Meyer Shank Racing claims second straight Rolex 24 debuting GTP
Meyer Shank Racing dominated Saturday and Sunday’s (Jan. 28-29) 61st Running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, clinching their second consecutive victory in the event while dawning IMSA’s new GTP class. The MSR w/ Curb-Agajanian No. 60 Acura ARX-06 led 365 of the 783 circuits turned in the 24-hour affair from Daytona International Speedway’s 3.56-mile road course.
Defending IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Prototype Champion, Tom Blomqvist took the first checkered flag in the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class, consisting of Le Mans-spec Prototypes, now categorized as LMDh entries. The new convergence of new-era Prototype racing stateside and in Europe was shown off in a dominant performance for the Honda Performance Development powerplant in Santa Clarita, California, with GTP entires finishing 1-2 on debut.
The debut wasn’t so cheery and fortunate for all manufacturers race debuting their new toys in Daytona this weekend. Only four of the nine GTP entrants finished on the lead lap, and the next car finished 12 laps behind. In GTD classes, the new Porsche 911 GT3 R 992 continued to fight a never-winning battle against the Balance of Performance, never putting lap times within two seconds of the fastest laps in class.
Attrition was the name of the game once again in the Rolex 24 Hours after the last handful of trips to the beach felt like a sprint race. An almost six-hour green flag run started the morning on Sunday, pinning several straggling lead lap cars that remained overnight, behind a lap. When the cautions returned by afternoon, the race was within the final two hours of distance. A caution with 33 minutes remaining set a final restart with 26 minutes on the clock.
The day was bad early for BMW M Team Rahal Letterman Lanigan (RLL) at Daytona, as the two slowest qualifying top-class prototypes fought reliability all day long between its No. 24 and No. 25 BMW M V8 Hybrid machines. After extensive garage time for the No. 25 car on Saturday afternoon regarding the motor generator unit (MGU). Then, the No. 24 was running fifth with six hours remaining when IndyCar driver and team floater for the weekend, Colton Herta was forced to pit with issues regarding the hybrid components on the other BMW M GTP entry.
Porsche Motorsports also had a few electrical issues strike Saturday evening. Early on, the No. 7 Porsche 963 went behind the wall to attempt to fix the gremlins they had fought with all weekend, however, they never disappeared. As for the No. 6, several things went wrong, including finally an expired engine. Nick Tandy, after crashing the car in qualifying last Sunday, had a resillant drive coming back from a spin through the kink and western horseshoe in the infield section of the race track, destroying both front and rear assemblies. The No. 6 was on a drive back to the lead lap, earning one back by passing cars before having electrical issues itself, leading to the aforementioned expiration of the engine.
Cadillac Racing brought three of their new machines to Daytona when including the Action Express Racing’s No. 31, supported by the No. 01 from Chip Ganassi’s shop, and the No. 02 which will contest the World Endurance Championship beginning in the 1000 Miles of Sebring in March. While having their own small tribulations in the race, the two CGR supported machines were the only cars to match Acura’s lead lap pace of 783, while the Whelen Engineering car suffered damage with about nine hours to go after being struck by a GT car entering the bus stop. After a repair, the car lost ten laps and eventually finished 12 laps down to the eventual winners.
With an hour and a half remaining, Tom Blomqvist in the MSR No. 60 led the way over the pair of CGR Cadillacs until Felipe Albuquerque in the Wayne Taylor Racing Acura hopped to third over the No. 01. As the caution flags flew and the field kept getting bunched up, the three behind Shank’s Acura duked for each spot, with eventually on the final restart, the No. 10 clearing away for second as the two Caddys fought side-by-side on-track, allowing the pair of ARX-06s to pull from their Cadillac V-LMDhs.
Blomqvist put the No. 60 team on his back in the final stint, laying down incredible lap times consistently despite the restart pressure and constant swing of track conditions as a result of the ever-changing conditions. The British-born driver set down all of the top ten laps in the GTP class throughout Saturday and Sunday’s race. The SiriusXM machine took the checkered flag 4.2-seconds ahead of the sister Acura.
Blomqvist and Pagenaud celebrate their second straight victory overall at Daytona, while Colin Braun wins for his fourth time in-class, but first on the overall top step. Meanwhile, Castroneves has now won three consecutive Rolex 24s, as has Acura and Michael Shank wins for his third time in overall competition as a car owner.
The finish was seen around the world in the LMP2 category, with an incredible storyline shaping up in the final twenty minutes culminating in an unbelievable photo finish from Daytona. Just 0.016-seconds separated the No. 55 Proton Competition ORECA 07 and the No. 04 Crowdstrike Racing by APR ORECA 07 — the closest margin of a class victory in the 61-year history of the sports car mammoth from Daytona. Fred Poordad, Francesco Pizzi, and Giamari Bruni are all first-time Rolex winners.
