Cadillac

  • Heroes and underdogs

    Lewis Hamilton has cleaned out his social media history, apparently, after a thoughtless Christmas gaff involving some unfortunate comments about his little nephew wearing a princess dress caused the world champion a heap of angry heat.

    Yep, that's as good as it gets on Formula 1 news this winter. Let's just say it's been a particularly quiet off-season in the Grand Prix world.

    Thankfully, there's been plenty of real news to savour in sports car racing. Forget F1 - long-distance endurance racing has given motor racing fans plenty to chew on during the bleak midwinter.

    First, there was the 'Roar before the Rolex 24', the traditional test weekend at the Daytona International Speedway in early January that offered action-starved race fans something of real nourishment to savour.

    Cadillac's DPi dominated, with Action Express, Spirit of Daytona and Wayne Taylor Racing showing the rest the way. Felipe Nasr, recently of Sauber F1 fame, set the pace in the final day 'qualifying' session that decides garage allocations for the race itself on January 27-28. He's raced at Daytona before, way back in 2012, so the Brazilian shouldn't have any trouble recalibrating to long-distance sports car racing at the end of this month.

    Roar Before the Rolex 24 Cadillac DPi

    The bigger question will be whether Fernando Alonso - a slightly higher profile and more successful F1 ace - can make the transition as smoothly.

    The Spaniard was surprised at the lack of running he managed in his first taste of Daytona for the United Autosports team, driving an LMP2 Ligier JSP217. That was a consequence of the test schedule rather than a team shortfall, but whatever the reason, Alonso will be taking steps into the relative unknown come race weekend.

    He was only 12th fastest at the 'Roar' in a car that isn't entirely suited to Daytona's mix of oval banking and twisty road course, but speed is hardly likely to be a problem for one of the great racing drivers of the modern era. What will test him is to know when and how to use that awesome natural ability.

    Lapping traffic is a significant feature at Daytona, perhaps more than at any other sports car race thanks to the size of the grid and the - ahem - mixed quality of drivers. The Rolex 24 remains a genuine pro-am challenge, which makes for an unpredictable cocktail. Is a backmarker you are approaching an experienced hand who knows how to keep clear of contact while maintaining his own pace - or is it a so-called 'gentleman' driver who hasn't checked his mirrors? Alonso won't have a clue.

    Victory at the Rolex 24 certainly looks a long shot for the two-time F1 champion, sharing with impressive youngsters Lando Norris and Asian Le Mans Series LMP3 champion Phil Hanson. Still, his progress will be fascinating and he's sure to be a huge story at Daytona.

    And as the man himself has admitted, this is all about laying the groundwork for a future Le Mans campaign. When and in what car this will happen is impossible to say - sadly it looks unlikely to be 2018 and in a Toyota at this stage - but Le Mans is Alonso's real target.

    For another genuine global motorsporting hero, Le Mans has also long been in his sights, but like Alonso, Alex Zanardi will be testing the waters at Daytona - although he has at least raced in GTs before.

    The Italian, who lost his lower legs in a terrible Indycar crash back in 2001, told me when I interviewed him two summers ago that Le Mans was still an ambition for him. Now, with long-time manufacturer partner BMW, he has gone public on an aim to race at the Rolex 24 in 2019, with a specially adapted M8 GTE. After that, Le Mans will surely be next.

    Zanardi is hugely popular in America after his dominance of Indycar racing in the late 1990s - and his accident only lifted his folk-hero status to new heights.

    When I met him he was preparing for the Rio Paralympics, in his new sport of hand cycling. Success in Brazil added to his London medal haul in 2012, and he now has four golds and two silvers to add to the eight world titles he has won in this discipline. The man is quite incredible, up there with the most charismatic and inspiring racing drivers I ever had the good fortune to meet.

    He'll be a huge draw at Daytona next year.

    Many thousands of miles from the Florida speedbowl and a little closer to home, there was more to whet sports car appetites this week.

    The annual Autosport International racing car show took place in Birmingham, where the wraps came off Ginetta's striking new LMP1 car. Beside new racers from BR Engineering and Rebellion Racing, whose car will be seen for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show in March, the Ginetta represents a shot in the arm for privateer participation at Le Mans.

    Ginetta G60 LMP1 Launch

    As I wrote in my last blog for Speed Chills, new regulations promise to allow non-hybrid privateer entrant a genuine chance to compete with the technical masterpieces that have come from the factory teams in recent years - now reduced to one in the form of Toyota, following the consecutive withdrawals from first Audi and then Porsche.

