2018 Daytona Rolex 24

Click Here to Begin Slideshow Photos courtesy Gary Rosier. There were multiple milestones at this past weekend’s 56th Rolex 24 at Daytona, the season-starting race for IMSA’s WeatherTech sports car championship. Fernando Alonso’s fascination with different types of motorsports activities brought the two-time Formula 1 champion to the USA for the second time in 12 months; he ran the 101st Indianapolis 500 last May rather than taking part in the Monaco Grand Prix, an exercise that he certainly enjoyed - until his Honda engine expired mid-race. Engine expiration didn't afflict Alonso in his United Autosports Ligier JS P217 LMP2 entry, but plenty of poor luck hindered the forward motion of both Alonso and his McLaren F1 team’s reserve driver, Lando Norris. Their sister car, the No. 32 Ligier, finished fourth overall while the No. 23 took 13th in class on debut. Blame a puncture, brake and throttle sensor issues for the poor result. The No. 32 had a clutch issue with just five hours remaining, falling from the podium to fourth. This was the final race for Scott Pruett, 57, who can claim five overall wins in this winter twice-around-the-clock classic. As he co-drove the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC-F to a ninth place result in the competitive GTD class, Pruett dealt with handling issues that didn’t reveal themselves during the pre-race testing session, or in practice and qualifying. “In about 12 hours, I did, I think, about five and a half hours of posting laps. It was interesting,” Pruett revealed, “because we had really good pace at the opening of the race where we just couldn’t maintain it. It’s not uncommon.” That said, Pruett was pleased with the progress the 3GT Racing team had made since this Lexus debuted at Daytona a year earlier. Those two drivers received the most acclaim and attention during the race meeting, even as reigning race and series champions Wayne Taylor Racing were mostly silent as their record of success in this grueling event was demolished. A right-rear tire issue on their Cadillac DPi felled WTR this year after a trouble-free five-year run of finishing second, second, third, second and first in the Rolex race. The team retired after 555 of the completed 808 total laps (a race lap record), credited with 15th after starting first. Race winners Action Express Racing, who also race a Cadillac DPi in the Prototype category, celebrated a third Rolex 24 victory for Mustang Sampling drivers Joao Barbosa (2010, 2014, 2018) and Christian Fittipaldi (2004, 2014, 2018), even as their distance co-driver Filipe Albuquerque avenged his loss last year to the Wayne Taylor Racing crew; he earned a 2013 GT class win. Vanquishing a field of 20 prototypes, this team battled through a heavy rainstorm early in the race and overcame an overheating Cadillac engine late in the event. Action Express’ lead over its sister Whelen Engineering team was good enough that both cars, facing the same overheating Cadillac engine issues, were able to slow and nurse their cars back to the checkered flags after 24 hours, one minute and 32 seconds of ferocious competition that saw only four full-course caution periods. Albuquerque, who drove to the finish, had “alarms going with the temperature and I was looking all the time to the water temperature and oil temperature, flashing on and off at the same time. I am seeing the 31 and the 54 (Core Autosport Oreca 07 LMP2) gaining laps and laps and I had to overtake the GT cars at the same time. It was really hard to manage.” Still, he persevered and avenged a punt on the last lap of the 2017 race that scuttled any chance of victory. Acura Team Penske, who had competed with a different car in the season closing Petit Le Mans last October, were expected to do exceptionally well with their star-filled DPi Acura, yet were relegated to ninth and tenth places at the close of 24 hours. They were held back by contact and by teething issues, which will no doubt be addressed before the second, long-distance race of the year at Sebring in mid-March. In the GTLM class, Chip Ganassi Racing recorded its 200th victory overall (Ganassi races sports cars, Indy cars and NASCAR) with the No. 67 Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon finishing 11th overall; their sister Ford GT, the No. 66, finished second in class while Corvette Racing, pole sitters for this race, took third and 13th overall. GRT Grasser Racing Team’s Lamborghini Huracan GT3 earned its first Rolex 24 victory in the GTD class, followed home by Michael Sank Racing with Curb-Agajanian’s Acura NSX GT3. The winners get to celebrate through to March, when most of the 50 runners in this year’s race reconvene on the bumpy Sebring International Raceway road course for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. Will there be a reprise? Tradition seems to think so, but this field is so deep that all classes will be up for grabs at the second race of the year.

