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12 Hours of Sebring

12 Hours of Sebring 2018 – Preview

The 2018 sportscar racing season is heating up again after the big endurance races which populate January and early February. This weekend sees the 66th running of the world-famous 12 Hours of Sebring, and it’s set to be a corker, with a big entry and quality oozing from each class. It has not got the sheer numbers of the Rolex 24, or the same number of F1 talent in the field, but what it has got is intrigue up and down the field and one of the most iconic settings in endurance racing. Once again Travel Destinations customers have travelled to be track-side for the 12 Hours of Sebring for what will be sure to be another action-packed race, with lots of entertainment both on and off the track.

Our man in the stands takes a look at what we we can expect from this year’s 12 Hours of Sebring:

Can Action Express go two out of two?
It’s almost too easy to predict another big win for the Cadillac DPi V.R this weekend. The car, even with its new engine for this season, has both the performance and reliability to topple the other major runners. With the majority of the focus on the Prototype ranks at each IMSA meeting, many will ponder the potential for another team or manufacturer to take a big win. Action Express scored a historic 1-2 at Daytona in January, and did so in distance record shattering fashion. For the 12 Hours of Sebring, there’s surely the potential for a repeat with its two Cadillac DPi V.Rs back with an almost identical set of drivers; the only change being Stuart Middleton departing the team after his (impressive) one off drive as a prize for winning the Sunoco Challenge.

12 Hours of Sebring
So who can challenge? Well, obviously Wayne Taylor Racing will be hoping to first of all get points on the board after retiring from the Rolex 24, and second, take another big 12 Hours of Sebring win. But WTR is another Cadillac team. Outside of the GM brand’s representation, you’d have to point towards Acura Team Penske and or ESM for a potential upset. Acura Team Penske impressed mightily in its return to sportscars at Daytona, its Acura ARX-07s was in the mix throughout. Only small niggles dropped them down the order towards the end of the race. They’ve got what clearly looks like a good base package as well as a high calibre selection of drivers and team personnel to do it.

ESM on the other hand, had a miserable Daytona with its pair of Nissan DPis. But let’s not forget that towards the end of last season, which wasn’t that long ago in the scheme of things, the plucky American privateer outfit hit its stride and won Petit Le Mans. Don’t be surprised if the former FIA WEC outfit features on Florida’s bumpiest circuit!

Is there any hope for Mazda?
When discussing potential winners, it’s easy to forget the Mazda contingent in the Prototype field, and for good reason; it has been another tough start to the season for the Japanese marque.
Mazda Team Joest will be highly motivated for a strong showing at the 12 Hours of Sebring, after both of its updated RT24-Ps failed to impress on pace, and retired from the Rolex 24. If anyone knows how to turn a ship around, and win big is Ralf Juttner and the Joest team, but this may be a tall order.

12 Hours of Sebring
The car, which struggles at higher-speed circuits, just hasn’t been up to the task, even after months of aero, cooling and suspension work in the teams self-imposed long off season. To make matters worse, the Joest team was forced to pack up early after a fire for its No.55 in the pre-event test. Any sort of result would be massive here, as the belief inside camp Mazda is still positive for the future. On Joest’s first run in the event since 2013, a win isn’t expected, though fans in the stands would be overjoyed if the team had a good run.  Will we have to wait until Long Beach, where the track is tight and the race is short, to truly see what the updated RT24-P is made of?

BMW aiming for a better run for the M8
This time round, GTLM could very well be anyone’s game, after Ford’s dominant formation run in Daytona, the rule makers have pledged to tighten the field with the pre-Sebring Balance of Performance. This comes after BMW’s dispute with IMSA at the Rolex 24 (which went public), where its M8 GTLMs struggled on their competitive debut against the other marques on pace. For the 12 Hours of Sebring, BMW has been given a power boost and an extra two litres of fuel, while Ford has had two taken away. Whether or not that will make this a dogfight between all five makes remains to be seen, but it should nevertheless be a step in the right direction. If BMW, and Porsche’s 911 RSRs – which also had a rough Daytona – can fight for the win, it will only add to the spectacle of this year’s once-around-the-clock classic.