    Former F1 team Manor Motorsport will run at least one Ginetta at Le Mans in June, and appear to carry genuine hope that the new rules will give them a shot. The evidence of 2016, when an LMP2 almost won overall thanks to the problems endured by the factory hybirds, offers support to that point of view.

    Sitting here right now in the depths of January, before the Ginetta has turned a wheel in anger, it's hard to believe Manor can really challenge Toyota. But the Japanese giant is famous for its abysmal record at the greatest race in the world - so who knows?

    The day of the underdog could be about to return.

    Whatever the reality, right now there is so much to look forward to as Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship begins a bright new era. And it's certainly more interesting than Lewis Hamilton's Twitter feed.

    POSTSCRIPT: Before I sign off, I must add a word or two about another hero: Dan Gurney, the great American all-rounder whose death was announced on Monday morning this week.

    For sports car fans, Gurney's headline achievement was sharing the winning Ford MkIV with AJ Foyt at Le Mans in 1967 - then subsequently inventing the tradition of spraying champagne.

    But of course, that was just one glorious moment in a wonderfully full life. Gurney could race anything, anywhere. A winner in F1, sports cars, Can-Am, Indycars, Trans-Am and NASCAR, he also had a brilliant engineer's brain and in the Eagle Mk1 F1 car, was perhaps responsible for the best-looking Grand Prix car of all time - and one in which he conquered Spa just a week before that Le Mans win.

    Later in life, Gurney's Eagles also took IMSA by storm in the high-powered GTP era of the 1980s and early '90s.

    His life and career straddled the eras like only a handful of other racing men - and perhaps most impressively of all, he remained a much-loved gentleman through it all.

    A great all-rounder in more ways than one, then. RIP.

    Damien Smith, former Editor of Motor Sport Magazine

  • Lamborghini win first ever 24 hour enduro

    Felipe Albuquerque brought the #5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac home with 808 laps complete to take the distance record and Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona victory. Albuquerque was under instruction from the team to lift and coast during the final hour, even switching off the engine completely in an effort to keep the overheating issue under control. He crossed the line with a 70 second lead over the #31 Whelen Engineering car to take his first overall victory at Daytona whilst Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa celebrate their third each.

    British GT4 Champion and Sunoco Challenge winner Stuart Middleton took the #31 car home in second place ahead of Colin Braun in the #54 CORE Autosport P2. The #32 United Autosport Ligier was handed P4 late in the day with Antonio Felix De Costa called into the pits for a penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Will Owen took the #32 car home 15 seconds ahead of De Costa. Middleton takes the record for the youngest podium finisher in the Rolex 24, a record he took from team mate Felipe Nasr who previously claimed it in the 2012 event.

    Taking 11th place overall, the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing GT won the GTLM class.

    "It was just an amazing 24-hour race," said Westbrook. "Racing with our team-mates, they're our friends, and racing that hard for 24 hours, there was just nothing in it. It felt like ages we were just one second apart. It was just incredible and was so intense. I thought we put on a really good show. To come away with the 200th win for Chip and have Dan Gurney on our car made it ever so sweet."

    "To get to drive a Ford GT is just a dream come true and to win the Rolex 24 is just awesome," added Briscoe.

    It was a disappointing start for BMW with the new M8 GTE which finished seventh and ninth in GTD. BMW felt they were hit badly by the Balance of Performance guidelines and will be looking to discuss this with IMSA officials before the next round of the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship in March at Sebring International Raceway.

    The #11 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini took the win in GTD, claiming Lamborghinis first ever 24 hour race victory, not just for the Huracan but overall. Despite starting at the back of the grid, Mirko Bortolotti, Rik Breukers, Franck Perera and Rolf Ineichen fought through the pack to take the win.

    Stefano Domenicali, the Chairman and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini, was delighted to see the Italian mark on the top step of the podium:
    "First of all I would like to congratulate the Grasser Racing Team and the Paul Miller Racing Team for this extraordinary result," said Domenicali. "The first and third position in GTD class represent something special, obtained in one of the most famous endurance races in the world. Along with them the drivers, who did a fantastic job and have conducted our cars in an impeccable way.

    "A special thanks to the whole team of Lamborghini Squadra Corse, from our Chief Technical Officer Maurizio Reggiani to the Head of Motorsport Giorgio Sanna and to all those who work with passion every day in motorsport at Sant'Agata Bolognese, but also worldwide in the various championships where Lamborghini is racing with its cars and its customer teams.

    "I was also particularly pleased to see the Italian flag waving on the podium in Florida. The United States is a reference market for us and having achieved such an important victory in the US gives us the boost to continue improving both on motorsport and product side."

