challenging conditions. The support of La Champagnerie and the team from Phi, you could not find a better more understanding group to partner with. IMSA for their support. Finally Squadra Corse; Giorgio, Chris, and their team, these guys are true racers to their core. I am really looking forward to Sebring.”
Driver Brandon Gdovic, who completed the longest stint through some of the worst conditions of the race added, “It was an awesome effort for the whole DAC crew to get us into the race and bring it home in one piece. I gained a lot of experience driving this GT3 car for the first time and I am ready for the next one! I would like to thank the DAC Motorsports team, Emmanuel Anassis and Anthony Massari for the opportunity to drive for the team, Lamborghini Squadra Corse for their efforts, our major sponsor La Champagnerie, as well as WindStax and ComServe Wireless.”
The entire DAC Motorsports Team did an outstanding job getting the car back on track and to the checkered flag. A true testament to the dedication, commitment, and expertise of the team as a whole. The team wishes to extend a huge thank you to all of those who supported them during their battle to finish the Rolex 24.
Risi Competizione’s Toni Vilander Shines Down Under
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
After a fierce battle and a well-deserved third place finish in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans class in the 55th Rolex 24 At Daytona, Risi Competizione’s flying Finn Toni Vilander might have deserved a break. The week following the Rolex, however, he flew across the globe to visit New South Wales, Australia – where he competed in and won the Bathurst 12 Hour race on the demanding Mount Panorama circuit.
Vilander competed for Maranello Motorsports, joining a pair of Virgin Australia Supercars Championship stars – Australians Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup – in the No. 88 Ferrari 488 GT3.
“This is really awesome, behind the victories there’s always a lot of hard work – all these guys on the team are great – and I was honored to be a part of this race,” Vilander said shortly after the checkered flag. “We hardly made any changes to the car since taking it off the trailer. We were confident in what we had, and this was the result.”
After Vilander put the car on pole in a top 10 shootout-style final qualifying session, the race got underway at 1:45 p.m. ET on Saturday (5:45 a.m. local time Sunday morning). Vilander started the race and put in a solid stint as the sun rose over the horizon before handing off to his teammates. He got in the car again later that afternoon and during the car’s second to final stint, was able to turn incredible laps despite the rising heat and dominate the field.
“It’s never easy coming to a place like this,” said Lowndes. “To drive with these guys… Jamie I’ve obviously driven with before, but to get to drive with Toni was great, and he did a great job putting it on pole as well.”
“I’m no lone ranger, it’s been an amazing team effort,” added Whincup, who drove the car to the checkered flag. “As for Toni… I tell you, those Euros are quick, they’re really quick.”
The trio gave Ferrari its second win at Bathurst, with the marque having also won the race in 2014. For Vilander, the win had a little extra meaning.
“It’s quite incredible,” he said. “I now must say great things to Mika Salo, because now the argument is out that he’s the only Finn to win here, so we are even.”
Vilander is back in action in the WeatherTech Championship with Risi Competizione next month for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida on March 15-18.
“MEMO BACK DRIVING” DAY PLANNED IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA: Racing star Memo Gidley announced on Sunday, Feb. 5 that he will be back driving go-karts this Sunday, Feb. 12 at SIM Raceway Kart track at Sonoma Raceway. Memo is planning to make his first laps after being injured in an accident during the 2014 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
“I have been waiting, for what seems like an eternity, to get that OK from my doctors and most recent back surgeon that I was healed and could go back to doing the things I want to do,” said Gidley. “One big inspiration in my recovery was the day that I could announce me being back driving to my family, friends, and supporters who have helped me heal and get to this point.”
Gidley’s injuries included several fractures and a concussion. With such extensive injuries, he has gone through eight surgeries, numerous physical therapy treatments, and healing techniques, as recommended by dozens of doctors and specialists. Throughout his recovery, Gidley also battled nerve pain as a result of scar tissue from damaged vertebrae.
“The path to where I am today was extreme, but I was so determined to get better that I pushed hard,” he said. “I honestly don’t know how a person would survive it without the kind of support from family, friends and people trying to help like I was fortunate to have. I can’t measure how much I appreciate them or thank people enough.”
The “Memo Back Driving” day is an open invitation to anybody that is interested in attending to witness his first laps in the Team RattleSnake Racing /Cameron/Aluminos 125cc shifter kart around Sim Raceway. The “GIDLEY NATION” race van also will be there having a BBQ and refreshments for all of his guests.
“My desire to take laps is unreal.” Gidley added. “And I can’t think of a better way to do it than with my family and friends.”
PERFORMANCE TECH ADDS O’WARD TO FULL-SEASON LINEUP: Performance Tech Motorsports has named Patricio O’Ward as its second full-time driver in the No. 38 ORECA FLM09.
