Cadillac takes 1-2 victory!

After 24 grueling hours that saw a myriad of punctures, but surprisingly few full-course cautions, Cadillac proved again to be head-and-shoulders above the plentiful opposition, which included F1 Champ Fernando Alonso, in what was a truly record-breaking 56th running of the ultimate enduro test on the Daytona International Speedway.

Just two short years ago, the 24 Hours of Daytona was broken apart by no less than 21 full-course yellow periods. They were for cars slowing down or stopping on course, a number of crashes, and other more or less minor incidents. This meant that many competitors were able to get back some of the laps they’d lost since IMSA allows for a ‘wave-around’ procedure that sees cars that are a number of laps down gain a lap at each caution period – although each car can only gain a certain number of laps. As a team owner, you can rest assured that, having a 24 hour-long-race in front of you, there will surely be cautions that will give you the opportunity to gain some time that you might’ve lost – or should you?

Continue reading for the full story.

New Distance Record

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The winning car ran 808 laps to take the coveted Rolexes and we can only guess how long will that record stand for

The 2018 running of the opening act of the IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Series taught us to not take anything for granted, not even yellow flags. That’s because, after 24 hours of hard racing, one could count only 4 (FOUR) full-course caution periods. Yes, we’ve had rain – and it was at night, too – and yes, we’ve had slow cars on track and even debris but, in all, only four times did the safety care get underway after releasing the cars on Saturday afternoon. This unexpected course of events hurt some teams that hoped to rebound from some niggling little issues that’d pegged them back but it also had an upside.

For starters, we could see how much each car could go on a tank of fuel and find out the "winners" and "losers" of gas consumption. Then we were also able to spot the really consistent crews from the not-so-consistent ones. What’s more, the fast cars were able to stretch their legs and really get away from the opposition since there weren’t constant slow-down periods to stop them from doing it. Finally, the prototypes could aim for the age-old distance record. That’s because the record that was in place until Sunday at 1:30 pm was set way back in 1982 by the yellow-and-blue Porsche of the highly controversial John Paul, Sr. alongside his son, John Paul, Jr., and Porsche ace Rolf Stommelen.

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Before those 808 race laps there were quite a few done over the free practice sessions

The three drove their Porsche 935 JLP-3 built by Gaaco to almost 780 laps in 24 hours, winning by an impressive 11-laps margin over the second-placed car. That record stood through the GTP era, dominated by the might 962s and Jaguar XJR-9s and the late Dan Gurney’s Toyota-Eagles, it stood through the World Sports Car days and the early Grand-Am years when LMP900 cars raced at Daytona and, finally, the DPs never even got close to it. But, with so much uninterrupted green-flag running, the new DPIs and LMP2s did it and by a margin!

In fact, the winning car ran 808 laps to take the coveted Rolexes and we can only guess how long will that record stand for. But, before those 808 race laps there were quite a few done over the four free practice sessions as well as the sole qualifying session – divided, as usual, into four 15-minutes-long segments – that went the way of some new boys.

The Qualifying

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Helio Castroneves reeled in a 1:36.090 mid-way through the 15-minutes-long qualifying session

The Acura-Penske program picked the best possible chassis for their DPI car, the ORECA 07 P2. This certainly showed as The Captain’s cars were best of the rest behind the Cadillacs at the Roar. It was, then, unsurprising that Helio Castroneves reeled in a 1:36.090 midway through the 15-minutes-long qualifying session. Everyone thought it was unbeatable and the headlines were already being written about Penske’s steamroller taking pole first time out.

Everyone had to rush for the erasers, however, as Wayne Taylor’s new recruit, Dutchman Renger van der Zande, managed a 1:36.083 on his very last attempt, prompting the cameramen and journalists to race down the pitlane, away from Helio and to the WTR pit slot. The 0.007-second gap had Castroneves visibly gutted while Taylor was over-the-moon with the unexpected pole position. In total, 13 cars were in the same second with the fastest time. Action Express Racing’s No. 5 was third and, unexpectedly, Pato O’Ward was fourth fastest in the Performance Tech No. 38 ORECA – the best of the P2 cars. Meanwhile, Alonso’s No. 23 Ligier of United Express was no faster than 13th on the grid. The Spaniard complained about the lack of outright pace afterwards.

