A successful 53rd running of the Rolex 24 @ Daytona

Posted by Denis L. Tanney on Jul 27, 2015 5:58:32 PM

The overall winning team along with its principal owner, Chip Ganassi gets a ride into Victory Circle to begin their celebration and enjoy the fruits of their win, each receiving a Rolex Daytona Chronograph watch.

After a rather controversial race last year, where officials tried to make the right calls and made two huge errors, this year’s race went off without a hitch. No infractions from any teams and no incidents that required any major official intervening; a good thing, for sure. The crowds were huge and the weather was as perfect as anyone could hope for in late January in Florida.

As this is the kick-off event for the Tudor Series, the Super Bowl of sports car racing in America, it was expected as always to have a large number of cars entered. The count was down a bit from the last couple of years but still, 53 cars got the green flag this year.

Pit road was as crowded as I have ever seen it. Barely any space between the pit stalls made things very tight for photographers to shoot the pit stops. Several teams put signs outside their tented pit compounds reading “Only Team Members Allowed,? and stationed a member of their team at their doors to enforce this rule. Being the international flavored event the Rolex 24 has become over the years, drivers from many countries and from many types of racing were there to hopefully win and have fun in this wonderful hallowed event.

Typically we see race drivers from Indy Car, Nascar, Sports Car, Formula One and many “Gentleman? drivers (who compete as weekend warriors, but have other real full time jobs). It is a race that everyone wants to get in on.

Krohn Racing’s Alex Brundle driving the Ligier JS PS2 Judd Prototype racing the Speedsource Mazda Diesel of Tristan Nunez.

 

It is a fun race, a grueling 24 hour race and yet a very, very rewarding race. Of course, if you are on the podium at the end of the race it is most gratifying, especially when the CEO of Rolex, Stuart Wicht presents you with a Rolex Daytona Chronograph watch. Yet, there are many drivers who come in hopes of just finishing this long race. Most teams had four drivers, a few had five drivers and a few had only three drivers per car. This made stint changes, rest and sleep a bit more hectic for the three man teams.

 

 

The race began at 2:10pm on Saturday, January 24th. The fans seemed very ready for the start this year. The stands had a large number of spectators and despite all the construction going on at the Speedway [International Speedway Corp is spending $400 + million to add new seating and modernize the existing structures] the main grandstand along the front straight was well populated. As ever, the infield filled portion of the oval was packed to capacity. Campfires were constantly burning, beginning a few days before the race and continuing until well after the race concluded. There is nothing so delightful to one’s olfactory senses than being able to breathe in a wide variety of charcoal cooked meats, fish and veggies as you walk around this huge complex going from one location to the next. Too bad we couldn’t stop at each one to sample the culinary delights.

I am happy to report that there were no incidents this year that caused large interruptions to the race, as we witnessed early on in last year’s race when the sun got in the eyes of a driver. It caused a massive crash and the driver, Memo Gidley, spent months of recuperation in a hospital, and his team withdrew from the series altogether.

Ferrari vs Aston Martin down the front straight-away. The Scuderia Corsa 458 Italia of Andrea Bertolini stays ahead of the TRG-AMR AstonMartinV12Vantageof Christina Nielsen.

2015 proved to be yet another strong race for the Daytona Prototypes. The ‘Power of Performance’, which is the series of measures the Tudor Series officials take to insure that all classes are equally met when racing, seemed pretty much in order. Other than the Prototype Challenge class cars, which are essentially spec racers, using the same body, same engines and same exact specs, the other three classes [Daytona Prototype, GTLeMans, and GT Daytona], there is always some grumbling about equality or advantages. We heard virtually nothing this year, thankfully. As time has gone on and racing evolves to a scientific exactness, the sophistication of all race cars (well maybe not so much Nascar since they still use carburetors), especially sports cars and open wheel racers is such that competition has become fiercer than ever. This naturally promotes some drivers to feel that the teams with money behind them have the advantage.

The idea of the Tudor Series was to make that a nonfactor. Rolex, the title sponsor, spends a great deal of time and money to promote this race and to be sure it runs successfully. In the many years they have been the title sponsor, this event has never dulled anyone’s taste for racing or for the watch manufacturer, who continues to produce some of the finest watches in the world, and those lucky enough to wear them will attest to that.

Team Ganassi, Car #02, the DP Riley chassis, with Ford EcoBoost power plant at night on the high banking of the tunnel turn, turn #4.

This year, the final 30 minutes of the race was filled with action and some would call it drama. I call it plain excitement. It turned out to be one of the closest finishes in the race’s storied history. A mere 1.333 seconds separated first from second and gave Chip Ganassi his sixth Rolex 24 win as a team owner. His car #02, the Riley chassis and Ford EcoBoost engine car was driven home by Scott Dixon who shared the seat time with his co-drivers Tony Kanaan, Kyle Larson, and Jamie McMurray. This was the first 24 hour win for the Ford engine since its debut last year. Coming in second, right on the #02 coattail was the Action Express DP powered by the Corvette engine with drivers Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais. And, in third place, was the Wayne Taylor team Corvette powered DP with Jordan Taylor and Ricky Taylor (Wayne Taylor’s sons) and the old master of the team best known in racing as “Max the Axe? Angelelli. Taking the top spot in the GTLM (GT LeMans) class was the Corvette Racing Corvette C7-R of Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Ryan Brisco. In the PC (Prototype Challenge) class we saw the Cuttwood/ Spyder Oreca FLM09 Chevrolet of PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports and Mike Gausch, Andrew Novich, Andrew Palmer and Tom Kimber-Smith take the top step of the podium. Interestingly enough, this team is one of a very few teams to have claimed class victories at Daytona, Sebring and Petit LeMans. And, in the GTD class (GT Daytona), the Dodge Viper SRT of Ben Keating, Dominik Farnbacher, Al Carter, Kuno Wittmer and Cameron Lawrence took the top honors.

Three abreast: Martin Plowman in the PC Bar1 Motorsports Oreca FLN09 #61, the JDC/Miller Motorsports Oreca of Chris Miller and Marc Bessing in the GTD class Muehlner Motorsports Porsche 911 RSR.

No one can say this racing wasn’t exciting. From mid-afternoon to twice around the clock during the 24 hours, the action never stopped. The cars sped away from the start and began their long, long trek around the 3.56 mile road circuit at Daytona International Speedway at full throttle the entire 24 hour period. The race itself is grueling for driver, crew and media. The only ones that get to play and relax are the fans. This is a race that always sees high attrition in the field. And, this year was no different than years past. As an example, less than half of the original sixteen starters in the Daytona Prototype class finished the race. And, only three of the original eight starters from the PC class saw the checkered flag. We all hear of unfortunate incidents at many races; it has been a while since we had a critter killed during this event, but this year the honors went to the No.44 Magnus Racing Porsche 911GTD car as it hit an opossum right after losing its 6th gear, but the car recovered to finish 11th for the race. No other incidents were noteworthy.

The setting sun late Saturday hits Dorsey Schroeder right in the eyes as he works in his office; the BMW powered Riley DP entry.

The Rolex 24 has come a long way and the fan base has increased dramatically over the years. Is it the cars, the drivers or the technology? Whatever the case, this has evolved into a great event to look forward to. Congratulations to Rolex and all the teams and IMSA (International Motorsports Association, the sanctioning body) who once again showed us how a 24 hour race can be exciting, challenging and rewarding for all.

Topics: News, featured, feature

Author:Denis L. Tanney

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