12 Hours of Sebring
Corvette looking to break records

Lovers of loud, yellow, GT machinery will be pleased to know that on what is likely to be the final 12 Hours of Sebring for the Corvette C7.R GTE, there is a lot to play for. Corvette Racing, which will of course be in the mix for yet another big title, will hope to mount its challenge on Ford with another big win at Sebring. Chip Ganassi’s Ford crew may be the favourites after dominating at Daytona, but if Corvette takes the fight to the ‘Blue Oval’, and wins, it will be its fourth consecutive Sebring victory.

12 Hours of Sebring
For its drivers there’s some key milestones to keep an eye on. Corvette’s Jan Magnussen is making his 20th 12 Hours of Sebring start, (elsewhere BMW’s Bill Auberlin is making his 25th) and British ace Oliver Gavin, has the most class wins of anyone in the field, and will be gunning for his seventh victory at the historic circuit this year. Corvette Racing meanwhile has the most Sebring class wins of anyone else in the IMSA field, with 11, and will look to add to that tally here.

Can Land get revenge in GTD?
Those who followed GTD at Daytona will remember the controversy surrounding the Land Motorsport penalty. The German team, which was leading the GT3-based class by a healthy margin, got pinged by the organisers for fuelling quicker than the other teams. But, IMSA in this case penalised the team in error, its Audi R8 LMS GT3 and fuel rig passing tech inspections before and after the race. Land Motorsport, which won last year’s Nurburging 24, and has an ADAC GT Masters title to its name in its short time as a premier Audi customer team, will be out for revenge this weekend.

12 Hours of Sebring
Even if it does spend the same amount of time re-fuelling as everyone else this time round, they’ll have a shot at the win. The team has shaken up its driver crew for this one though, Alessio Clemente Picariello joining the team, while Kelvin van der Linde and Jeff Schmidt sit the race out. In response to the Daytona incident, it’s notable that IMSA has announced that it will be implementing minimum refuelling times from Sebring onwards to prevent a repeat of the events. For Sebring, the GTD minimum will be 40 seconds, in GT Le Mans it will be 34, and in Prototype, it’s set at 30.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

For those thinking ahead, the Sebring 2019 promises to be a special event. Not only will the IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring take place as usual, but the FIA WEC Super Season will also race on the same weekend. Effectively there will be two 12 hour races taking place in just 26 hours at Sebring 2019. For those wishing to be at the 2019 event, we recommend booking early. Travel Destinations has already contracted some accommodation for Sebring 2019 and provisional bookings are already being made. Call the Travel Destinations team on 0844 873 0203 to find out more and reserve your place at Sebring 2019.

 

Rolex 24

Rolex 24 at Daytona Preview

This weekend sees the beginning of the Sports Car season in the USA, with annual curtain raiser; the Rolex 24 at Daytona. For many this event always marks the beginning of the season and the event has always attracted an exceptional grid of cars and drivers. As you would expect, Travel Destinations always has a presence track-side and our travellers are already in Florida, ably supported by our resident Daytona expert, Helen.

Here we look at the key storylines that they will see develop first-hand over the weekend. If this tempts you to see more, then make sure you register with us to be the first to learn of our plans for next year. Maybe you can join us too!

Five key storylines to follow during the 2018 Rolex 24 Hours

Can Cadillac win again?

It has to be said right off the bat that the favourite for the 2018 Rolex 24 has to be Cadillac. Last year, the GM marque’s DPi V.R won its debut at Daytona, and went on to take the overall and NAEC titles up front, led by Wayne Taylor Racing’s effort that at times was unstoppable. This year there has been plenty of changes, but there’s just as good of a chance for Cadillac’s customer outfits to take the win again.