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Wayne Taylor’s new recruit, Dutchman Renger van der Zande, managed a 1:36.083 on his very last attempt

Two cars did not set a lap time in the Prototype category – the No. 77 Mazda and the No. 2 Nissan – while Nicolas Lapierre crashed the No. 22 Nissan early in the session and could not continue. It’s noteworthy that both Mazdas underwent engine changes before the race got underway, relegating them to the back of the Prototype field.

A little down the order, Corvette Racing used the age-old trick of drafting on the banking to give Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 C7.R the pole by 0,019-seconds from Joey Hand in second. What’s amazing is that all the cars that were within a second off Magnussen’s lap were also quicker than the previous lap record in the GTLM class. The only two cars that couldn’t beat the old record set by the Ford GT last year were the two BMW M8s that were still over a second away from pole – but quicker than at the Roar. Still, Team RLL complained of an unsatisfactory BoP in the face of this lackluster performance and the uphill battle that would go on to be the race.

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Ferrari managed a 1-2 in GTD with Daniel Serra the quicker man in the #51 Spirit of Race 488 GT3

Ferrari managed a 1-2 in GTD with Daniel Serra the quicker man in the #51 Spirit of Race 488 GT3 that was crewed by current or former AMR drivers: Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla-Lana and Mathias Lauda alongside Serra. 1:46.049 was the Brazilian’s quickest lap that brought him the pole position ahead of Miguel Molina’s Risi Competizione No. 82 488 GT3. Mirko Bortolotti wasn’t far away from the benchmark, making the top three at the end. Sadly, the Grasser Racing Huracan was disqualified after failing the post race tech inspection. This promoted the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus up in third place, Jack Hawksworth doing a 1:46,714 to be ahead of the No. 63 Weathertech-sponsored Ferrari driven by defending champion Alessandro Balzan.

Prototype

Congratulations to Action Express Racing’s Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa & Felipe Albuquerque on winning the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA! 🏆

Posted by Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, January 28, 2018
The race got underway cleanly and everyone made it through the first few laps without a hitch

With all the qualifying puzzle now done and dusted it was time for the race. There were fears of rain but forecasters made it clear that there will be no showers before Sunday. So, the race got underway cleanly and everyone made it through the first few laps without a hitch – minus one. The Wright Motorsport No. 58 Porsche suffered a peculiar incident on the second formation lap that saw Robert Renauer hit the wall. That car crawled to the garage where it was repaired for the better part of two hours, effectively losing any chance at a good result on the team’s IMSA debut. The cause of the crash was initially thought to be down to driver error, but it might’ve been a suspension failure that caused it all.

Cadillac showed their strength early as they ran 1-2-3-4 overall after one hour of racing. While it was the American marque’s race to lose, they didn’t have it all their way. While both the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing and the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing entries led at times, neither reached the finish line. The Troy Flis-owned car retired after an engine misfire after the halfway point while last year’s winners retired on safety grounds after a total of seven punctures hit the Konica Minolta-sponsored Cadillac. The punctures were a major talking point during the race as virtually everybody in the Prototype class got hit by punctures – especially on the rear right corner.

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Cadillac showed their strength early as they ran 1-2-3-4 overall after one hour of racing

Tire manufacturer Continental, which provides all the tires for the top class, argued that the tire failures could be caused by the teams exploring the outer limits of the tires by trying unadvisable camber setups, tire pressures or double stinting. Continental’s claims were rebuked by most of those hit by punctures, Wayne Taylor in particular stating that his men never ran outside of the advised parameters while another senior member within a Prototype team suggested that the blame could be on Continental’s shoulders for bringing older tires within their massive 10,000-strong allocation for this race. This claim has not been, however, confirmed.