The No. 35 TDS Racing car was leading with twenty minutes remaining, but Job van Uitert lost control of the P2 sliding into turn one attempting to keep Ben Hanley behind him. When that failed, Hanley was able to establish a lead for a brief time, until James Allen and the Proton No. 55 reared their head back into the game. Allen set up the final approach through the bus stop perfectly to time a run from the slipstream of the lead car and popped out right when he needed to take the checkered flag for his first Rolex 24 triumph in the third start.
Former IndyCar Series and Supercars Champion Champion Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin teamed up for their first Daytona race together this weekend and fought an extremely uphill battle to a near-impossible fifth-place finish. The No. 8 Tower Motorsports entry owned by John Farano had big trouble on the opening lap, causing the first full course caution after a water bottle had apparently leaked on to the car’s engine control unit, not allowing the car to drive. The team lost ten laps and when the checkered waved for the New Zealander turned IndyCar championship threat at just two laps down.
Anders Fjordbach sustained a big hit to the tire barrier on the inside of the bus stop with just over 3 and a half hours remaining. The No. 20 High Class Racing entrant was destroyed on the right side, but luckily Fjordbach hopped out and walked with the safety team back to the medical center.
Steven Thomas crashed big into a similar spot at the seven-hour mark with the No. 11 TDS Racing LMP2, however, Thomas had been leading. The strange crash happened as he was racing a damaged Lamborghini into the chicane.
It was a smooth coast for AWA and their No. 17 Duqueine D08 to victory Sunday afternoon, as Wayne Boyd took the checkered flag with a 12-lap advantage over the next car competing in-class. Nico Varrone, Thomas Merrill, and Anthony Mantella all shared the car throughout the race.
Just five of the nine LMP3s finished Sunday afternoon after big attrition hit many heavy hitting teams throughout the entire event. Sean Creech Motorsports led 282 laps with the No. 33 machine, but only managed a second-place finish following an issue in the final five hours.
Riley Motorsports’ No. 74 Ligier JS P320 had just taken the class lead when the engine blew. Another engine blew on the Andretti No. 36 a couple of hours after, but not before the MRS GT-Racing No. 43 was set ablaze down the backstretch and coming to a rest in speedway turn three.
From pole position, WeatherTech Racing’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 led the most laps in the all-professional driver lineup GT-Daytona class. Jules Gounon fought off hard-charging Antonio Garcia and Jack Hawksworth in the closing laps through the chaotic restarts for the Pro class victory. The Mercedes fought fiercely with the rival Corvette and Lexus throughout the final few hours all the way to the line. Cooper MacNeil, in what he claims is his final WeatherTech start, goes to Daytona victory lane for the first time with Daniel Juncadella and Maro Engel.
The No. 23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin dominated the category until the fourteenth hour of the race when a tire fell off the car from the lead. The car was able to resume but ended 13 laps down at the end of the race after several repairs.
It wasn’t so bleak, however, as the sister car goes home a winner in their class. Not only did they finish ahead of the GTD competition but the No. 27 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 was the top-finishing GT overall between the two identical car divisions and holding off another Aston for the timepieces.
Romain De Angelis, Marco Sorensen, Ian James, and Darren Turner outlasted the rest of the GT3 field a hectic finish amongst slower LMP3s and getting diced by the flying GTPs ready to lap the field. Sorensen pulled a remarkable final stint to hang on for the victory after controlling the field for the final five hours.
Easily the most dominant entrant among these was the No. 32 group entered from Team Korthoff Motorsports. They led 227 laps early on before stopping off course and needing a tow back to the garage with about six hours remaining. They returned to finish 15th, 20 laps down in the most populated class on track this weekend.
Spencer Pumpelly led the Magnus Racing No. 44 team to a runner-up finish after getting by the Inception Racing McLaren on a late-race restart. Just 19 of the 23 competing cars finished.
The Winward Racing No. 57 was on pace to become a storybook weekend. The original pole-sitting GTD car was sent to the rear of the grid for the initial start for a chassis swap as a result of a horrific crash exiting turn one in a Thursday practice session. Pole-sitting driver Lucas Auer lost two wheels through the dirt and sharply veered back into a concrete barrier head-on, breaking the Austrian’s back in the incident. The chassis was no good to race on Saturday, so less than 48 hours before the start of the race, the team was without a car. A team member flew back to Texas that evening and gets a spare chassis sent to Daytona that night, which arrives around the afternoon on Friday. The time allows the frantic No. 57 crew to assemble a “Frankenstein” car, but just briefly, as the crunch is less than a day until Saturday’s green flag. With substitute Daniel Morad behind the wheel and the team’s original roster, the team led 177 laps and was going for the win again late when squeezed into the same exact turn-one wall on a restart, ending their day.