In terms of the car, it’ll race with changes to the front splitter, as part of the ACO’s permitted ‘Joker’ evolutions to Dallara’s P217, which the Caddy is based on. It’ll also utilise a brand new 5.5 litre engine rather than a 6.2 example, in an attempt by Cadillac to streamline its engine philosophy with the rest of the paddock. There are four cars hoping to score Caddy its second win in a row. At Wayne Taylor Racing, its driver line-up has been shuffled, Jordan Taylor returns from last year, but will be joined by Renger Van Der Zande and IndyCar star Ryan Hunter Real for the racing; it’s a trio very much capable of winning it all again.

Rolex 24Action Express’ two cars also have some new drivers in, including ex-F1 driver Felipe Nasr and British GT racer Stuart Middleton. After coming so close last year, can either its Whelen or Mustang Sampling machines reach the top step of the podium in 2018?

The final entrant is a new one, Spirit of Daytona (formally Visit Florida Racing), which switches from running an LMP2 Riley and later a Ligier last year, becoming the only LMP2 team to win an IMSA race overall, with a victory at Laguna Seca. For its new machine, it’s got three new drivers too, Matt McMurry, Tristan Vautier and Eddie Cheever III taking the wheel. Can Spirit of Daytona spring a surprise here?

How will the new DPi efforts fare?

Outside of the Cadillac and the other pre-existing DPi effort from ESM, there’s two new players in town for this season in the form of Team Joest (yes, that Team Joest that ran for almost two decades with Audi) and Team Penske (yes, that Team Penske that won Sebring overall in 2008 with an LMP2 car). Joest will be running the Mazda DPi programme. While the RT-24P is not a new car – it ran for most of the year in 2017 with Speedsource – it certainly has more potential now after an underwhelming first season.

Multimatic and Joest have gone to great lengths to re-design the aspects of the car which proved to be weak, and have signed some new driver talent to add extra punch too. Amongst the newcomers are Ford WEC driver Harry Tincknell and ex-Audi LMP1 drivers Rene Rast and Oliver Jarvis. 2018 will be a really important year, and while few will expect Joest to blow away the field in its first run with the Mazdas, would anybody be surprised if it did with its well documented track record?

Meanwhile, Team Penske is also due to burst onto the scene at Daytona, with a pair of brand new Acura ARX-05. The legendary American outfit is returning to sportscar racing, and in a big way, running the factory programme for the marque in which it spent years racing against back in the American Le Mans days early in the 21st century. The ARX-05 is based on the ORECA 07, which is a very good starting point, as the best LMP2 car top to bottom of the current crop, it’ll also be driven by some stunning drivers. For the big race it’s fate rests on a collection of sportscar talent, ex-F1 talent and IndyCar stars that’s enough to make any racing fan drool. Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron, Simon Pagenaud make up the #6’s crew, while Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor and Graham Rahal will share the #7. Which of these two VERY high profile new efforts will have the better time in Florida? Time will tell!

All eyes on Alonso

It is safe to say that you can’t pick out the key names in the prototype entry for this year’s Rolex without mentioning Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard, a two-time F1 World champion, seems set on achieving the ‘Triple Crown’ of wins at Monaco, Le Mans and Indy. It’s refreshing to see someone so consumed by the F1 ‘bubble’ take a walk on the wild side and want to race elsewhere in gaps between F1 races.

Rolex 24For the Rolex 24 at Daytona, which will be Alonso’s first sportscar race, he’ll be driving under the very capable supervision of United Autosport, which is co-run by McLaren’s Zak Brown. He’ll drive the evolved Ligier JS P217, with Phil Hanson (an ELMS and WEC starter) and future F1 star Lando Norris. 
That may not sound like a ‘Super Team’, but in reality, that doesn’t necessarily matter. At Daytona, staying on the lead lap will keep you in the fight for the win right up to the flag; it’s that sort of race. Are Norris, Hanson and Alonso capable of doing that? Yes. And even so, this is a trial run of sorts for Alonso, ahead of a potential Le Mans debut this year. He will nevertheless take this seriously, and attract the world’s media to the event, which can only be a good thing for sportscars. This is a big story, and one which the sportscar world is and should welcome with open arms.

BMW M8 GTE

Further down the entry list, the GT classes will, as usual, add spice to an already tantalising prototype field. In among the factory teams in GTLM is BMW Team RLL, tasked with debuting the BMW M8 GTE at Daytona. Now, the car was delayed in its development due to a late re-design forced upon the marque, but it has the potential to turn heads. At the pre-race Roar test, it was the slowest of the GTE cars, but it is new, and GTE is a balanced formula which means it should be able to compete right away during the 24 Hours.

Rolex 24In terms of driving talent, there has been some changes in camp BMW. In its #24 M8, former WTCC ace Augusto Farfus returns (after competing only at Daytona last year), and will drive with brand stalwart John Edwards, Jesse Krohn who’s stepping up from GTD and Nicky Catsburg. And in the #25, Alex Sims returns for another year of GTLM action, along with, veteran driver Bill Auberlen, IMSA debutant (and 2018 BMW DTM driver) Phillip Eng and American BMW newcomer Connor De Phillippi, who moves over from Audi after winning the 2017 N24 and 2016 ADAC GT title. With a set of drivers that strong, the real challenge will likely be staying reliable, up against a field of near-bullet proof machinery from Corvette, Ferrari, Porsche and Ford.

If the M8 GTEs keep going round and round, who knows where they’ll end up come Sunday afternoon?

Battle of the GTD Brands

The other GT class, GTD, is also a battle of the brands, but on a larger scale. With 21 cars on the list, representing eight manufacturers, it’s almost guaranteed to be a thrilling race for the win. This year, there’s no new kit, but there are plenty of big names and big teams on the list; and because last year’s class winner Alegra Motorsports aren’t due to make the trip, there will be a new winner.

Audi will run two R8s, Porsche will have a trio of 911 GT3 Rs, BMW will have an M6 GT3, Lamborghini is set to have three Huracans, Acura meanwhile has three NSX GT3s in addition to three AMG GT3 , two Lexus RCF GT3s and four Ferrari 488s.

At this point, it’s nearly impossible to pick a winner, so instead, just sit back and watch this one unfold.

We hope that you enjoy the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona. It promises to be a fantastic spectacle. Why not join us at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2019? You can register with us now for more information by emailing us here or by calling our office on 0844 873 0203.

Sportscar content written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Sebring

Sebring 12 Hours; Preview

This weekend sees the 65th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring. This is one of our favourite races on the motorsport calendar and this year looks set for another exciting race. If you like small tight circuits, old fashioned concrete tracks, lots of action and of course the Florida sunshine then you just have to go to Sebring. Here our man in the stands takes a look at what we can expect from the race this weekend.

Cadillac held back?
After dominating proceedings at Daytona, the three Cadillacs racing at Sebring have been pegged back by the IMSA Balance of Performance process. The three DPi V.Rs have had weight added and had the air flow to the engines reduced in an attempt to allow the other prototypes to compete over a single lap. Whether it will work at Sebring or not remains to be seen, as the Cadillacs proved to be the most reliable, as well as the quickest in almost all conditions at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The prototype field which Action Express and Wayne Taylor Racing is up against, as a whole, is still impressive following Daytona. Entries from Mazda, Cadillac, Ligier, Oreca, Riley and Nissan grace the class, making for the most diverse prototype grid on the planet. Only DragonSpeed has fallen off the list since January. With the gloves off at Sebring, it’ll be very interesting to see who actually emerges on top!

Sebring
Alex Lynn out to impress
While the Cadillacs entered are the same as at Daytona, the driver lineups have seen some tweaking. The most notable change heading into the race is Wayne Taylor Racing’s addition of British driver Alex Lynn. Lynn takes the place of newly-retired Max Angelelli in the team’s third seat for the endurance rounds of the WeatherTech Championship this year, and is set to impress on the North American endurance stage. Since moving over from single-seater racing last year, Lynn has raced with Manor in the World Endurance Championship as well as United Autosports in a one-off LMP3 race. He’s fast, consistent and used to high-pressure situations. If you watch a lot of sportscar racing, then you’ll be seeing a lot more of Alex too. With appearances in the VLN championship and Nürburgring 24 Hours with BMW, Petit Le Mans with Cadillac and the full World Endurnace Championship with G-Drive Racing. He is going to be busy.