Action Express Racing were among the teams trying to double-stint the tires, particularly on the No. 31 entry but they never had a puncture, nor did the No. 5 which went on to cruise to victory lane. AXR – which scored a 1-2 finish – didn’t have an effortless run to the flag, though, as their 5.5-liter V-8 engines started overheating. While the team was able to pull the No. 5 in the garage on Sunday for a water refill under a caution period, the No. 31 crew wasn’t as lucky and that procedure was done under green flag conditions. Mix that with the fact that the No. 31 also lost time due to a penalty that was earned after Stuart Middleton tagged Simon Pagenaud into a spin and you’ll understand why the Whelen-sponsored Caddy fell a lap behind its sister car.

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Team Penske’s ORECA-based Acuras. Both the No. 6 and the No. 7 were fast

This meant that the winning trio of Filipe Albuquerque, Joao Barosa and Christian Fittipaldi were the first in a decade to win by lapping the whole field. It was also Action Express Racing’s third Daytona 24 Hours success after their victories in 2010 and 2014. Eric Curran, Mike Conway, Felipe Nasr and Stuart Middleton held it together to finish second in what was an attritional race for the DPIs.

For starters, the main opposition to the Cadillacs: Team Penske’s ORECA-based Acuras. Both the No. 6 and the No. 7 were fast and that was further proved when they ran 1-2 in the race. The Captain’s comeback to sports car racing yielded a total of 105 laps in the lead across his two cars but the end result was a far cry from their hopes: 9th and 10th overall. That’s because both machines were involved in on-track incidents that ended up in quite serious damage that lost the cars a massive 15 laps against the winners. Team Extreme Speed Motorsport also rose to the occasion, especially when Pipo Derani was at the wheel. Both Nissans were, however, fast but none of them went past the 18-hour mark as both of the engines expired – not a good showcase from Nissan.

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Mazda-Joest's debut ended up in tears and smoke

Another significant debut was that of the Mazda-Joest operation and that too ended up in tears and smoke. Both RT24-Ps gained some three seconds over last year’s pace so they could’ve fought up there if it wasn’t for a boatload of issues affecting both cars, ending with a proper fire on one of the Multimatic/Riley-based prototypes. It was, definitely, not the debut that Ralf Juttner or John Doonan were hoping for. Also in strife was Alonso’s United Autosports team. Indeed, the Ligiers were never as fast as the ORECA P2 cars but they weren’t sluggish either. Sadly, gearbox problems and a puncture put the trio of Alonso (who led at one point), Lando Norris (who drove superbly at night when the rain that was expected for Sunday arrived hours earlier) and Phil Hanson.

On the upside, the sister No. 32 car was close to claiming an unlikely podium finish but Will Owen, Paul di Resta, Hugo de Sadeleer and Bruno Senna had to be content with fourth after a late charge by the No. 54 CORE Autosport ORECA which finished third after impeccable drives by hired guns Loic Duval and Romain Dumas. Fifth overall was the No. 78 Jackie Chan DC Racing car driven by the likes of Alex Brundle or Macau phenomenon Ferdinand of Habsburg. Lance Stroll drove in the sister car but that was pegged back by a tire failure among other issues.

Top 5 Prototype Class Results

Pos No. Drivers Team Vehicle Laps
1 5 Albuquerque / Barbosa / Fittipaldi Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi 808
2 31 Nasr / Curran / Conway / Middleton Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi 808
3 54 Bennett / Braun / Dumas / Duval CORE Autosport ORECA LMP2 808
4 32 Owen / de Sadeleer / Di Resta / Senna United Autosports Ligier LMP2 804
5 78 Tung / Brundle/ Habsburg-Lothringen Jackie Chan DCR JOTA ORECA LMP2 804

GTLM

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Chip Ganassi’s Fords led all but 10 laps en-route to the team’s 200th victory since 1994

The top GT category did not provide the knife-edge drama and excitement it usually delivers as Chip Ganassi’s Fords led all but 10 laps en-route to the team’s 200th victory since 1994. With 783 laps in the books, Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon and Richard Westbrook won aboard the No. 67 Ford GT, beating Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdai by just 11 seconds after running 1-2 for almost 19 hours.

Corvette Racing and Porsche North-America could have been a factor but both were far at the end – for different reasons. Corvette Racing finished third and fourth, the No. 3 of polesitters Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller taking the last spot on the podium, albeit two laps behind the winners.

