Wayne Taylor Racing won the 55th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona with Ricky Taylor, Max Angelelli, Jeff Gordon, and Jordan Taylor piloting it’s No. 10 Cadillac DPi after a thriller of a battle with the rival Action Express No. 5. In Prototype Challenge, it was the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports entry of Pato O’ward, James French, Kyle Masson, and Nicholas Boulle that finished 23 laps ahead of the nearest competitor in class. The manufacturer battles continued in the GT classes with Chip Ganassi Racing beating the GT Le Mans field to the checkers with Dirk Mueller, Joey Hand and Sebastien Bourdais repeating their 2016 Le Mans win in the No. 66 Ford GT to victory. Alegra Motorsports made a late race charge for the GT Daytona win with Carlos de Quesada, Michael de Quesada, Michael Christensen, Daniel Morad, and Jesse Lazare at the wheel.
Taylor’s win comes after multiple controversies embedded in the final segment of the race. The last pass for the win involved contact between Taylor’s Cadillac and the No. 5 Action Express entry. Taylor moved in for an opportune pass into Turn 1 but the door for a clean getaway was shut before he could pull it off. The contact sent Filipe Albuquerque spinning into the run off and full of disappointment in the move. Albuquerque was able to chip back at the overall lead, but ended up 0.671s short. The No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Multimatic/Riley Mk. 30 completed the podium, despite a last-minute engine swap on Wednesday.
Another contentious move of the race came during the penultimate restart, when the No. 31 Action Express sister car, driven by Dan Cameron seemed to move in line to block Taylor’s Cadillac, allowing Albuquerque to break out to a multi-second lead. Race control immediately announced their review of the incident, but no further action was taken. Albuquerque’s lead was dissolved when the caution flag waved for the final and 21st time.
With an entirely new field of Prototype machinery, many entries in the top class encountered issues en route to the finish. The Nos. 5 and 10 Cadillacs were able to execute disaster management and avoid the most trouble, despite mechanical issues causing the No. 5 to go a lap down early in the race. Even without mechanical troubles for everyone else, the Cadillacs were some two seconds faster than the other makes.
The GTLM class win came down to another epic battle across numerous manufacturers and seven entries on the lead lap at the end. Mueller’s 2.988s gap win was sealed when he dove to the inside of James Calado’s Ferrari 488 at Turn 1. It wasn’t the cleanest pass in the race, but it gave Ford their 27th class victory. Patrick Pilet was able to slip his newly redesigned Porsche 911 RSR past to finish second ahead of the Ferrari.
Though every manufacturer looked strong throughout the GTD field, it was the AMG GT3 of Riley Motorsports that held the strongest run through most of the race. It wasn’t until the final two green flag runs that Alegra and the Audi R8 LMS of Montaplast by Land-Motorsport rose to the top. Christensen was able to pull out 0.293s ahead of Christopher Mies for Porsche’s 77th class win, but Jeroen Bleekemolen’s pace put a third German manufacturer on the podium. A total of five cars were still on the lead lap when the checkers fell.
Performance Tech Motorsports’ PC class win went largely uncontested after pulling out to a multi-lap lead early in the race. A spin by Mass brought out the sixth caution, but other PC teams encountered bigger issues. The Nos. 26 and 20 BAR1 Motorsports entries completed the podium in LMPC.
Cautions abounded throughout the 24 hours of competition with two lengthy stoppages due to track conditions. Nearly three hours were run under yellow conditions due to rain and standing water on track. Of the 21 yellows, seven of them involved LMPC entries and 10 involved GTD entries.
If the first race is any indication, the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season is sure to be a thriller all the way through Petit Le Mans. The next stop for the IMSA fields is just two months away at for the 65th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida on March 15 – 18.