Following a late-race dual with Wayne Taylor Racing, Action Express Racing broke through to claim victory in the 52nd Rolex 24 at Daytona, the opening round of the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
The No. 5 Corvette DP took the overall win in the hands of Sebastien Bourdais, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi. The trio held off WTR’s No. 10 Corvette DP, driven by Max Angelelli, Jordan, Ricky and Wayne Taylor, by 1.461 seconds after 695 laps.
A late-race caution inside of the final 25 minutes flew when the No. 22 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America went off course. Barbosa hung on against Angelelli after the restart to secure Action Express’ second Rolex 24 win, having also won on the team’s debut in 2010 in a Porsche Riley.
The second Action Express entry, the No. 9 Millennium-backed Corvette DP driven by Brian and Burt Frisselle, John Martin and Fabien Giroix, rounded out the podium. Spirit of Daytona’s No. 90 Corvette DP, driven by Mike Rockenfeller, Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante, making it a Corvette 1-2-3-4.
The No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford of Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Marino Franchitti and Kyle Larson appeared to be en route to a fourth place finish but retired in the final hour due to an issue with the car’s floor.
It promoted the No. 6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Oreca 03 Nissan of Klaus Graf, Lucas Luhr and Alex Brundle to a fifth place finish, the best of the P2 runners after being the only ACO-spec prototype to have a relatively trouble-free race.
Another P2 car, No. 42 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan, lost more than 15 laps in the sixth hour due to alternator failure but finished eighth overall, behind two of the top-placed GTLM cars.
A number of other Prototype contenders hit trouble throughout the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic, most notably the defending race-winning No. 01 Ganassi entry of Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Jamie McMurray and Sage Karam, which lost 30 laps just before halfway due to an accident overnight before retiring with engine failure with less than two hours to go.
The No. 60 Michael Shank Racing entry, the other Ford EcoBoost-powered DP, lost first gear early on before replacing the entire gearbox in the morning, which cost the 2012 race winners three hours.
The DeltaWing, which showed promise throughout the week, retired in the 17th hour with gearbox failure following fuel pump issues and contact with the wall during the night. Both debuting Mazda SKYACTIV-D powered diesel prototypes failed to finish after overheating and intercooler issues.
A heavy accident in the third hour involving the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP of Memo Gidley and Matteo Malucelli’s No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia GT resulted in a red flag for more than an hour.
Both drivers were transported to Halifax Medical Center, with Gidley undergoing surgery to his left leg and arm, while also having an unstable fracture to his back that will need to be operated on. Malucelli is believed to have escaped serious injuries, although no confirmation has been made.
Prototype Challenge class honors went to CORE autosport’s Colin Braun, Jon Bennett, Mark Wilkins and James Gue following a near-flawless run for the three-time class champions, which had started from the pole.
The No. 54 Oreca FLM09 enjoyed a spirited battle with the No. 25 8Star Motorsports entry of Tom Kimber-Smith, Rob Huff, Mike Marsal and team boss Enzo Potolicchio, which saw both cars swap the lead though the night.
However, the CORE entry managed to open up a one-lap lead by the morning and hold onto the class win, finishing ahead of Kimber-Smith.
The No. 18 Performance Tech Motorsports car completed the podium, thanks to a late-race fire for the contending No. 7 Starworks entry of Kyle Marcelli, who was running in second with just more than two hours to go.
RSR Racing’s Bruno Junqueira led early but suffered a broken cylinder head in the first hour. It gave the top spot to the No. 8 Starworks car of Renger van der Zande, which lost 30 laps just after the red flag due to power steering issues.
Other cars to hit trouble early included the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports car, which lost 10 laps with an alternator change. It however managed to come back for a fourth place finish in class. RSR’s No. 08 car, meanwhile, retired due to an accident.
Porsche North America and Flying Lizard Motorsports captured the GT Le Mans and GT Daytona class victories after a dramatic ending.
Porsche’s win with the 911 RSR follows up a 1-2 finish in last year’s GTE Pro class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Nick Tandy, Richard Lietz and Patrick Pilet took the win in the No. 911 car. The No. 911 was one of two GTLM cars in the top 10 overall, as it finished sixth in the 67-car field. This marks the 40th 911 victory at Daytona.
Meanwhile Flying Lizard, which had never tasted much success at Daytona in its history, was unofficially awarded the GTD class victory in the No. 45 Audi R8 LMS driven by Spencer Pumpelly, Markus Winkelhock, Tim Pappas and Nelson Canache.
On the final lap, Level 5 Motorsports’ No. 555 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, driven by Alessandro Pier Guidi, was assessed a stop-and-hold plus 75 second penalty for what was deemed avoidable contact with Winkelhock.
The two were engaged in a thrilling battle in the final 10 minutes, which only occurred after a full course caution was thrown when Alex Job’s No. 22 Porsche 911 GT America ran off course at the first hairpin.
On the final lap, at the Kink, Winkelhock attempted to pass at the outside of the left-handed corner and went off course. Pier Guidi moved through the corner but was assessed the penalty there afterwards.
The penalty drops the No. 555, driven by Pier Guidi, Scott Tucker, Jeff Segal, Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler, unofficially off of the podium.
Flying Lizard only entered the fray in the second half of the race, when Winkelhock and Pumpelly helped overcome a several-lap deficit.
Pumpelly took the lead from Bell into the 22nd hour, but lost the spot after an emergency pit stop for fuel an hour later. Pumpelly handed off to Winkelhock for the final hour, but Pier Guidi brought the No. 555 home to the finish despite a late-race caution that bunched the field.
Snow Racing’s No. 58 Porsche 911 GT America of Jan Heylen, Madison Snow and Marco Seefried finished behind the pair on the road and should be promoted to second, in the GTD class’ only three-driver lineup.
Other cars that impressed included the No. 72 SMP/ESM Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, which finished fourth on the road, the second Flying Lizard Audi (No. 35) in fifth, and the second Level 5 Ferrari, the No. 556 that finished sixth.
In general, Porsche’s new 911 GT Americas struggled to keep pace given a straight line speed gap; it was a sentiment also echoed by Turner Motorsport with its new GT3-spec BMW Z4 GT3.
The lone SRT Viper GT3-R had clutch and differential issues in its first race; meanwhile front-end issues plagued a promising outing, pace-wise, from the No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage.
The GTLM battle was more or less a battle of attrition, although the winning lineup in the No. 911 led often throughout the night.
Oftentimes the No. 911’s toughest competition came internally, from the sister No. 912, but the car retired at sunrise with engine issues while leading.
The SRT Viper GTS-Rs each took their turns leading early, but between broken steering units and front end damage affecting the Nos. 91 and 93 cars, they fell from winning contention.
Corvette’s No. 3 C7.R retired due to overheating in the engine, and the sister No. 4, which was second, went to the garage in the 22nd hour to change the gearbox. The car fell outside the top five after a 30-minute fix.
Risi Competizione, of course, never got the true chance to showcase the pace of its Ferrari F458 Italia after the severe accident in the third hour involving Matteo Malucelli.
That left the No. 55 BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE and No. 91 Viper, which minimized its losses, to benefit for podium position after surviving rather than conquering the field with outright pace.
The No. 55 inherited third place in class when the sister No. 56 went to the garage in the 21st hour with a right rear wheel bearing issue. The Viper picked up third when the No. 4 Corvette went behind the wall.Action Express Racing, Christian Fittipaldi, IMSA, Joao Barbosa, Rolex 24, Rolex 24 at Daytona, Sebastien Bourdais, Sports Cars, TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, Wayne Taylor Racing