Sebring Title Defence Beckons For ESM
After winning both the Rolex 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours last year, Extreme Speed Motorsports is back for another crack this year to try and repeat at least one of its high-profile victories from a year ago. At the Rolex 24, the Ligier-based Nissan DPi impressed over the full race, with only minor issues setting it back and preventing it from truly challenging for a podium spot in the final hours.
In its return to Sebring since its big win, it continues to field a stellar lineup, with Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel and Pipo Derani in the No.2 car and Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek, Bruno Senna and Brendon Hartley in the other. We still don’t know for sure who the favourites for the overall title are this year, but we’ll have more of an idea after this weekend. If ESM take on the punishing airfield-based circuit this weekend and come away with a good result, then it’s game on for the remainder of the season.

Sebring
Ford Brings Three
Ford Performance is set to field a trio of GTs in the GTLM class this year, after taking a quartet of them to the Rolex 24 Hours. Out to win the big races, Ford knows that it has the chance to win the Le Mans 24 Hours, Rolex 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours in less than nine months if it can seal the deal this weekend. Driving the third car is the World Endurance Championship crew of Billy Johnson, Stefan Mucke and Olivier Pla in the No.68, which should provide a formidable third bullet in the Ford gun. It would be mightily impressive but not necessarily surprising to see them win its second Floridian race this year; as even a year later the GT still looks just as much like a prototype (if you squint your eyes) as it did at its debut. The GTLM field will be close though, with Porsche, Corvette and the Risi Ferrari all looking capable of taking the win at Daytona. There is not much between them as they head to Sebring.

Sebring
GTD looks wide open
After Alegra Motorsports took a surprise victory at Daytona, with its Porsche 911 GT3 R that had a quiet run to the front, anything can happen going forward. Alegra will race at Sebring – after its impressive run prompted it to extend its commitments for 2017 – but it’s so close that we will likely see a second winner in as many races. Will the Acura NSX GT3 show its true potential? Can the Mercedes AMG GT3 runners mimic their European counterparts? Is counting out the Audi teams going to be a mistake? At this point we just don’t know, which should make the GT3-based class a fascinating watch.

Sebring

It certainly looks like Travel Destinations guests trackside at Sebring this year are going to be royally entertained on the track. With the addition of the Club 12 bar and grill in the centre of the track alongside live music and entertainment throughout the weekend, there is plenty going on around the circuit too. It is going to be fun!

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar.com

If you would like to be at the 12 Hours of Sebring next year, then you can register with us now to be the first in line to choose your travel, accommodation and tickets. Register your interest by calling Travel Destinations on 0844 873 0203 or email info@traveldestinations.co.uk

Rolex 24 at Daytona

The 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona will be one to remember

With the 2016 season winding down, it time to start looking ahead to 2017, which promises to be a very big year for sportscar fans. In the first of a series of pieces focusing on 2017’s big events, Dailysportscar.com’s Deputy Editor Stephen Kilbey looks ahead to next January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona:

Sportscar racing for 24 Hours on the iconic banking at Daytona has been a tradition since 1962, yet it still feels like a new and fresh event. The racing rarely disappoints and as a spectator, there are few events like it, with spectacular views and great paddock access. While it may not have the sheer mega-event atmosphere of an event like Le Mans, the Daytona 24 Hours is growing year on year in importance and has replaced Sebring as the ‘first day back at school’ event for traditional endurance machinery. Throughout its history its been a hotbed for some of the best cars and best drivers on the planet, with plenty of IndyCar drivers, WEC drivers and endurance racing legends on the entry list each year.

Rolex 24 at Daytona

So what’s so special about next year?