  • Rolex 24 heads for record distance

    As the race closed in on the half distance mark, the two Team Penske Acura's and the two Action Express Racing Cadillacs were more than two laps clear on the rest of the field. The #7 Penske Acura held the lead in the hands of Ricky Taylor before the next round of pit stops with fierce competition from Joao Barbosa (#5 Mustang Sampling Racing) and Felipe Nasr in the #31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac. The young Brazilian's experience was shining through, and was demonstrated by a great move which saw the #31 jumped from fourth in to second. From the exit of the infield on to the banking, Nasr tucked in behind the #5 and #6 Acura's, around the banking and down the back straight before pulling out of the slip stream and beating both cars on the brakes into the bus stop chicane.

    The #2 Tequila Patron ESM and #23 United Autosport cars were both suffering mechanical faults. Ryan Dalziel was forced into the pits with gearbox issues on the #2 car whilst Fernando Alonso was forced into the pits with a brake master cylinder failure. Lando Norris took the wheel as the car emerged from the pits after a 40 minute stint in the garage.

    Ford Chip Ganassi Racing were dominating in GT Le Mans, Dirk Muller leading the way in the #66 car from the #67 of Ryan Brisco with just a couple of seconds between them. Corvette were standing strong in third and fourth with Laurens Vanthoor rounding out the top five in the #912 Porsche GT 911 RSR.

    In GT Daytona, the #33 Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes AMG of British GT and Blancpain racer Adam Christodoulou was leading the way from the #11 GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan of Rolf Ineichen.

    As we passed the 12 hour point, Graham Rahal lost control of the #7 Acura under breaking into turn one, with competition at the front so close, Rahal dropped down to fourth before he could get the car going again. Simon Pagenaud inherited the lead in the #6 sister car with Christian Fittipaldi taking second in the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac and Toyota factory driver Mike Conway moving into third in the #31 Whelen Engineering Racing car. The four cars were split by just 20 seconds with Fittipaldi and Conway running nose to tail.

    Ford were still running nose to tail in GTLM with Dirk Muller and Ryan Briscoe over a lap ahead of Mike Rockefeller and Marcel Fassler in the two Corvettes.

    By the end of hour 13 Jan Magnussen (#3) was one lap down on the two Fords whilst Oliver Gavin was two laps down in the #4.

    The front four were still out in front of the rest of the field, the cars swapping positions through the pitstops Mike Conway was in the lead by the end of hour thirteen. The gap between the four cars was beginning to grow and was now out to thirty five seconds. Dane Cameron held second place at the wheel of the #6 Team Penske Acura thirteen seconds behind whilst Christian Fittipaldi now back in third having led in the previous hour. Graham Rahal was still in fourth having spun in the previous hour and pushing to close the gap. Pipo Derani lost a lap on the leaders having regained in in the past hour. The #22 Tequila Patron ESM was two laps down in fifth place. The #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Jota sat sixth in the hands of Felix Rosenqvist. Ho-Pin Tung had issues in the sister Jackie Chan DC car left the track at the Bus Stop Chicane, damaging the rear wing and rear body work.

    Pipo Derani came in to the pits shortly into the fourteenth hour with smoke pouring from the engine. A blown turbo charger knocked the #22 Tequila Patron ESM out of contention. The #31 Cadillac continued to pull ahead at the front of the pack with just three cars left on the lead lap now. Having got into the car a couple of hours previously, young Lando Norris was lapping almost a second quicker than the race leaders.

    Filipe Albuquerque retook the lead at the end of hour 15 in the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac. The Portuguese driver lead a three way fight for the lead between the Cadillacs and the #7 Team Penske Acura which now had Helio Castroneves at the wheel. Eric Curran in the #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac began the hour in the lead from Action Express Racing team-mate Albuquerque but was soon delayed as rear brake light failure necessitated changing the rear wing in a off-sequence pit-stop. The stop dropped him a minute and a half behind his team-mate and had dropped a lap off the leader by the end of the hour. Albuquerque took a 12 second lead as a result.

    Bruno Senna sat in fourth place in the #32 United Autosports Ligier two laps down on the top 3. Former Audi driver Loic Duval held fifth in the #54 Core Autosports Oreca.

    In GTLM, Ford were still leading the way comfortably, Sebastien Bourdais leading the #67 Ford of Scott Dixon. Corvette were over a lap behind still, Antonio Garcia holding third place in the #3. The two Fords switched positions every couple of laps, the gap holding at less than a second as they swapped positions around the banking, it was a fantastic display of precision driving from the two cars, neither driver putting a foot wrong. Antonio Garcia was out on his own, one lap up on Tommy Milner but a lap behind the Fords.

