Tag Archives: Mazda

Daytona

Alonso grabs the Daytona headlines

Wayne Taylor Racing wins the 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona

The elements were at work at Daytona this weekend, as the importance of patience and perseverance meshed with the need for speed during a rainy, 57th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, at Daytona International Speedway. It seems history was at work, as well.

Former Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso and his Wayne Taylor Racing teammates emerged from the wet to win the event, which was halted under red-flag conditions due to increasingly heavy rain at 2:25 p.m., 10 minutes short of the scheduled time limit. Alonso becomes the third former Formula 1 champion to also win the Rolex 24. The others on that most illustrious short list: 1964 Rolex 24 champion Phil Hill and 1972 champion Mario Andretti.

DaytonaAlonso, racing in the Rolex 24 for the second-straight year, co-drove the No. 10 Cadillac DPi with Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande and Kamui Kobayashi. Finishing second was the No. 31 Cadillac DPi of Whelen Engineering Racing, co-driven by Felipe Nasr, Eric Curran and Pipo Derani.

After a cold and windy Saturday, the rains came to the Rolex 24 in the early hours of Sunday morning – and hung around for the balance of the 24-hour sports car endurance classic that opened the season for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Weather worsened to the point of necessitating a red flag at 7:21 a.m., just short of the 17-hour mark. After a one-hour, 45-minute stoppage, racing resumed. Amidst alternating green- and yellow-flag conditions, the second red flag was brought out by heavy rain at 12:39 p.m. It was the first time the race had been red-flagged twice due to wet conditions. Seven minutes earlier, Alonso had gotten by Nasr in Turn 1 and it proved to be the race-winning move. “Very, very proud of the job we achieved today,” said Alonso, who also co-drove to victory in last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. “The race itself was very, very difficult. Conditions were changing all the time. But we had perfect execution. We led in night, day, dry and wet.”

DaytonaGrand Marshal and five-time Rolex 24 champion Scott Pruett gave the command to start engines on Saturday afternoon, with 47 cars across four WeatherTech Championship classes negotiating the 3.56-mile road course. The field was led to the green flag by Oliver Jarvis in the pole-sitting No. 77 Mazda DPi. The highly-anticipated runs by the two Mazda Team Joest entries, however, failed to pan out. The pole-sitting Mazda left the race at the seven-hour mark after catching fire, having completed 220 laps. It ended 46th. A short while later, the team’s No. 55 car, which started fourth, developed a fuel leak problem and would finish 42nd.

A significant sidebar to his Rolex 24 morphed into an emotional farewell for three-time and defending Rolex 24 champion Christian Fittipaldi, who has announced he will retire from competition after this weekend. With his team’s No. 5 Cadillac DPi out of contention in the closing hours after battling several mechanical problems on Saturday, Fittipaldi came into the speedway media centre for a final press conference. He was almost immediately overcome with emotion, unable to choke back the tears – much less answer the first question he received, until media members broke into applause, as encouragement. A cardinal rule of journalism impartiality had been broken, or at least bent. In this instance, no one cared. “Racing has played a major role in my life but life is not only about racing … it was a great ride,” said Fittipaldi, a former IndyCar Series standout and the nephew of former Formula 1 and Indianapolis 500 champion Emerson Fittipaldi. “I had three goals when I arrived here this year. One was to finish, the second was to finish on the podium and the third goal was the cherry on top of the cake, to get two wins in a row and fourth [overall]. But it didn’t happen. Yeah, I’m sad, happy, relieved … but most of all I’m at peace with myself and I think that’s what’s most important.”

The inspiring Rolex 24 entry of Alex Zanardi ended with a 32nd-place finish in the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE. Zanardi is the former IndyCar driver who lost both legs after an accident in 2001. In years since, he has become one of the world’s top hand-cyclists while occasionally returning to the race track in specially equipped cars.

DaytonaIn addition to the headlining DPi class, three other classes competed in the Rolex 24. Those winners:
• In the LMP2 class, Roberto Gonzalez, Pastor Maldonado, Sebastian Saavedra and Ryan Cullen in the No. 18 ORECA LMP2.
• In the GT Le Mans class, Augusto Farfus, Connor De Phillippi, Philipp Eng and Colton Herta co-driving the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE.
• In GT Daytona, Rolf Ineichen, Mirko Bartolotti, Christian Engelhart and Rik Breukers co-driving the No. 11 Lamborghini Huracan GT3, which also won the GTD class last year.

Travel Destinations guests really enjoyed this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. Despite the wet end to the race, our guests enjoyed getting privileged behind the scenes access with the Radio Le Mans, IMSA radio commentary team as well as hospitality in the Champions Club. Our hotel overlooking Daytona Beach was the perfect location to relax away from the track.

If you would like to join Travel Destinations at next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona you can register your interest now by emailing us via info@traveldestinations.co.uk

Photography by Dailysportscar

 

Daytona

The 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona; Bigger, Faster, Stronger

With the Roar Before the 24 test weekend in the books, the focus of the IMSA paddock shifts to the season-opening Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona at the end of the month. Our man in the stands was track-side at the Roar, to tell as what we can expect to see at the Rolex 24 Hours that takes place 26th – 27th January.