2017 will mark a new era for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with the introduction of DPis at the head of the field. Daytona Prototypes which to put it lightly, weren’t to everyone’s tastes, are no more, replaced with a platform for manufacturers to truly utilize. The concept behind DPi is a pretty simple one, a manufacturer or private team will run brand new LMP2 chassis with an engine of their choice and factory-specific aerodynamics. The cars will be quicker, more agile and promise to look good too. Now, it’s unlikely that we’ll see a huge grid of them in year one, but the list of confirmed teams and manufacturers is getting longer by the month at the moment. If you head to Daytona next year, you’ll get a glimpse of the future of IMSA prototype racing in what promises to be a significant milestone in IMSA history.

Rolex 24 at Daytona

Outside of that, the GT ranks promise to be as spectacular as usual, with a healthy GTLM class, with multiple manufacturers running their GTE examples, and a bumper GTD field of GT3 cars with some of the world’s best drivers behind the wheel. Variety is king as Corvette, Audi, Lamborghini, BMW, Ferrari, Porsche and Ford will all be represented.

But what makes Daytona particularly special is what it offers to fans who make the trip. The speedway owners are still reaping the rewards of their $400 million regeneration project which has improved the facilities massively in the past year. Anyone who sits on the grandstands will get an incredible panorama, which while impressive during a NASCAR race, comes alive during the Rolex 24. Seeing the cars blast down the back straight, round to the paddock area, before darting into the infield and snaking through the camping grounds is a sight to see. You won’t have to camp out at one corner with a limited view, on the Daytona banking you can see it all. Couple that with the sounds echoing off the grandstands and the fireworks displays and you have an incredible nighttime atmosphere too.

Rolex 24 at Daytona

Daytona feels closed off from the world, but far from claustrophobic. There’s plenty of places to venture too in and away from the paddock, and in true endurance racing fashion, fans can get up close and personal with the cars throughout the race week. Anyone planning to go and watch a race stateside should really consider heading to Florida for the Rolex 24 next year, it’s an iconic event, at a mecca of motorsport and 2017 will be a year to remember.

There is currently still some availability to join us for the Rolex 24 at Daytona 2017. Details of our exclusive offer are available here or you can call us on 0844 873 0203 to reserve your place.

Chip Ganassi celebrate again at Daytona

Chip Ganassi celebrates at Daytona again

Chip Ganassi Racing’s “Star Car” lived up to its billing in the 53rd Rolex 24 At Daytona. With a lineup of IndyCar’s Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan joined by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson, the No. 02 Target Ford EcoBoost/Riley prevailed in a hard-fought battle with Action Express Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing to win the opening round of the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

The race came down to a seven-minute, 30-second sprint to the finish, with Dixon holding off defending race winner Sebastien Bourdais by 2.267 seconds at the checkered flag.

The victory enabled McMurray to join A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti as the only drivers to win both the Daytona 500 and Rolex 24. Dixon won the Rolex 24 for the second time – winning in the Ganassi No. 02 in 2006 – while Kanaan and Larson joined McMurray in winning the event for the first time. It was Ganassi Racing’s sixth Rolex 24 triumph in 12 attempts.

“It takes a team of people, it takes a team of drivers,” car owner Chip Ganassi said. “I think the 01 car had a great team, as well. They had just as much of a shot.”

The race shaped up as a shootout between Dixon and Jordan Taylor. However, a miscalculation over the latter’s driving time brought the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP to the pits during the final caution. Ricky Taylor took over, served a penalty for pitting out of sequence and finished third, giving the team its third consecutive podium in the event.

Bourdais moved into second in the closing minutes but could not challenge Dixon, joining Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi in giving the 2014-winning No. 5 Mustang Sampling Corvette DP a second-place finish.

The latter half of the race was a four-car, back-and-forth battle among the eventual top-three finishers and the No. 01 Ford EcoBoost/Riley of Scott Pruett, Joey Hand, Charlie Kimball and Sage Karam throughout the final 12 hours. However, clutch problems with two hours, 30 minutes remaining dropped the No. 01 car from contention, ending Pruett’s bid to become the lone six-time overall winner of the Rolex 24.

Attrition thinned the Prototype field, with retirements including both Tequila Patrón ESM Honda HPD ARX entries and the two SpeedSource SKYACTIV Diesels, in addition to the Krohn Racing Ligier/Judd, DeltaWing DWC13, and Starworks Motorsport Dinan BMW/Riley.

PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Takes PC Victory After CORE autosport Incident
Misfortune in the final hour of the race ended a dominant effort by CORE autosport in the Prototype Challenge (PC) class, allowing the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Cuttwood/Spyder Orafol ORECA FLM09 to win with drivers Tom Kimber-Smith, Mike Guasch, Andrew Novich and Andrew Palmer.

Second, one lap down, was the pole-winning No. 16 BAR1 Motorsports Autosport Designs/Top 1 Oil ORECA of Johnny Mowlem, Tom Papadopoulos, Tomy Drissi, Brian Alder and Martin Plowman. The No. 54 CORE autosport Composite Resources/Flex-Box ORECA FLM09 of Ben Keating, Colin Braun, James Gue and Mark Wilkins held a multi-lap lead for much of the event. With 20 minutes remaining, Braun had contact with a Prototype and spun.

He returned to the circuit, only to spin at the exit of the chicane after experiencing suspension failure. The car then hit the wall and caught fire. The car completed enough laps to finish third in the class.

Corvette on the top step of the podium
A 24-hour race came down to a seven-and-a-half minute sprint to the checkered flag in the 53rd Rolex 24 At Daytona with the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R beating the No. 25 BMW Z4 GTE from BMW Team RLL to the stripe by a mere 0.478 seconds. The GT Le Mans (GTLM) class win was Corvette Racing’s first class victory at the Rolex 24 since 2001.

It was a Corvette vs. BMW battle for much of the final quarter of the race with Antonio Garcia holding a comfortable lead in his Corvette over Dirk Werner’s BMW with 20 minutes remaining. That lead quickly evaporated, however, when Prototype Challenge (PC) class leader Colin Braun made contact with the wall coming out of the chicane on the backstretch forcing a full-course caution period. Werner closed the gap throughout the final six laps, but fell just short at the checkered flag with Garcia joining co-drivers Jan Magnussen and Ryan Briscoe in the victory.

“Every time you win here it’s very, very special,” Garcia said. “I’ve been chasing this victory since 2009, even if I won it back then. This is a very unique race. It’s the first race of the year, so it’s very difficult to be at 100 percent right away for the team and for the drivers. Everything ran perfect, and as Ryan (Briscoe) said, we just kept our nose clean, and I had the best car to fight on the last eight minutes of the race.”

Garcia won the Rolex 24 overall in 2009 for Brumos Racing. Corvette Racing did not compete at Daytona from 2002 through 2013 before joining the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship for its inaugural 2014 season.

The No. 4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R entry of Tommy Milner, Oliver Gavin and Simon Pagenaud was in contention for the race win, but lost four laps after making contact with the No. 66 RG Racing BMW Dinan/Riley Prototype with three hours remaining and finished third.

No. 93 Viper Team Takes Emotional Victory in GT Daytona
The No. 93 TI Automotive/ViperExchange.com Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R and drivers Ben Keating, Al Carter, Dominik Farnbacher, Kuno Wittmer and Cameron Lawrence had the field covered for much of the Rolex 24 in the GT Daytona (GTD) class. They found a challenge from the No. 22 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 GT America of Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen, Andrew Davis and Shane van Gisbergen — the two cars combined to lead the final 209 laps of the race — but Farnbacher led the last 49 circuits en route to a 7.588 second victory.

“For everybody in the room and the fans and everybody, we’re not just weekend warriors that are weekend hires,” Wittmer said. “We’re family; we’re more than that. We’ve worked together since 2012, and some of us before that. Yeah, unfortunately our program got pulled, but I think it’s the cooperation of Ben Keating and Bill Riley and some others that were able to retain us family, keep us together and get it going.”

Hollywood actor and avid sports car racer Patrick Dempsey rounded out the top three in the No. 58 Dempsey/Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America co-driven by Madison Snow, Jan Heylen and Philipp Eng. The third-place finish matched Dempsey’s best career finish in the Rolex 24.