    It was a tough debut for BMW who were debuting the M8 GTE. The #25 car of Philipp Eng spent a prolonged period of time behind the wall.

    In GTD, Alvaro Parente took the lead for Acura from the #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini and the #11 GRT Lamborghini that had been running nose to tail for most of the hour. Trent Hindman gave the #86 Acura over to Parente who quickly set about hunting down the #48 Lamborghini Perera under went a full brake change at the pit stop and dropped down the order to fifth.

    A third Full Course Yellow during hour 16 but all attention was on the outcome of unseen contact to the #7 Team Penske Acura saw the car pulled into the garage for repairs. Hello Castroneves dropped a number of laps and as a result, the #32 United Autosports car inherited third.

    The Full Course Yellow was caused by Jorg Bergmeister who ran wide through the Bus Stop Chicane, the Park Place Motorsports car span and made contact with the inside wall. Bergmeister got the car going again and continued on down in twelfth place in GTD. A number of cars took the opportunity to pit for new tyres and fuel under the FCY; the #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini took the opportunity for a brake replacement and tyres, gifting the lead back to the #11 GRT Lamborghini. The #48 returned to the race in third. The caution period lasted for fifteen minutes before returning to green. The #5 car lead the restart and quickly lapped the #31 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac which had suffered issues in the previous stint.

    Renger van der Zander suffered yet another right rear puncture before the team made the decision to withdraw the car from the race on safety grounds. Speaking on IMSA Radio, "I can't put into words how disappointing this has been for our partners, the team, the drivers" Wayne Taylor said after retiring the car. "We had a tyre failure with Jordan in the car once, we went to Continental and we were within the tyre pressures. We continued on and Renger had six or seven catastrophic failures. We have gone through so many parts on the car that now, because nobody can tell us what is happening, I can not afford to put a driver at risk."

    With the sun rising over Daytona, the #5 was pushed back into the garage for a service under Full Course Yellow conditions. The car had been losing water overnight resulting in overheating. The car was back on track with minimal delay. The #86 Michael Shank Racing Acura GTD caused the off FCY after briefly leaving the track.

    Having suffered from a multitude of issues throughout the race, the #55 Mazda Team Joest car pulled onto the side of the track, the rear of the car engulfed in flames. Jonathan Bomarito exited the car safely as the marshals extinguished the blaze. The #55 had been running fifteenth at the time, aiming for a top ten finish. The #77 sister was was later pushed in behind the wall. At the front, Colin Braun was pushing hard in the #54 CORE Autosports P2 car, hunting down third place which was currently occupied by the #32 United Autosport Ligier.

    Ford were still dominant in GTLM, the two #66 and #67 GT's a lap up on Corvette. The #3 car was arguably still in contention should something happen to either one of the Fords.

    Katherine Legge was slowly catching the GTD class leader in the #86 Acura NSX as the sun rose higher over the Florida coast line. Having run off the circuit and through an advertising banner at the International Horseshoe in front of other cars, Legge was under stewards investigation. Running through the advertising barrier resulted in debris and sandbags being scattered all over the track which led to a Full Course Yellow.

    Mike Conway's hopes of taking victory came to an end in the 19th hour. The #31 Cadillac lost three laps due to a leak in the radiator system which saw the car return to the its to be refilled. Unlike the #5 Cadillac which was suffering from similar issues, Conway pitted under full green flag running and lost a substantial amount of time to the race leaders. The problem struck for Conway in the midst of battle with Christian Fittipaldi as the pair raced through the Daytona infield. Fitipaldi was left with a comfortable lead but he was under pressure from Colin Braun who was fighting to reclaim a lap on the leaders. Brauns move on Fittipaldi meant he was now on the same lap as the third place #32 United Autosport Ligier and in genuine contention for third place. Braun took the quickest lap of the race at this point, taking two seconds from Will Own in the Ligier. Braun took third place shortly after, Paul Di Resta had clutch problems leaving the pits but eventually got going with the clutch removed. The #32 car was now running firth behind Ho-Pin Tung in the #78 Jackie Chan DC Oreca. Meanwhile, it was more bad luck for the #23 United Autosport Ligier as it was back behind the wall.

