|Photo Credit: Honda|
Considered the officially awakening of the North American, the staple Rolex 24 at Daytona sports car endurance event is a non-stop challenge placing some of the world's most exotic race cars and skilled drivers in a battle consumed within a 24-hour clock. At the end of the 2016 edition of the prestigious competition, the Daytona International Speedway was a sight of some intense action, heartbreak and some strong showings from some newer vehicles.
Last year, a Ligier-powered Honda in the hands of Michael Shank Racing demonstrated pole-winning speed but lost the test of endurance over 24 hours. For 2016, the Ligier chassis and Honda engine went the distance in the hands of Tequila Patron ESM.
The second fastest prototype entry after the sports car race's qualifying session, the black and green #2 car promptly took the lead on the first lap. Leading the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona's initial 26 laps, Tequila Patron ESM race car was a steady frontrunner throughout the course of what would ultimately be 736 laps around the 3.56-mile track. After lap 691, the #2 Ligier JS P2 was effectively on cruise control to victory with the driving team of team principal Scott Sharp, Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek and Pipo Derani would take their vehicles to a monumental win. The 2016 Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona win for Honda places the Japanese-derived automaker's first appearance at the race's overall victory lane.
|Photo Credit: Honda|
A late-race battle for the overall victory at Daytona was ultimately defeated as the Wayne Taylor Racing #10 Chevrolet Corvette DP car lost ground. In the remaining minutes, Max Angelelli soldiered on in the Wayne Taylor Racing owned machine to finish 26.166 seconds behind the Honda-powered Ligier. After crossing the line, the driver of the #10 car abruptly stopped the vehicle on-track. While some reports indicate Max Angelelli could have been inhaling exhaust fumes in the final laps, no specific reason has been confirmed by the Wayne Taylor Racing organization. The team later reported Angelelli's health as being fine and he was discharged from hospital on Monday where he was kept overnight after the race as a precaution.
The Honda-engined Ligier's win comes in what was the old Daytona Prototype-spec cars final year of eligibility for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. In the final appearance of vehicles serving as remnants of the former Grand Am Road Racing sanctioning body. Another curious sight at the 2016 race was the strong performance of the radical DeltaWing. Although acknowledged as a fantastic of engineering, the car has enjoyed limited success over several years of competition. At Daytona, promise was shown for the innovative design study as the DeltaWing race car led on three occasions with Katherine Legge first taking the lead for lap 27.
With four classes competing in the 24-hour event, every category featured some heated fights. The second-fastest class on track was GTLM. Due to a wet qualifying session, the Thursday time trails was actually dominated by the speed of the GTLM class (as par IMSA rules, all Prototypes were positioned ahead of GTLM vehicles). In the final hour of the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona, the #912 Porsche 911 RSR led while the pair of Corvette Racing C7.Rs was gaining ground. Thanks to fuel management of the Chevrolet Corvette C7.R vehicles, pit stops for the yellow race cars and a late-race hard charge proved to effective. Catching the #912 Porsche first for the lead was the #4 Corvette that swept passed with minor contact with 36 minutes remaining in the event. The #3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, on slightly fresher tires than its team car, overcome the Porsche and set sights on the #4 car. For the final laps, Oliver Gavin in the #4 car and Antonio Garcia in the #3 machine fought to an outstanding finish. At the line, Gavin held onto the class victory by just 0.034 seconds.
|Photo Credit: Chevrolet|
Recounting the late battle, Gavin stated, “Don't let him by. It was going to always be intense because we're teammates. The cars are very equal. I know Antonio really well. We run all the time together and we're good friends, and I've raced with him for many, many years. I know how smart he is in the car, and I knew he was going to be looking for a weak spot and he would just try and pounce at the right point". On the other side of the Corvette GTLM battle, Antonio Garcia reflected, "Before my last stop, I knew I had to build a big enough gap where I wouldn’t be too far behind the lead when I rejoined. I almost achieved that. The last stop was good and put me in a situation to gain back track position. I still had to get around the Porsche and catch Oliver. We had a really good setup and car. I was proud and happy to have the chance to battle for the win with Oliver. It was one of the best races I’ve ever had. Oliver is very experienced and didn’t make any mistakes, even though I was really pushing him very hard. We put on a mega show for all the Corvette fans. It is amazing that we have a Corvette 1-2. I feel very good about it. I’m happy for Oliver, Tommy and Marcel."
The Chevrolet Corvette C7.R posted a triumphant effort in the Rolex 24 at Daytona but the Porsche 911 RSR led the GTLM for a great deal of the 24-hour duration. Deeper down the GTLM grid was the debut performance of the new Chip Ganassi Racing backed Ford GT race cars fell short of pre-race hype. The #66 car finished 7th in class while the #67 Ford GT was 9th in the race's final running order.
|Photo Credit: Audi|
In GTD, a possible win for the Konrad Motorsport #28 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 the #44 Audi R8 LMS GT3 was ended because of a few gallons of fuel. With the late race leading Lamborghini out of contention, the #44 Audi R8 LMS GT3 fielded by Magnus Racing pulled off a victory in class crossing the line just 3.048 seconds ahead of second-place Porsche. Andy Lally, Marco Seefield, Rene Rast and team owner John Potter was the winning driving combination.
Finally in the PC (Prototype Challenge) category win was claimed by the #85 JDC/Miller Motorsports machine. The PC class honours was heavily decided on attrition and struggle with the #85 weathering the instability best. The #85 Oreca race car, shared by Chris Miller, Russian-Canadian driver Misha Goikhberg, Stephen Simpson and Kenton Koch, finished 4 laps ahead of its class rival.
21 times the Rolex 24 at Daytona was slowed by yellow flags. One of those cautions was attributed to the loss of the DeltaWing. The #8 Starworks Motorsport PC class machine driven by Chris Cummings spun and was stalled in the middle of the race surface at turn one on lap 120. With only a local yellow maintained in the section as the car remained stopped, almost any car in the field was forced into taking risky actions to avoid #8 car. The #0 DeltaWing was unable to avoid the stopped PC car and made hard contact. Damage to the DeltaWing was too severe to repair ending what was great run. An embarrassing caution for the Lamborghini squad also resulted when two of the Huracan GT3 cars collided while battling for the GTD class early Sunday morning.
With the first torture test of the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the books, attention forward will be on the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.