We are in to the third year of the DPi formula, in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and it has really hit its stride, across the board. A healthy top class, with elite drivers and new Michelin tyres, have added up to create a Daytona 24 which will likely be unforgettable. Up front the DPi class is now 11-cars strong, with an influx of Cadillac customer teams to add to the already sterling Acura, Mazda and existing Cadillac efforts. There’s manufacturer interest in IMSA, and it’s stronger than ever, with the big three up front, Mazda, Cadillac and Acura all heading into the season on the front foot.DaytonaMazda is the biggest mover here, the Joest-run effort finally looking world-beating and capable of winning its first race with two heavily revised RT-24Ps, a new set of backroom staff and Olivier Pla and Timo Bernhard added to the driver roster. Last weekend at the Roar test, the RT-24P was the class of the field on pace, so much so that Oliver Jarvis broke the all-time Daytona infield circuit lap record (unofficially) during the session dedicated to decide the pit boxes and garage allocation for race week. Why is this significant? One because the Mazda finally looks pacey on the unique, challenging speedway course, and two, because the record Jarvis broke stood for over two decades. That’s right, the last man to lap Daytona as fast as Jarvis was PJ Jones back in the GTP era in 1993, in an All American Racers-run Toyota.

Why have DPis become so fast? In part because of the development curve that the cars have been on, but mainly because of the tyre change. Out is Continental,and in is Michelin as the IMSA supplier and the difference is huge. The DPis are lapping Daytona a handful of seconds faster than in the past, with tyres that last longer and that are more predictable. It is still early stages, but it looks like Michelin has come out swinging, and will deliver us what should be the fastest Rolex 24 ever at the end of the month!

Cadillac and Acura are not far behind Mazda, at all, so don’t expect an easy win for Joest, who engineered Audi to over a decade of Le Mans success in the 2000s. In fact, come race week, when it matters there is an expectation that the Wayne Taylor and Action Express Cadillacs and the Penske Acura factory team will all  be gunning to break the lap record again, and then the win in the race proper.DaytonaWhile the cars have certainly matured, the drivers racing them have too. 2019 in IMSA is set to run with some superb talent behind the wheel, but the Rolex 24 in particular continuing to attract stars. Fernando Alonso? Yes he’s in a Wayne Taylor Cadillac with his WEC teammate Kamui Kobayashi. Rubens Barichello? Check. Mike Conway? Check. The Taylor brothers? Of course. Juan Pablo Montoya? Certainly. And that’s just a handful of drivers in DPi, as the rest of the field is littered with quick drivers too.

You may remember that Nissan was involved in DPi, with the ESM-run Onroak chassis? Well, ESM has shut its doors, but CORE autosports, which almost won the overall IMSA title last year with an LMP2 ORECA has stepped up and bought one of ESM’s old chariots to campaign this year. So yes, there’s variety and DPi looks stronger than ever.DaytonaElsewhere, GTLM looks as strong as ever too. There are no new cars for 2019, but the same strong set of factory teams are all eager to duke it out. New for 2019 Michelin tyres in the class (which has always been running with the French constructor) mean the lap times are tumbling in GTLM too. That coupled with the armada of Porsche, Ford, Corvette and BMW drivers (plus a Risi Ferrari) means that at times we won’t know where to look on track, as usual.

Alex Zanardi also deserves a mention here, the Italian, who has multiple Paralympic hand cycling gold medals and two CART championships to his name is racing with BMW. The man, who is quite possibly the most positive force ever to grace a paddock, is set to drive in a factory M8 GTLM, which does have a shot at victory.  He’ll race with hand controls, and climb in and out of the car under his own steam at stops. He’s remarkable, and so are BMW for giving both him and the fans an opportunity to witness such greatness first hand. He’s also hinted that this could be his last ever race, so his progress will be one of the big story lines to follow.DaytonaOh, and expect a retro livery or two in GTLM for Rolex – you’re going to want to watch this space!

Then we have GTD, with over 20 cars once again, from a slew of manufacturers. IMSA boasts nearly 20 manufacturers competing in WeatherTech these days, and much of them race in the GT3 contingent. Acura, Lexus, Ferrari, Porsche, Audi, Mercedes, Lamborghini and BMW are all present, with top teams and drivers. It’s impossible to pick a winner here, and there are more question marks than usual as the majority of the field are running 2019 EVO kits. At the Roar Riley Motorsports’ trusty Mercedes AMG GT3 topped the times, but Meyer Shank Racing’s new Acuras and the selection of Ferraris were close behind. In testing, times shouldn’t be read into though, especially in a Balance of Performance-oriented class.DaytonaSo, grab the entry list, marvel at the lengthy list of world-class teams, cars and drivers, sit back and relax. If the weather holds out, this will be the fastest, most hotly contested Rolex 24 of the modern era. And if you find that you now want to be track side for the Rolex 24 at Daytona? You had better call Travel Destinations quick because time is running out!

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Martin Spetz