    The previous FCY had eliminated Fords advantage in GTLM, the #3 Corvette with Mike "Rocky" Rockenfeller was right under the rear wing of Ryan Briscoe in the #67 Ford but was unable to get by. The fight was on as the race entered the final hours. Adam Christodoulou was leading GTD but was out of sync on the pitstops, in reality, it was the #11 GRT Lamborghini with Lamborghini factory driver Mirko Bortolotti at the wheel that would hold the lead once Christodoulou stopped. The #11 GRT crew had put in a stunning performance having started the race last due to a qualifying infringement. but halfway through hour 19, with the Mercedes in the pits, Bortolotti took the lead from the #48 Paul Miller Motorsports Lamborghini. The #86 Michael Shank Acura held third place. The #29 Monaplast Land Audi of Christopher Mies had fought his way back up the field and now sat in sixth place. The #51 Spirit of Racing Ferrari ended the hour in the wall at the Bus Stop, Paul Dalla Lana made heavy contact with the tyre wall.

    Back at the front, Joao Barbosa held a four lap lead and backed off the pace a fraction to conserve the car, putting in a record length stint in the process of 24 laps. Felipe Nasr held second place in the #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac but he had Loic Duval rapidly closing the gap in the #53 Core Autosports Oreca. Both lead Cadillacs were still suffering from overheating issues but whilst Barbosa could ease off the pace to save the car, Nasr was having to push to hold of the advancing Duval.

    Despite the gap closing dramatically in GTLM between the Fords and third place Corvette at the end of the last caution period, both of the Chip Ganassi GTs managed to pull out a 40 second advantage by the end of hour 21. Risi Competition suffered another right rear puncture which dropped them to the rear of the GTLM field. Speculation from the pit lane during the night questioned whether Continental had issued 12 month old tyres which was resulting in the failures? The more likely cause of failures was the amount of green flag running we have seen this year. The 2018 Rolex 24 At Daytona is on track to be a record breaking distance race.

    Filipe Albuquerque held a comfortable lead as the race entered the penultimate hour of the 2018 Rolex 24 At Daytona. Albuquerque had backed off the ultimate pace to ensure the engine made it to the end of the race. As a result the four lap advantage the team had held just a couple of hours previously was now down to just one lap over the #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac. All of a sudden, having been 3 laps down, Mike Conway was now back in the game. His focus however was on the car behind him and securing a 1-2 finish for Action Express Racing. By the end of the hour, the CORE Autosport car had dropped back a lap on Conway.

    Slightly further behind, the battle was raging for fourth place between Bruno Senna (#32) and Antonio Felix de Costa in the #78 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca. De Costa was hit with a drive thru penalty for speeding in the pits which saw Senna extend his lead. Juan Pablo Montoya was also handed a drive thru penalty after forcing the #29 Audi of Kelvin van der Linde off the circuit on the infield Kink.

    The #23 United Autosports Ligier was back behind the wall with further undisclosed issues.

    In GTLM, it was the same old story; Ford out front, the #66 leading at this point in time as we near the end of hour 23 by just 2.3 seconds. Jan Magnussen was a lap off the pair down in third.

    Lamborghini continued to lead the way in GTD and are on track for their first ever 24 Hour race win. Lamborghini have never won a 24 hour race be-it Daytona, Nurburging, Le Mans or Spa to name but a few. It is Mirko Bortolotti who leads the way for Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini. The car that started last after a qualifying infringement, carries a 30 second lead over the #86 Michael Shank Racing Acura of Alvaro Parente.

  • Round Up of the Rolex 24 at Daytona 2017

    Last weekend marked the 55th edition of the Rolex 24 at Daytona and kick-started the 2017 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The race was filled with drama from the first hour and heavy rainfall putting the grid under a 2-hour long full course yellow in the early hours of the morning. With the full course yellows making 21 appearances over the 24 hours of racing it was evidently an action-packed race. 14 of the 55 entrants in the race failed to take the chequered flag, with the last retiree dropping out of the race with just half an hour left on the clock.

    From the beginning of the race weekend, it was clear that the Cadillac DPis were the dominant car on the field, taking fastest lap in all of the practice sessions and qualifying. The case did not change during the race. Although the VISIT FLORIDA Racing Riley/Multimatic did hold the lead of the race for around 30 laps during the 24 hours, it was primarily a fight between the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac and the Action Express Cadillacs for the overall win.

    There were a few challenges from other chassis in the Prototype class for the overall win but none of these came to light. The #22 Tequila Petron Nissan Onroak DPi looked to be in with a chance of challenging for the overall win during the night period of the race. However, heavy rainfall was making it very difficult for the drivers to get the tyres up to optimum racing temperature for a few laps after they had been in the pits. This caused great issues for the #22 as, with Brendon Hartley at the wheel, the New Zealand driver lost control of the car coming onto the banked corner and made contact with a GT car, damaging the steering on the Nissan. This incident took the #22 completely out of contention for the race, ending 17th overall and seventh in class.

