Class acts at the 2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona
The Rolex 24 At Daytona forms a part of the acknowledged Triple Crown of international endurance competition along with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 12 Hours of Sebring. It is a race that attracts renowned car manufacturers, committed teams and talented drivers. Winning this race requires the perfect package; it is no good simply having the fastest drivers or the fastest car.
Jordan Taylor, whose car #10 Velocity Worldwide finished second overall, felt that in any other year his team may have done enough to win: “Our team did a great job. We didn’t have a single mechanical problem the entire race. It was just fuel, tires, and driver changes. Everyone executed the race.” It was not enough, he accepted: “Ganassi were in a class of their own”.
It was not straight-forward, even if former Formula 1 ace Juan Pablo Montoya allowed himself the luxury of thinking: “We have a decent lead, I’m just going to go out there and ride for whatever is left” when taking his final turn at the wheel with two and a quarter hours to go.
Stop & go
Montoya’s team chose the moment to pit their car for fuel and tires. #10 took advantage to grab the lead, making a strategic call to only pick up fuel. Anthony “AJ” Allmendinger in #60 and Joao Barbosa in #9 Action Express Racing (a race winner in 2010) both profited from faster pit stops to emerge between Montoya and the leader.
After 23 hours of racing, the 24th would determine the result. The final act would be about nerve, skill, patience and desire.
Montoya’s car had proved to have an edge over its competitors. During the cool hours of darkness, the drivers had been delighted with its handling, which “didn’t really change from daylight to night” according to co-driver Memo Rojas. Furthermore, the design team had to reduce drag, and their aerodynamic package was helping the car reach its top speed on the straights faster than the competition. Where it might have been at a disadvantage was on the tight infield section of the 3.56-mile racecourse. For any of the three remaining contenders to have a chance, whichever was leading needed traffic between itself and Montoya’s car. Or a mistake.
A split second impulsive decision proved decisive. Allmendinger attempted to pass Barbosa on the outside of the hairpin; a resulting delicate touch was enough to send #60 off the track. Spewing dust and dirt everywhere the car looked more industrial earthmover than sleek racing machine. Both cars went to the pits. Michael Shank wasted precious time clearing debris from their car’s radiator ducts. Action Express Racing served a one-minute penalty for avoidable contact. #10 was left to face an irrepressible Montoya.
Montoya was patient, waiting for #9 to pull off for its penalty before tackling the leader. He took seven minutes to work his way past, and, despite the need for a rapid refuel in the last five minutes, held on to prevail.
The victory gave the Colombian, Montoya, and Rojas from Mexico their third win each at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Another of the quartet, Charlie Kimball scored his first on his debut. The fourth driver, Scott Pruett, entered the history books with his fifth overall win.
#44 Magnus Racing led for 250 of the 678 laps completed by the leading GT cars. Driver Andy Lally was initially in a positive mood: “Running strong and leading the race in the first hour is a good shot in the arm for everybody.” A cautionary aside was prophetic: “We have to stay smart. You’ve got to keep focused.” In the last hour an error in pit strategy dropped the car from first to fifth.
NGT Motorsport #30 qualified second, but a technical irregularity put it to the back of the grid. The team did not give up, posting the fastest lap with 1:47.983: the only GT to break 1:48. Maintaining this impressive pace proved too much. The car retired on lap 535 due to steering problems.
As time counted down, six GT cars were together on the last lap. According to René Rast, driving #52 and a GT winner in the 2012 Rolex 24: “It was a heck of a finish.” Leading with just over an hour to go Rast was to lose by two seconds.
“I was doing qualifying laps. I didn’t care about the tires. I didn’t care about anything. Then the gearbox started to act funny. I was getting slow and braking at the chicane was a nightmare,” explained Albuquerque. It all came down to a ‘splash and dash’, a fast pit stop where the crew would load as much fuel as possible in ten seconds. It was win or bust.
Co-driver Dion von Moltke was stunned by their victory, but pointed to its foundation: “We had a great team. It came down to everyone doing their job.”
In the nascent six car GX class, #16 Napleton Racing dominated the weekend, winning pole, posting the fastest lap in class and finishing 10 laps ahead of their nearest rival. Driver David Donohue, who won the closest finish in the history of the Rolex 24 At Daytona back in 2009, praised his team: “For us it was a race of preparation. Our team did a superior job when this program was conceived in building this car and making it reliable.”
The 52nd Rolex 24 At Daytona is scheduled for 25-26 January 2014.
The 2013 Rolex 24 At Daytona in numbers:
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