Action Express Racing have swept the Rolex24 at Daytona with a 1-2 finish for their pair of Cadillac DPI V.R chassis with the #5 Mustang Sampling entry driven by João Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Felipe Albuquerque leading home the #31 Whelen Engineering sponsored entrant. CORE Autosport’s #54 ORECA 07 came home in third, two laps behind the eventual race winner
In the GTLM class it was the #67 Ford driven by Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook which took class honours, whilst in the GTD class, it was the #11 GRT Grasser Lamborghini Huracan driven by Rolf Ineichen, Rik Breukers, Mirko Bortolotti and Franck Perera who claimed the class win.
Green flag running
This was an extraordinary edition of the Rolex24 with only four Full Course Cautions displayed on track during the entire 24 hour race. Whilst it was pleasant to see a race, particularly in the USA running without much interruption, it did mean effectively that if a car encountered issues, they were bound to drop laps and struggle to regain track positions, meaning that the distances between cars at the conclusion was much larger than we have seen in previous editions of the race.
The race saw a large number of rear right tire failures coming out of the bus stop chicane, from both prototypes and in GTD. Continental Tire and the teams disagreed on the potential cause of these failures, with the tire supplier claiming teams were running outside of the parameters set forth.
(1 of 2) Teams are pushing the envelope with low pressure & aggressive camber. When this happens, and teams are not within the parameters we set forth, problems can occur. Especially double stinting a set of tires.
(2 of 2) These are the same dry tires we’ve used for 5 years without issue. The teams within the parameters are double stinting tires with no issue.
However, after Wayne Taylor Racing withdrew their #10 Cadillac after experiencing a number of successive failures several hours after this statement, explaining publicly that the team was operating within the parameters, Continental tire publicly tweeted a response to WTR’s withdrawal:
@WayneTaylorRcng were operating within the recommendations we set forth. Of their 5 issues, we have identified two as punctures and are working with WTR to identify the cause of the other 3 issues.
Speculation is strong about why, or what was different in this years race and I’m sure that debate will continue for quite some time to come as Continental continues to investigate why this specific Rolex24 saw such levels of rear right punctures, compared to previous seasons. I suspect, however, given it happened with both GTD and Prototypes and to lots of different models of cars that it’s potentially a perfect storm of reasons as opposed to one specific reason.
It wasn’t the fairytale race for Fernando Alonso. The car suffered from a tire failure and further damage in an over exuberant drive back to the pits by Phil Hanson, before further issues in the night including the master cylinder failing put the car miles out of contention. Still Fernando Alonso and particularly Lando Norris put in some impressive laps during their stints and overall hopefully it was enough that both want to do more sportscar Racing in the future, it wasn’t all bad news for United Autosports either with Bruno Senna and Paul Di Resta bringing the sister car home in fourth despite late race issues.
Balance of performance
The Cadillac and Acura factory DPI’s clearly dominated the Prototype from basically the pre event Roar forwards through the whole of qualifying and the race. This was basically as expected, the Cadillac was the strongest car all of last season, its large amount of torque suits Daytona and generally speaking, the Dallara Cadillac is the best platform in the series to have. The Penske Acura put up a good fight and I suspect will win a lot of events by the end of the season, it didn’t quite match Cadillac here and reliability whilst problematic for both manufacturers was due to numbers of cars, in Cadillacs favour. Remember though whilst the chassis from Penske is all new, the engine is basically a development of the Honda unit that won at Daytona in 2015 with ESM. No one else came close in the race to these two manufacturers in terms of pace, but reliability brought them closer to the battle, pushing several orecas up for order in the closing hours.
In the GTLM class, we didn’t see a particularly close race with Ford dominating basically the entire race, in a show of bulletproof force by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing. BMW are lobbying for a BOP change to the BMW M8 GTE after its debut race, whilst in GTD, The monoplast by Land Motorsport Audi was given an in race penalty for BOP infractions.
This years Rolex24 broke a distance record, set on this configuration. The previous record on this configuration was 762 laps in 1992, eclipsed today with 808 laps completed by the winning car.
Mazda Team Joest
The debut of Mazda Team Joest was certainly not what was anticipated when one of the most successful endurance racing teams at Le Mans takes over. The cars were both plagued with mechanical issues throughout the race including a rather large fire on one of the two cars during the race. If Joest can take anything positive from the events of Daytona, it is that the pace was stronger than the cars achieved last year, but reliability is still extremely poor. I have faith in Joest turning around this programme but did certainly hope and expect a better showing at Daytona.
It was an odd Rolex24, just like Le Mans last year was a weird race when compared to what is expected in the current climate of sportscar Racing. It did feel again like a high paced survival run rather than a close race. I do think as the season develops though, possibly as soon as Sebring, Penske are going to win in IMSA and begin to displace the dominant Cadillacs. I also think we will see much closer races later in the season and the domination at Daytona was more the anomaly than the rule, and one thing is clear and that is that IMSAs premier series is in a really healthy state in terms of driving talent and manufacturer interest and that the more painful years of the immediate post merger are now behind it.