    It was not just issues for the #22 during the race. The second Action Express car – number #31 – had a start-up issue from the beginning of the race. This was losing the car time during pit stops as the team had to take it behind the wall to bump start it in the garage. Seb Morris got into the car for the first time, having won his seat in the Sunoco Challenge, and put on an amazing display. He managed to get the #31 up to first overall and get a pit stop advantage on second place in his first stint.

    But that was where the good fortune of the #31 disappeared. All of Morris’ hard work was undone as the car failed to start up again in the pitlane. Rather than a simple start-up behind the wall, the car disappeared for around half an hour for more extensive repairs. It fell down the order and out of contention for the win. There were issues on the #5 Action Express Cadillac, but nothing as extensive as those issue to behold the #31. After 24 hours of racing, the final half an hour saw intense wheel-to-wheel racing for the overall lead of the race, with under a second splitting the leading pair.

    Using the pitstops, #5 Action Express had managed to get ahead and be leading going into the last few laps. The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing car was forced into a ‘do or die’ move as the end of the race got closer. As he tried to go up the inside into the first corner, leading to the infield section, the #10 made contact with the #5, spinning the Action Express car off into the off-field. Both cars managed to get through the accident unscathed, but it was a shock when the #10 was not handed an “advantage by contact” penalty. #10 Wayne Taylor Racing went on to take the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona overall win, with the #5 crew having to settle for second. Filipe Albuquerque, who was piloting the #5 at the end of the race, was furious about the result, claiming that in-race incidents happen but the Wayne Taylor Racing car should have waited for him to keep their race going wheel-to-wheel to the chequered flag and make the win of the race fair.

    The Prototype Challenge class saw the #38 Performance Tech Motorsport car as the only one not to succumb to a big issue during the 24 hours. They won the Prototype Challenge class with the two Starworks Motorsport cars retiring in the last few hours. The #8 and #88 Starworks cars had suffered a lot of damage, with them both being involved in heavy impacts that saw them in the garages for repairs for a long time. The #88 was hit by the #31 in a similar accident that fell upon Hartley in the #22 Tequila Petron car, whilst an off-track moment from the #8 Starworks Prototype Challenge car saw it spear into the side of the #73 GT Porsche, crashing it into the tyre barrier and taking the Porsche out of the race. The Porsche had been leading the GT Daytona class at the time. The #8 Starworks car was handed a ten-minute stop/go penalty for the incident after it had been in the pits for about four hours for repairs.

    Incidents during the race saw the two BAR1 Motorsports finishing 22 laps behind the leader of the class. The #20 and #26 cars appeared to have lost some performance from qualifying, losing their advantage over the #38 Performance Tech Motorsport car. The #38 managed to take the win in class from pole in class and barely had any challenge for the lead during the race.

    After locking out the top three in qualifying, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing had a much harder time during the race. Although they still held an advantage over the GT Le Mans field there was a much stronger challenge from behind through the 24 hours. In the end, four GT Le Mans cars were in contention for the win, with the cars all running wheel-to-wheel during the final handful of laps. What made the end of the race even more exciting was four different manufacturers in the top four at the end of the race, showing that Ford’s advantage from qualifying had been overcome during the 24-hour race.

    The #62 Risi Competizione looked to be the biggest threat for class-leader #66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing as they sat second on track behind the American team. The #62 had been the biggest competition to the Fords throughout the race and managed to keep coming back to second, sometimes first, after the pitstop cycles. However, the Porsche #911 was sitting third at the end of the race and looking for any opportunity to progress further up the field. The Corvette #3 was sitting fourth, also looking for a chance to get higher up the field but it didn’t quite have the pace of the leading three.

    Taking the opportunity when the #62 tried to make a move up the inside of #66 and went wide the #911 Porsche managed to steal second from the Ferrari 488 GTE and begin chasing down the Ford for first in class. The #62 had no chance to fight back as it fell into range of the #3 Corvette behind it, leaving it vulnerable to losing a podium altogether. As much as they tried the pace of the Porsche and Corvette were no match to those ahead in the Ford and the Ferrari, seeing the #66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing take the overall class win and the #911 Porsche and the #62 Ferrari finishing off the class podium.

    Of all the classes to be competing, the GT Daytona class had the closest racing of them all. During the 24-hour race there was consistently a different leader, with the top eight cars in class usually all being from different manufacturers. The class was too close to call before the race had started, and even with just 30-minutes left who was going to win was unpredictable.