2018 Daytona Rolex 24

Click Here to Begin Slideshow

Photos courtesy Gary Rosier.

There were multiple milestones at this past weekend’s 56th Rolex 24 at Daytona, the season-starting race for IMSA’s WeatherTech sports car championship.

Fernando Alonso’s fascination with different types of motorsports activities brought the two-time Formula 1 champion to the USA for the second time in 12 months; he ran the 101st Indianapolis 500 last May rather than taking part in the Monaco Grand Prix, an exercise that he certainly enjoyed - until his Honda engine expired mid-race.

Engine expiration didn't afflict Alonso in his United Autosports Ligier JS P217 LMP2 entry, but plenty of poor luck hindered the forward motion of both Alonso and his McLaren F1 team’s reserve driver, Lando Norris. Their sister car, the No. 32 Ligier, finished fourth overall while the No. 23 took 13th in class on debut. Blame a puncture, brake and throttle sensor issues for the poor result. The No. 32 had a clutch issue with just five hours remaining, falling from the podium to fourth.

This was the final race for Scott Pruett, 57, who can claim five overall wins in this winter twice-around-the-clock classic. As he co-drove the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC-F to a ninth place result in the competitive GTD class, Pruett dealt with handling issues that didn’t reveal themselves during the pre-race testing session, or in practice and qualifying.

“In about 12 hours, I did, I think, about five and a half hours of posting laps. It was interesting,” Pruett revealed, “because we had really good pace at the opening of the race where we just couldn’t maintain it. It’s not uncommon.” That said, Pruett was pleased with the progress the 3GT Racing team had made since this Lexus debuted at Daytona a year earlier.

Those two drivers received the most acclaim and attention during the race meeting, even as reigning race and series champions Wayne Taylor Racing were mostly silent as their record of success in this grueling event was demolished. A right-rear tire issue on their Cadillac DPi felled WTR this year after a trouble-free five-year run of finishing second, second, third, second and first in the Rolex race. The team retired after 555 of the completed 808 total laps (a race lap record), credited with 15th after starting first.

Race winners Action Express Racing, who also race a Cadillac DPi in the Prototype category, celebrated a third Rolex 24 victory for Mustang Sampling drivers Joao Barbosa (2010, 2014, 2018) and Christian Fittipaldi (2004, 2014, 2018), even as their distance co-driver Filipe Albuquerque avenged his loss last year to the Wayne Taylor Racing crew; he earned a 2013 GT class win. Vanquishing a field of 20 prototypes, this team battled through a heavy rainstorm early in the race and overcame an overheating Cadillac engine late in the event.

Action Express’ lead over its sister Whelen Engineering team was good enough that both cars, facing the same overheating Cadillac engine issues, were able to slow and nurse their cars back to the checkered flags after 24 hours, one minute and 32 seconds of ferocious competition that saw only four full-course caution periods.

Albuquerque, who drove to the finish, had “alarms going with the temperature and I was looking all the time to the water temperature and oil temperature, flashing on and off at the same time. I am seeing the 31 and the 54 (Core Autosport Oreca 07 LMP2) gaining laps and laps and I had to overtake the GT cars at the same time. It was really hard to manage.” Still, he persevered and avenged a punt on the last lap of the 2017 race that scuttled any chance of victory.

Acura Team Penske, who had competed with a different car in the season closing Petit Le Mans last October, were expected to do exceptionally well with their star-filled DPi Acura, yet were relegated to ninth and tenth places at the close of 24 hours. They were held back by contact and by teething issues, which will no doubt be addressed before the second, long-distance race of the year at Sebring in mid-March.

In the GTLM class, Chip Ganassi Racing recorded its 200th victory overall (Ganassi races sports cars, Indy cars and NASCAR) with the No. 67 Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon finishing 11th overall; their sister Ford GT, the No. 66, finished second in class while Corvette Racing, pole sitters for this race, took third and 13th overall.

GRT Grasser Racing Team’s Lamborghini Huracan GT3 earned its first Rolex 24 victory in the GTD class, followed home by Michael Sank Racing with Curb-Agajanian’s Acura NSX GT3.

The winners get to celebrate through to March, when most of the 50 runners in this year’s race reconvene on the bumpy Sebring International Raceway road course for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. Will there be a reprise? Tradition seems to think so, but this field is so deep that all classes will be up for grabs at the second race of the year.

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About Anne Proffit 51 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.
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