Tequila Patrón ESM prevailed Sunday in a hard-fought Rolex 24 at Daytona, scoring Honda’s first overall victory at the famed event and the first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship win for the new Honda HR35TT twin-turbocharged V6 engine.
The ESM Ligier-Honda JSP2, shared by Pipo Derani, Johannes van Overbeek, Scott Sharp and Ed Brown, took the overall win by 26 seconds ahead of the Wayne Taylor Racing Dallara-Corvette DP driven by Jordan and Ricky Taylor, Max Angelelli and Rubens Barrichello, after a see-saw battle throughout the night time hours with multiple contending teams.
Starting on the outside of the front tow, Derani took the lead at the green flag, but soon fell back behind both the similar Ligier-Honda of Michael Shank Racing and the unique DeltaWing, which led much of the opening two hours.
As night descended, the DeltaWing was eliminated by damage from contact with a stalled car, and the race developed into a contest among the pair of Ligier-Honda’s and a half-dozen rival Daytona Prototype teams.
Starting third, Michael Shank Racing and drivers A.J. Allmendinger, Oswaldo "Ozz" Negri, John Pew and Olivier Pla moved their Honda-powered Ligier to the front for the first time at the two-hour mark with Pla at the wheel.
Negri and Allmendinger also took turns at the point, as the MSR Ligier-Honda led for a total of 99 laps in the first eight hours.
However, mid-way through the ninth hour, engine failure ended the race for MSR.
Although the MSR effort was over for this year’s Rolex 24, the ESM Ligier-Honda continued to run without issue, and at the 12-hour mark held a narrow, two-second lead over a trio of Daytona Prototype efforts, including the #5 and #31 cars of Action Express, and Wayne Taylor Racing #10 Corvette.
As night turned into morning, all four cars remained on the lead lap and in contention for the victory.
The ESM Ligier-Honda moved back into the lead for the final time with slightly more than two hours remaining, when Derani took over from co-driver van Overbeek, then caught an passed the #5 Corvette.
Earlier in the race, Derani set fastest race lap, and he again exhibited both speed and control in the final hour to build a convincing, 26-second lead that he maintained to the checkers.
Both the ESM and the Shank entries utilize the production-based 3.5-liter Honda HR35TT V6 engine, developed for competition by HPD from the Honda "J35" series of passenger vehicle V6 engines, with improvements including twin turbochargers.
Key production-based components include the block and cylinder heads, direct-injection fuel system, valve train components, drive-by-wire throttle, alternator, sensors and fasteners. The engine even utilizes a stock Honda oil filter.
Video News Releases from this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona and companion Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race can be found on the "Honda Racing/HPD Trackside" YouTube channel produced by the Carolinas Production Group. CPG is providing video highlights packages following Honda Racing/HPD events during the 2016 season.
The video packages can be found at: youtube.com/hondaracingtrackside and www.hpd.honda.com.
The 2016 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship resumes Saturday, March 19 with another endurance racing classic, the 64th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on winning year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona: "Winning a 24-hour race is still one of the ultimate challenges in motorsports. We’re proud to add this milestone achievement, the Rolex 24, as our first overall victory at Daytona, and our first win for the new 3.5-liter Honda engine package developed for sports car competition.
Congratulations to Scott Sharp, Ed Brown, and the entire Patron Tequila ESM team for a truly world-class effort en route to victory. But it’s also a somewhat bittersweet day, as Michael Shank Racing consistently ran at the front of the field, and undoubtably would have also contended for the victory but mid-race mechanical failure."
Pipo Derani (#2 Tequila Patrón ESMLigier-Honda) on being part of today’s race-winning driver lineup:
""I have no words. It is just amazing to win my first race in America.
It’s just a big team effort to be here. To win this race is really tough, everything has to come together from the mechanical side, to the engineers and the drivers, it really is a complete team effort. The last two and a half hours were pretty intense. With the second-place car really pushing us, I couldn’t make any mistakes. It was pretty tense, but pretty exciting at the same time. It was a tough race out there, but will be something we can look back on with pride for the rest of our lives."
Ozz Negri (#60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier-Honda) led 99 laps with co-drivers John Pew, A.J. Allmendinger and Olivier Pla: "I had no warning [about the engine failure]. We were just looking after everything, taking our time, but suddenly it let go. It’s tough, really tough, to take. But this happens in racing. Everyone here, the Honda/HPD guys and Ligier and everyone at MSR, we are all working together.
We win together, we lose together.
We would have loved to get another Rolex victory, and I am pretty sure we were on our way to doing just that."