61st Rolex 24 at Daytona Results
Pos: (# / Make) Drivers – Laps (* – Did Not Finish)
1: (60 / Acura) Blomqvist / Braun / Castroneves / Pagenaud – 783
2: (10 / Acura) R. Taylor / Albuquerque / Deletraz / Hartley – 783
3: (01 / Cadillac) Bourdais / van der Zande / Dixon – 783
4: (02 / Cadillac) Bamber / Lynn / Westbrook – 783
5: (31 / Cadillac) Derani / Sims / Aitken – 771
6: (24 / BMW) Eng / Farfus / Wittmann / Herta – 768
7: (7 / Porsche) Campbell / Nasr / Christensen – 749
8: (6 / Porsche) Jaminet / Tandy / Cameron – 700*
9: (25 / BMW) De Phillippi / Yelloly / van der Linde / Herta – 652
LMP2 Results (ORECA LMP2 07 chassis):
1: (55) Poordad / Pizzi / J. Allen / Bruni – 761
2: (04) Kurtz / Hanley / McMurry / Gutierrez – 761
3: (88) Perrado / Vaxiviere / Canal / N. Nielsen – 761
4: (35) Heriau / van der Garde / Piersen / Van Uitert – 761
5: (8) Farano / McLaughlin / Newgarden / Simpson – 759
6: (51) Lux / DeFrancesco / Cindric / P. Fittipaldi – 758
7: (52) Keating / Chatin / Quinn / Lapierre – 757
8: (20) Andersen / Jones / Fjordbach / Marciello – 646*
9: (18) Merriman / Dalziel / Rasumssen / Jarvis – 510*
10: (11) Thomas / Jensen / Huffaker / VeeKay – 249*
1: (17 / Duqueine) Mantella / Boyd / Varrone / Merrill – 737
2: (33 / Ligier) Willsey / Barbosa / Pino / Siegel – 725
3: (38 / Ligier) J. De Angelis / C. Allen / Bloum / Shields – 721
4: (13 / Duqueine) Fidani / M. Bell / Kern / Kranz – 717
5: (85 / Duqueine) Bechtolsheimer / van der Helm / Mars / Filippi – 715
6: (87 / Duqueine) Kanamaru / Serravalle / Boulle / Vance – 618*
7: (36 / Ligier) J. Andretti / Chaves / Dickerson / Lindh – 371*
8: (43 / Ligier) Alvarez / French / de Oliveira / Frost – 368*
9: (74 / Ligier) Robinson / Fraga / Burdon / G. van Berlo – 89*
1: (79 / Mercedes) MacNeil / Juncadella / Gounon / Engel – 729
2: (3 / Corvette) Garcia / J. Taylor / Milner – 729
3: (14 / Lexus) Hawksworth / Barnicoat / Conway – 729
4: (63 / Lamborghini) Caldarelli / Bortolotti / Pepper / Grosjean – 728
5: (9 / Porsche) Bachler / Pilet / Vanthoor – 728
6: (53 / Porsche) Kvamme / Estep / J. Magnussen / Hart – 717
7: (23 / Aston) Gunn / Riberas / Pittard – 716
8: (64 / Aston) Giovanis / H. Plumb / M. Plumb / Trinkler – 674
9: (95 / BMW) Auberlen / Hull / Spengler / Edwards – 635*
10: (62 / Ferrari) Pier Guidi / Calado / Serra / Rigon – 349
1: (27 / Aston) R. De Angelis / Sorensen / James / Turner – 729
2: (44 / Aston) Potter / Lally / Pumpelly / Thiim – 729
3: (70 / McLaren) Iribe / Schandorff / Milroy / Kirchhofer – 729
4: (66 / Acura) Monk / Legge / Farnbacher / Miller – 729
5: (12 / Lexus) Telitz / Montecalvo / Kirkwood / Thompson – 728
6: (93 / Acura) Harrison / Formal / Marcelli / R. Briscoe – 727
7: (78 / Lamborghini) Goikhberg / Spinelli / Hites / Mapelli – 726
8: (1 / BMW) Sellers / Snow / Lewis / Martin – 726
9: (16 / Porsche) Hardwick / Heylen / Robichon / Olsen – 723
10: (023 / Ferrari) Triarsi / Scardina / Rovera / Bertolini – 719
11: (77 / Porsche) Brynjolfsson / Hindman / Root / Estre – 719
12: (19 / Lamborghini) Schiavoni / Ineichen / Giammaria / Perera – 714
13: (57 / Mercedes) Ward / Ellis / Dontje / Morad – 710*
14: (80 / Porsche) Hyett / S. Priaulx / Jeannette / Tincknell – 71015: (32 / Mercedes) Skeen / Grenier / Koch / Goetz – 709
16: (91 / Porsche) Melni / K. van Berlo / Evans / Andlauer – 699
17: (96 / BMW) Gallagher / Foley / Dinan / Klingmann – 695
18: (83 / Lamborghini) Frey / Bovy / Gatting / Pin – 659
19: (21 / Ferrari) Mann / Perez Companc / Molina / Castellacci – 655*
20: (42 / Lamborghini) Megennis / Conwright / Li / Deledda – 356*
21: (92 / Porsche) Brule / Udell / Davis / Bleekemolen – 278*
22: (75 / Mercedes) Habul / Stolz / Schiller / Jefferies – 233*
23: (47 / Ferrari) Lacorte / Serragiotto / Fuoco / Balzan – 44*
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