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Corvette Racing and Porsche North-America could have been a factor but both were far at the end

The other C7.R finished fourth after a race-deciding move by the team during the nightly downpour to keep Marcel Fassler on slick tires. The move initially put Marcel ahead of the Fords but, ultimately, the two Multimatic-built cars overtook the Swiss and put over 40 seconds on him in pursuit of the star in those conditions, Porsche’s Patrick Pilet.

The Frenchman and the whole No. 911 crew was the other contender as the German marque’s mythical wet weather ability proved to still be true. The 991 raced to the front with Pilet still on dry tires, and no one could catch him. Indeed, that car was still in contention before Nick Tandy suffered a crash in the Bus Stop chicane. This meant that the class top 5 was completed by the No. 62 Risi Ferrari that never had the ultimate pace. Same can be said by the other Porsche and the two BMWs that managed to finish, despite a tire blowout for Bill Auberlen in the night. That was, though, the only dramatic tire failure in the Michelin camp.

Top 5 GTLM Class Results

Pos No. Drivers Team Vehicle Laps
1 67 Briscoe / Westbrook / Dixon Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT 783
2 66 Hand / Mueller / Bourdais Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT 783
3 3 Magnussen / Garcia/ Rockenfeller Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R 781
4 4 Gavin / Milner / Fassler Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R 780
5 62 Vilander / Pier Guidi / Calado / Rigon Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE 774

GTD

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Many could’ve won GTD but, in the end, it was all about Lamborghini

Many could’ve won GTD but, in the end, it was all about Lamborghini. Indeed, Michael Shank Racing’s Acura No. 86 and the No. 33 Riley Mercedes-Benz were in it with one hour to go but a pushy Juan-Pablo Montoya and a late dash for fuel denied both those teams a chance at the win.

In the end, the team that was fastest at the Roar won. Grasser Racing’s No. 11 crew of Mirko Bortolotti, Rik Breukers, Rolf Ineichen and Franck Perera claimed that elusive first win for Lamborghini in a 24-hours race. Second and just a few seconds behind was the No. 86 Acura that survived the body check from the Acura and resisted the attacks of the No. 48 Lamborghini that completed the podium. The Riley Mercedes was fourth ahead of the No. 64 Ferrari of Scuderia Corsa. The Italian team suffered as the Weathertech-sponsored sister car had transmission issues early on that effectively ended its chances of victory.

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Scott Pruett put an end to his 50-year-long career with a race to ninth in GTD

But the biggest near-miss in this category must be Montaplast by Land Motorsport. The German team led at one point by a full lap over everybody until IMSA discovered that they breached the regulations regarding fuel flow. Apparently, their fueling rig was pumping gas into their Audi R8 LMS at a faster rate then they were allowed to (each car has a different-sized nozzle that limits the fuel flow during refueling as I’ve mentioned in the preview).

This forced IMSA to punish the German team with a five-minute stop-and-hold penalty and they finished seventh, behind the No. 44 Magnus Audi. Also disappointing was Scott Pruett’s final outing as a professional race car driver. The five-time Daytona 24 Hours overall winner put an end to his 50-years-long career with a race to ninth in GTD after the car he co-drove with David Heinemeier-Hansson and Jack Hawksworth suffered damage late in the race.

Top 5 GTD Class Results

Pos No. Drivers Team Vehicle Laps
1 11 Ineichen / Bortolotti / Perera / Breukers GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 752
2 86 Legge / Parente / Hindman / Allmendinger Michael Shank / Curb-Angajanian Acura NSX GT3 751
3 48 Sellers / Snow / Caldarelli / Miller Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 751
4 33 Keating / Bleekemolen / Christodoulou / Stolz Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 751
5 64 Sweendler / Bell / Montecalvo / Bird Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 751

Full Results

Check out the full results from Daytona http://www.racer.com/images/2018/Jan_2/IMSA/by_class_Results_-_Unofficial.pdf

What’s Next

With many Rolexes handed out and a few pages of American sports car racing history being written, the IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Championship will move to the second round of the season in March. The Sebring 12 Hours will take place between February 14 and 17.

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