O’Ward will join James French in the Prototype Challenge (PC) class for the remaining rounds of the 2017 season. In O’Ward’s first WeatherTech Championship race, he earned aRolex watch for taking the PC class victory in the Rolex 24 with Performance Tech and co-drivers French, Nick Boulle and Kyle Masson. O’Ward is one of the youngest winners in the history of the endurance race, being only 176 days’ shy of being the youngest winner ever.
His strong performance at Daytona and ability to be a great teammate is what sealed the deal with Team Principal Brent O’Neill. However, the relationship between O’Neill and O’Ward has been one in the making for nearly a year. O’Ward first joined Performance Tech in 2016 for the first two rounds of the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda (formerly Prototype Lites) at Sebring International Raceway.
O’Ward and O’Neill stayed in touch over the year and eventually the possibility of joining the team again, this time in the PC class of the WeatherTech Championship, came to fruition. O’Ward joined Performance Tech at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 and impressed O’Neill with his ability to get up to speed quickly. After the three-day test, they began laying out details to have O’Ward for the full season.
“We had opportunities arise going into Daytona and if we had a good showing we could get Pato’s deal done,” O’Neill said. “He’s really just awesome, he and James will be great together. It’ll be a good pairing and a plus for us is that we have two silver [-rated drivers] that are really fast. It gives us options in the pits with what we can do with strategy.
“The only thing we’ll really be working on with Pato is how he still loses sight of time during the race. He comes from the format of 45-minutes races. He’s from the sprint race mentality so every once in a while, you have to tell him to reign it in. But he’s so professional in the car. He doesn’t throw the car off and he turns competitive lap times. They’ll be awesome teammates and I know James is excited about it. They’re both great kids.”
For O’Ward, it was the combination of enjoying the car and team that propelled him to race in the WeatherTech Championship.
“The PC car is so different than what I’ve driven before,” O’Ward said. “It’s heavy but it’s not a slow car. It was impressive when I drove it. The PC has 540 horsepower, roughly I think. It’s an enjoyable car to drive. In the rain, it’s not so enjoyable. With the cold weather and rain in the Rolex 24 it was difficult to handle. That’s more the weather, though, not the car. It’s not as physical as I thought it would be. It’s cool to be a part of the last year of the class.
“I’m really happy that Performance Tech accepted me as a person and driver,” O’Ward continued. “I loved working with James, Nick and Kyle. I’m excited for the rest of the season. We had a strong car at Daytona and I think we’ll have a strong car moving forward. The objective is always to win, it’s not always possible but that’s the target, to win the championship. I just want to say thank you to Brent, the team, my family and all my sponsors for this opportunity.”
Promising Start for Motorsports In Action At Daytona
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Motorsports In Action (MIA) took to Daytona International Speedway the day before the Rolex 24 to contest the first round of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge’s 2017 season. The four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona launch saw MIA’s pair of McLaren 570S GT4s experience a very promising introduction to the series.
Chris Green and Jesse Lazare, both from Montreal, battled for the Grand Sport (GS) class lead in the No. 69 McLaren until contact resulted in a broken radiator, unfortunately ending their race and hopes of victory with only 30 minutes remaining. In the sister No. 68 Advanced Cardiovascular Center of Tampa Bay McLaren, Ontario’s Kenny Wilden and American teammate Rodney Randall had better luck, finishing the event in ninth.
This first event of the season marked the North American endurance racing debut for Montreal-based MIA, brought together by owner and veteran driver Eric Kerub. It was an emotional first race for the team, but undoubtedly confirmed the competitiveness of its two McLarens.
“Sure, our inexperience meant that we made a few mistakes in the pits that probably cost us a few seconds, but we challenged for the podium with both cars and that’s excellent,” said Kerub. “While the contact was unfortunate and we had to pull car (No.) 69, that’s part of racing. Jesse (Lazare) fought for it and that’s great, I'm happy that he pushed to go for the win.”
Lazare, the 2016 IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama Platinum champion, went on to further prove his capabilities in the most significant way possible when he won the Rolex 24 as part of the Alegra Motorsports lineup in the GT Daytona class.
“Overall, I’m proud of all of the drivers’ skills and I now know that we’re a team that can win,” Kerub added. “We’ll analyze all the data from Daytona and work with McLaren to do even better at the next race in Sebring.”
The BMW Endurance Challenge will be televised on FS1 this Sunday, Feb. 12 at 1:30 p.m. ET. The next round of the Continental Tire Challenge, the Sebring 120 at Sebring International Raceway, is set for March 17 as part of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida race weekend.
Last edited by senor honda; 02-17-2017 at 01:24 AM.
More on the Daytona Rolex 24 and the Mazda RT24 Prototypes
02-23-2017 07:51 PM
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