    The unpredictable nature of the class was underlined when just half an hour of the race remained the leading #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 suddenly stopped on track. Sam Bird had been fighting back through the field, showing the superior pace of the Ferrari, and had just re-taken the lead when his car, with no warning, stopped out on track dropping him completely out of contention. There was not enough time left in the race to try and repair the car so last year’s GT Daytona Champion-winning car failed to finish the race.

    The #73 Porsche had been showing great pace during the first section of the race, leading the class and having Matthew McMurry perform impressively during his stints. It was unfortunate that the car was taken out of the race by the #8 Starworks Prototype Challenge car as it had been showing fantastic pace and could have been a contender for the class win had it have made it to the end of the race.

    The class was won in the end by the #28 Alegra Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R, with the #29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi R8 LMS second and the #33 Riley Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 rounding off the podium positions. It was a perfect reflection of the closely pegged GT3 cars in this class that the podium housed three different manufacturers. Six different manufactures were present in the top ten at the chequered flag, just as there had been on average through the 24-hours of racing.

  • Thrilling end to Rolex 24 At Daytona

    With four hours to go, Cadillac continue to dominate.

    The 21st hour began with the continuation of the battle between the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac and the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac, meanwhile, in GTLM, the six leading cars were all within a matter of seconds. The beginning of the hour saw the #55 Mazda DPi pull in to the pit lane with an oil fire at the rear of the car. Spencer Pigot escaped the car unharmed but the car remained in the pits, dropping out of the top five. Another yellow flag for a PC incident brought out by the #8 Starworks car Motorsports car spinning into the inside of turn one. This brought the pack closer together once again. The gap between the top three in P closed down to five seconds as the race restarted. The battle in GTLM was beginning to hot up between the #62 Ferrari and the #69 Ford GT. The #912 Porsche dropped out of contention due to a drive through penalty and fell two laps down. The #33 Riley Motorsports Mercedes cycled back in to the lead of GTD under pressure from the Michael Shank Acura cars. Sam Bird took the lead in the #63 Ferrari towards the end of the hour. A third caution of the hour was called after the #81 DragonSpeed car hit the barrier, smashing its rear wing.

    With two hours left, Cadillac still held a comfortable lead, the VISIT FLORIDA Racing #90 was the best of the rest, running third. The two Cadillac’s were fighting hard between themselves, swapping positions. Filipe Albuquerque took the lead from Christian Fittipaldi and pulled out a 20 second advantage. Despite the clear pace advantage of the Cadillacs, VISIT FLORIDA Racing were still on the lead lap. Just one lap back, the #2 Tequila Patron ESM sat fourth with the #13 Rebellion Racing running fifth in class, eight laps down. Ben Hanley began the hour having just lost control of the DragonSpeed Oreca into the Bus Stop. The car limped back to the pits for repairs, body work littering the track. The #38 Performance Tech Motorsports car dominated the PC class, 24 laps clear of the second place #26 car.  The lead six cars continued to battle in GTLM, the #66 Ford leading the way from the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari second ahead of the #68 and #69 Fords. The #3 Corvette and #911 Porsche completed the six car train that was running almost nose to tail.

    Heartbreak hit in GTD, Sam Bird pulled off the circuit with smoke streaming from the back of the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari at the end of the hour. The #63 Corsa pulled over with the rear wheels locked on the inside of turn six. It would appear the engine had blown and seized. This handed the lead to the #29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi.

    The #90 VISIT FLORIDA car inherited the lead as the next pitstop cycle begun, the #10 Cadillac fell in to third with a slow stop. Felipe Albuquerque took the advantage in the #5 and set about building his advantage as the trio sliced through the traffic. Starworks Motorsport officially retired their cars from the race.

    Meanwhile, in GTLM, Corvette took the lead through the pit stops, holding on to the lead before eventually losing out to the #66 Ford and the #62 Ferrari towards the end of the hour. GTD was still a five way fight as the race reached the end of the 23rd hour. The #33 Riley began the hour on top, under pressure from the #29 and #28 cars, both of whom passed at the end of the hour. The #28 Alegra Motorsports car was on a charge as the race entered the final hour, passing three cars in as many laps. Michael Christensen put his car into second behind Connor De Phillippi. The hour ended under caution as the bonnet was ripped off the #93 Michael Shank Racing car.

