The engines roared to life and the kickoff to the Racing / Motorsports season officially started.
In the fifty anniversary of IMSA the race was filled with storylines.
• After “unofficial” track record was set during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Mazda Team Joest and driver Oliver Jarvis officially scored the Motul Pole Award in the No. 77 Mazda RT24-P DPi with a lap of 1:33.685 (136.792 mph) besting PJ Jones’ 26-year-old record of 1:33.875.
Both Mazda DPis – the No. 77 shared by Jarvis, Tristan Nunez, Timo Bernhard and Rene Rast and the No. 55 co-driven by Jonathan Bomarito, Harry Tincknell and Olivier Pla – were quick at the Roar, we’re also quick in qualifying (J. Bomarito qualified fourth) and quick in the early stages of the Rolex 24. Sadly, however, neither was around for daybreak Sunday morning.
After leading at different times throughout the first six hours, the No. 77 was forced to retire with a mechanical problem. The No. 55 lost three laps in the first quarter of the race before battling back, only to have an incident take them out in the 14th hour.
• BMW Team RLL and its No. 25 BMW M8 GTE co-drivers Augusto Farfus, Connor De Phillippi, Philipp Eng and Colton Herta didn’t mind the raindrops falling in victory lane Sunday afternoon as they celebrated the first Rolex 24 victory for a BMW GT car since 1998 (BMW-powered Daytona Prototypes claimed overall victories in 2011 and 2013).
The team was thrilled to bring home the victory as a tribute to longtime BMW stalwart Charly Lamm, who was the team principal for Schnitzer BMW. Lamm passed away suddenly last Thursday at the age of 63.
“This win is magical and of special significance to me,” A. Farfus said. “A few days ago, I lost a very important person in my life. I am sure that Charly was with me on the way to this success, so the win is for him.
It capped off quite a month for BMW Team RLL, which had two-time CART champion Alex Zanardi as part of its driver lineup in its No. 24 M8 GTE. That team finished ninth in GTLM due in part to a damaged steering column on the first pit stop as Zanardi – who lost his legs in a Champ Car crash in Germany in 2001 – was attempting to install his specially modified steering wheel with hand controls at the same time the car was dropped from its air jacks.
The team lost several laps repairing the steering column. Nevertheless, Zanardi still had a positive first experience in the Rolex 24.
“I feel incredibly sorry for everyone who worked so hard on this project, both in Munich and here in the USA,” Zanardi said. “We really tested countless possible scenarios in the run-up to the race, and then something happens in the first pit stop which has never happened before. But that is motorsport for you. We just have to accept it.
“That aside, my appearance here at Daytona, with all the fantastic reactions from the fans, colleagues and opponents has been like a fairy tale. I would like to say a big thank you to BMW Motorsport and BMW Team RLL for one of the best experiences of my life.”
• Meyer / Shank Racing
After overcoming several setbacks, the all-female No. 57 Heinricher Racing & Meyer / Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo completed the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Sunday with a 13th place result.
The Jackie Heinricher-led effort paired Katherine Legge, Christina Nielsen, Bia Figueiredo (Ana Beatriz) and Simona De Silvestro for the Rolex 24’s first all-female entry in 25 years. With 24 hours of racing ahead, Figueiredo made her first-ever Rolex 24 start, laying down clean laps prior to a lap 64 hand off to Neilsen. The two-time IMSA champion showed her strength with a strong run. Katherine Legge’s ambitious drive to the front. After receiving the car in 11th, Legge charged to the front of the field and brought the No. 57 machine to third before handing the car off to De Silvestro. De Silvestro was positioned for the restart and managed to keep control in the varying conditions for a lap 550 handoff to Legge. With conditions that were near impossible to maneuver through, Legge suffered damage after an off course excursion saw the front of the car make contact with the wall. After repairs got the car back on track. Then the red flags for rain came and ended there day in 13th
• Ford Performance / Ganassi Racing Ford GTs
Had it not been for some bad luck, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing very well could have taken home its third consecutive GTLM victory in the Rolex 24.
The team’s No. 67 Ford GT, which won the 2018 edition with the same three co-drivers in Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon, fell five laps down to the GTLM leaders early in the race after Briscoe hit the pit wall and then incurred a stop-and-hold penalty for an improper wave-by. However, they battled all the way back to lead 15 laps before a late-race stop for fuel in a closed pit with what would be two laps remaining pushing them to fourth in the final race standings.
The No. 66 trio of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais, meanwhile, were top contenders throughout much of the race, leading for 34 laps before an incident with the No. 911 Porsche GT Team RSR while leading the race on a late restart removed the No. 66 from contention for the win.
“It’s disappointing not to win here today, because we certainly had two cars capable of winning,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “The weather conditions were treacherous for everyone, and it certainly played into how the race turned out.
“But we had both Ford GTs get back to the front after issues on the track, and that’s a tribute to the Ford and Ganassi crews and their never give up attitude, who worked so hard to make repairs under very tough conditions for them.
• Corvette Racing C7R
In more than two decades of competition, Corvette Racing has faced its share of adversity and challenging conditions. The championship-winning program experienced the highs and lows of endurance racing Saturday and Sunday in a soggy start to the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The two Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs finished the Rolex 24 At Daytona despite some of the most treacherous conditions in the team’s 21-year history. Both Corvettes led the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class on multiple occasions in the opening half of the race before troubles beset Corvette Racing entries.
The No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R of Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller led the team’s effort with a sixth-place class finish. Magnussen qualified second and led during his first 90 minutes in the Corvette before the two C7.Rs made contact in pitlane.
Despite losing three laps in the incident, the No. 3 Corvette crew and engineers took advantage of timely yellows and key strategic calls to move Garcia back into the lead less than 10 hours. Unfortunately, the No. 3 Corvette suffered an electrical issue that impacted the digital dash around the track. As a result, the car-to-pits telemetry was compromised including fuel monitoring. That issue reared its head just before halfway as Garcia ran out of fuel on the backstretch of the 3.56-mile circuit.
Once back in the pitlane Garcia handed over to Rockenfeller, who re-entered eighth in class. Attrition and the weather allowed the No. 3 Corvette to make up two positions before the race was stopped for the final two hours.
The No. 4 Corvette C7.R of Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fässler found itself in contention from the get-go after starting ninth in class. Gavin moved up to fourth before handing over to Milner near the two-hour mark, and the No. 4 Corvette raced its way to the lead a little more than an hour later. All three drivers spent time in the lead of the class.
The second half of the race held much of the same misfortune for the No. 4 C7.R as its sister car experienced. After having to stop for bodywork repairs not long after the rain began in earnest, Milner hydroplaned under braking going into the first corner and going into the tire barriers with the left side of the Corvette.
Once it returned to the garage, crews from both team entries went to work replacing a number of components on the No. 4 C7.R including left-side exhaust, rocker and bodywork plus the wing and nose, among other items. The stellar work took less than 30 minutes with Fässler returning to the circuit inside eight hours to go.
• The GTD class was wide open with five cars from wishing on the lead lap and another six cars just a lap or two behind when the second red flag came out. The five cars on the GTD lead lap represented four different manufacturers: Lamborghini (first), Audi (second and fourth), Lexus (third) and Acura (fifth). Another Lexus was the first car a lap down in sixth, followed by a Mercedes-AMG, a Porsche, a Ferrari and a BMW.
The No. 11 GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 shared by Rolf Ineichen, Mirko Bortolotti, Christian Engelhart and Rik Breukers, won the race for the second consecutive year. Any of the other 10 could have with a lucky break here or there.
The next event for the IMSA Series is the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring