Chip Ganassi Racing wins drama-filled Rolex 24

The No. 02 Chip Ganassi team celebrate their victory at the 2015 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.

Michael L. Levitt

 

Following a drama-filled final 30 minutes that saw implications in two of the four classes, Chip Ganassi Racing powered through to claim overall victory in the 53rd Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Scott Dixon took the No. 02 Riley-Ford DP to a 1.333-second win over the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Sebastien Bourdais, following a late-race caution and driver time miscalculation that shook up the fight for top honors.

The twice-around-the-clock endurance classic developed into a two-horse race in the closing stages between Dixon’s Ganassi entry and the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP of Jordan Taylor.

While Dixon led into the final hour after getting around Jordan Taylor for the lead following the second-to-last round of pit stops, the WTR Corvette DP pitted while under the final yellow to put Ricky Taylor aboard due a drive time miscalculation.

Had Jordan Taylor finished the race, he would have gone over the four-hour maximum driver time in a six-hour period.

Ricky Taylor restarted in third with eight minutes to go but was forced to serve a stop-and-go penalty for entering a closed pit. As a result, he, brother Jordan and Max Angelelli had to settle for a third place overall finish.

Bourdais and co-drivers Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi benefitted from WTR’s misfortune to finish second, rebounding from a disconnected wire connector in the fuel pump in the ninth hour, where they lost three laps.

While Ganassi becomes a six-time Rolex 24 winner, Dixon notches his second Rolex watch, while co-drivers Tony Kanaan, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larsen each claim their first Daytona 24 win.

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The win also marked the first 24-hour win for Ford’s EcoBoost engine, which debuted here one year ago with Ganassi and the Michael Shank Racing teams.

Additionally, NASCAR ace McMurray joins A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti to have won the Daytona 500 and Rolex 24.

The No. 90 VisitFlorida.com Corvette DP of Richard Westbrook, Michael Valiante and Mike Rockenfeller finished fourth, followed by the No. 31 Action Express/Whelen entry, which was classified 7th overall but 5th in the Prototype class.

Late-race clutch issues for the No. 01 Ganassi entry, led by Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, ended in retirement, while a problem with the left-front suspension in the final three hours dashed hopes for Michael Shank Racing’s Ligier JS P2 Honda, which had run inside the top-five.

The pole-sitting car salvaged a sixth place finish in class and 11th place overall result.

The P class saw an unusual high rate of attrition, with less than half of the 16 starters being classified at the finish.

Five of the six P2 cars failed to get to the finish, including the No. 57 Krohn Racing Ligier JS P2 Judd, which retired in the sixth hour with engine failure.

Both of the debuting Tequila Patron ESM HPD ARX-04bs showed promise but battled reliability woes. The No. 2 car lost power in the opening hours, although the No. 1 entry impressed through the first half, and even briefly led in the hands of Scott Sharp but suffered gearbox failure overnight.

Mazda also had its time in the spotlight, with the No. 70 Mazda SKYACTIV-D prototype of Tom Long leading overall for the first time in the TUDOR Championship. While showing significant improved pace, both Mazdas dropped out with oil pressure (No. 70) and overheating (No. 07) issues overnight.

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The DeltaWing, a pre-race favorite based on its pace at the Roar, fought gearbox issues all weekend and was the first retirement in the second hour.

Prototype Challenge class honors went to PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports following a unpredictable final half-hour that saw the leader crash out in dramatic fashion.

Following a dominant race that saw his CORE autosport Oreca FLM09 hold control from the ninth hour, Colin Braun and his three co-drivers appeared to be en route to back-to-back class victories.

However, their race ended in flames on the backstretch after Braun slammed into the wall following contact with another car earlier that lap that caused a suspected tire puncture.

It handed the lead to Tom Kimber-Smith, who took the Bobby Oregel-led PR1 squad to its first-ever Rolex 24 win, after rebounding from a six-lap deficit early in the race.

Kimber-Smith shared driving duties with Mike Guasch, Andrew Novich and Andrew Palmer, marking all four drivers’ maiden win at Daytona, completing much of the race without power steering.

The tight-knit PR1/Mathiasen squad becomes one of the few teams to have claimed class victories at Daytona, Sebring and Petit Le Mans.

The No. 16 BAR1 Motorsports entry of Johnny Mowlem, Martin Plowman, Tomy Drissi, Tom Papadopoulos and team owner Brian Alder finished one lap behind in second.

Owing to the high rate of attrition, only three of the eight starters in the spec prototype class took the checkered flag at the end.

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The No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R (GT Le Mans) and No. 93 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R (GT Daytona) emerged victorious in the GT categories.

Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Ryan Briscoe shared the winning Corvette. Meanwhile Kuno Wittmer, Dominik Farnbacher, Al Carter, Cameron Lawrence and Ben Keating were in the winning Viper.