    At the end of a fantastic, Rolex 24 At Daytona, it was the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac that took the win after a controversial move to pass the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac. The aggressive move down the inside into turn one with just five minutes remaining assured victory for the #10 which made contact and spun the #5 off the circuit. Albuquerque got the car restarted and set off after the #10. The move was investigated by the stewards and deemed legal. As a result, Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor, Max Angelelli and Jeff Gordon took the win by a margin of just 0.671 seconds. Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi took second place with the #90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Riley coming home an unexpected third. Marc Goossens, Renger van der Zande and Rene Rest bringing the car home one lap down. The trio put in a fantastic performance but were just unable to match the pace of the Cadillacs.

    The #38 Performance Tech Motorsports car came home first, twenty two laps ahead of the #26 car. The #20 BAR1 Motorsports car completed the podium, the other two cars in class, both run by Starworks were retired.

    The final half hour of the race, went down to the wire in GTLM with three different cars leading the class. But eventually, it was the #66 Ford GT with Dirk Mueller at the wheel coming out on top. Mueller fought his was passed the #62 Ferrari of James Calado through the first couple of corners with just 30 minutes to run, the pair traded paint as they fought their way through the infield. The close fought battle allowed the #911 to sneak through a gap and into second place, demoting the Ferrari into third. Ferrari fought back though, Ginacarlo Fisichella crossed the line just a matter of tenths off the Porsche. After 24 hours, the top seven in GTLM, were split by just 7.5 seconds. The # Corvette took fourth ahead of the #69 Ford, #912 Porsche and #68 Ford.

    Going into the final hour in GTD, it was a five way battle for the win; ultimately, it was the #28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche which took the win by just 0.293 seconds over the #29 Audi. The #33 Riley Motorsports Team AMG Mercedes crossed the line 5.5 seconds off the lead with the #57 Stevenson Motorsports Audi and the #86 Michael Shank Racing Acura rounding out the top five, all of which, were separated by just 10 seconds.

    Jeff Gordon became the fourth driver in history to win both the Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24 after the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac took first place.

    "This is very surreal to me, this whole experience and moment, to have this on my resume," said Gordon. "It's a very elite group that's won the Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24 together. That’s something I'm very, very proud of. But I think more than anything is this experience for me of – not to take anything away from 2007 [where he finished third] with Max and Jan [Magnussen] and Wayne [Taylor] – what amazing race car drivers both Ricky and Jordan are and how difficult this race is.

    You know, this experience to me was about building this bond and this friendship that I didn't expect to happen because of the way they welcomed me in, and we had a lot of fun along the way, they answered all my questions because I had a lot of them, and they helped me adapt, and that’s what helped us as a group, I think, to go out there and win.

    And then I was able to learn just how talented they are. I mean, I was so impressed while watching all night. I was glued to the TV every second, every lap. I couldn’t sleep because I wanted to watch these guys do what they did in the rain, in the cold, in the most treacherous conditions, and they did it at a level, that I'll be honest, I'm not capable of doing, and I was so impressed. Then you go to the last stint of a 24 hour race and you see it come down to that, and it was a thrill of a lifetime, and I’m just so honoured to be sitting here and be a part of this experience."

    Gordon’s team mate, Max Angelleli will take retirement now that the race is done.

    "I'm very happy. Happy for what I did and what I’ve achieved with the boys and Jeff today, to finish my career with a win, a big win like this one in the Rolex 24, it's great. You know, I'm thankful to the Taylors, the family." said Angelleli.

    The biggest talking point of the final moments, has to be the coming together between Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque.

    "The way I saw it, we came through GT traffic and I was closer than I had been" said Taylor. "He’d been struggling in turn one. Their car didn’t look very good there, and we were really strong on the brakes. I had thought about doing this for years and years, and this has always been something – people always open up after that little kink in turn one – they open their hands a little bit, and it’s just so easy to release the brake there and pop in there.

    If you get enough alongside, you can make it work, and I think he saw me coming, he saw me committing, and he closed the door. If he knew I was committing, why would you close the door and make us crash?"

    Understandably, Albuquerque saw things rather differently.

    "It was a good fight until I got hit, to be honest,” said Albuquerque. “There is not much to say. I had some GTs ahead of me so I could not brake so late.

    I closed the door and then I got spun. The officials took the decision, it is what it is, and we finished second. In Tour de France, when one guy falls, the other guys wait for him. This is a big race, and we dive in and brake late. It happens. We could see Wayne Taylor, the dad, with his hands on his head.

    If he’s a true racer who did a mistake, just back off. Wait, don’t leave. And he left! A true racer, in my opinion, in the end, deep inside, I’d feel a little bit ashamed of the win."