GTLM was a war of attrition for the second consecutive year, while GTD saw the Riley Motorsports contingent emerge a much stronger presence in the class after debuting the GT3-spec Viper at this race last year.

Despite the tough race, the GTLM class top two still ended an impressive fifth and sixth overall. A year ago, they were sixth and seventh.

The No. 3 Corvette and No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE were realistically the only cars of the 10 entered in class that didn’t encounter any major drama.

The Corvette with Magnussen, Garcia and Briscoe behind the wheel, was a top three or four regular for the most of the race. Beyond the full-season pairing, Briscoe’s overnight stints were impressive and kept the car near the top of the leaderboard.

BMW’s No. 25 car encountered a bit of early drama with a left rear puncture incurred after contact occurred between Bill Auberlen and his nemesis Nick Tandy.

Otherwise, the other issue that affected the car was when Bruno Spengler had an off entering the bus stop and tore off the rear body work in the 18th hour. He pitted for repairs, and lost one position.

Werner got ahead of Garcia in the final three hours, but in the 23rd hour, Garcia got back ahead when Werner encountered a slow stop.

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His rear wheels spun and the delay cost him the lead. Still, this marks the second straight runner-up for BMW, accomplished this year with Werner, Auberlen, Spengler and Augusto Farfus.

The sister No. 4 Corvette finished, if possible, a disappointing third after racing neck-and-neck with the No. 3 for the first 16 to 18 hours of the race.

But in the 18th hour, a cut right front tire and body repair cost the No. 4 two laps with Oliver Gavin behind the wheel.

Once the sun rose, the team’s comeback was thwarted when Tommy Milner sustained more body damage as a prototype nearly stopped out of turn 6. Gavin, Milner and Simon Pagenaud ended third.

Elsewhere, the second BMW ended up fourth, after a day where John Edwards was contacted from the rear and pushed into another car. That cost them 29 laps and ended their chances.

The No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR, which won in 2014, ended fifth in class but repaired and damaged after its coming together with the team car in the 12th hour.

Aston Martin’s race never really got going with two early-race penalties and a stopping on course in the opening hours. Despite several trips to the garage, it did make the finish in sixth.

As mentioned, the No. 912 Porsche was damaged beyond repair in the team car accident. The No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 RSR ran impressively for 18 hours in the top three or four before being sidelined with a drivetrain issue.

Ferrari’s race also saw disappointment with the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia retired just before the 11-hour mark due to an electrical engine misfire, and the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia damaged beyond repair after Francois Perrodo’s moving onto the track and contacting the No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3.

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In GTD, Riley Motorsports dominated most of the race with both the No. 93 and the sister No. 33, with Jeroen Bleekemolen, Marc Goossens, Ben Keating, Sebastiaan Bleekemolen and Al Carter.

The No. 93 car took the GTD win from starting 19th and last in class, but quickly made it into the leading pack.

Even so, there were some 60 lead changes in GTD, with the class-winning No. 93 car leading five times and taking the lead for the final time with an hour and 45 minutes to go.

The No. 33 fell back due to a wiring issue, and that resigned them to an unrepresentative ninth place in class.

The No. 22 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America ran a consistent, solid race with all four of its drivers.

Leh Keen, Cooper MacNeil, Andrew Davis and Australian V8 Supercars ace Shane van Gisbergen drove a trouble-free race, with “the Giz” getting to bring the car home to the finish.

Meanwhile the No. 58 Dempsey/Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America rebounded from an early, several-lap penalty for an improper pass around, a door change on the left side and other issues to keep it running and emerge on the podium.

Jan Heylen and Madison Snow reprise their result of 2014, joined by Patrick Dempsey and Philipp Eng this time around.

AF Corse finished fourth in the No. 49 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 after a trouble-free, quiet but clean race from Pasin Lathouras, Matt Griffin, Michele Rugolo and Rui Aguas.

Audi made it into the top-five courtesy of the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS, driven by Dion von Moltke, Christopher Haase, Rene Rast and Bryce Miller. That car had its hood come loose in the morning hours and needed left front bodywork repairs, but otherwise held together.

The pair of Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia GT3s were unlucky to end sixth and 14th, with the No. 63 car falling back due to reported clutch issues and the sister No. 64 having been involved in a major accident in the morning hours.

The pole-sitting No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 got knocked out after being hit by the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari.

Lastly, the car with the strangest day was the No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche 911 GT America, which lost sixth gear but recovered, then hit an opossum and returned. The quartet of Andy Lally, John Potter, Martin Ragginger and Marco Seefried ended 11th on the day.

The second round of the TUDOR Championship, as well as the Patron Endurance Cup is the Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 21.