Wayne Taylor Racing win third straight Rolex 24

The 59th Running of the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona was captured by Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR), the team’s third straight victory in the prestigious event. The twenty-four classic ended with a fight to finish between WTR’s No. 10 Acura and the No. 01 Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing with drivers Filipe Albuquerque and Renger van der Zande hanging it out on the line.

DPi

Fight to the Finish

Despite a third straight victory, WTR looked to be in trouble during the closing minutes Sunday afternoon. Filipe Albuquerque, driving WTR’s No. 10 Acura Daytona Prototype International (DPi) had pitted for just a two-tire pit stop while Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing’s Renger van der Zande left the pits with four fresh Michelin tires.

The No. 10 Acura races through the infield sector of the 3.56-mile speedway. (Picture Credit: Wayne Taylor Racing via Twitter)

With the tire advantage, van der Zande was quickly closing the gap to his ex-team in traffic as the clock wound down. An attack was made by van der Zande, attempting to pass in the infield section of the course. However, his No. 01 Cadillac was on the outside of Albuquerque’s Acura entering the insanely tight corner known as the kink. Correspondingly, this forced van der Zande to back out of the move.

As the clock got around the 8-minute mark, disaster struck for Ganassi’s team. A tire puncture eliminated their shot at a seventh overall victory in the Rolex 24 for at least another year. The right rear tire on the DPi was cut as van der Zande exited the final corner of the course, allowing Albuquerque to calmly complete the race at his own pace.

The reason the tire was cut is unknown, however, the team faced a similar situation just hours prior when Scott Dixon had lost the same tire during his final stint of the day.

Victory Lane

Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor were able to celebrate their second overall victory with a pair of Indianapolis 500 Champions. Helio Castroneves, a three-time Indy 500 winner, and Alexander Rossi, winner of the 100th Running of the Indy 500, claimed the prized Rolex for the first time in their sports car careers. Castroneves, who won the DPi Championship last season with Ricky Taylor, is only slated to compete at Daytona this season.

The win also is the fifth for Wayne Taylor’s team, who also won twice as a driver.

JJ’s Return

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson helped make up most of the headlines surrounding the race weekend as he entered the Rolex 24 with Action Express Racing (AXR).

Johnson entered the race in AXR’s second entry, the No. 48 Ally-sponsored Cadillac with a superstar lineup. The team drafted drivers consisting of two-time reigning Rolex 24 champion Kamui Kobayashi, 2019 Indianapolis 500 Champion Simon Pageanud and Mike Rockenfeller, who won overall in the Daytona 24 Hours and 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2010.

Johnson, who was making his eighth appearance at the Rolex 24, found himself quickly adapting to the Cadillac DPi. The race for Johnson was his first in ten years, and the first for him since the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (WTSC) utilized the Daytona Prototype International, as Johnson had only driven the original DPs from 2005 through 2011.

With the star-studded lineup, Johnson was easily the slowest but throughout the event picked up the pace. The opening stint for Johnson saw him lose 30 seconds to the leaders, but lead an entire stint in the middle of the night and was able to keep pace during the sunrise stint Sunday morning.

NASCAR Champ’s Adaption

The reigning NASCAR Cup Series Champion also threw their hat into the ring at the 59th Rolex 24. Chase Elliott joined the full-season entry at AXR in their Whelen Engineering No. 31 Cadillac. With full-season drivers Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani, Elliott joined the team’s traditional endurance driver Mike Conway.

With their win in last week’s qualifying race, the No. 31 started on the pole for the 24-hour race.

Chase Elliott talks with 2017 overall winner and four-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jeff Elliott on the grid ahead of Saturday’s Rolex 24. (Picture Credit: NBC Sports, USA Today, Jasen Vinlove)

In particular, Elliott was harsh on himself following his opening stint in the race, calling the experience “terrible.” Elliott, who’s won the last four straight Cup Series races on road course — including one at the Daytona road course last August — pushed the Cadillac to the edge over the curbs in the infield.

Unfortunately, with about four hours remaining, the car was sent to the garage stuck in third gear.

After the AXR crew repaired the Cadillac, they placed Elliott back in the car for more seat time and Elliott managed to post more competitive lap times.

French Frustration

The all-French driver lineup in the JDC-Miller MotorSports Mustang Sampling No. 5 Cadillac dominated the early evening and night hours on Saturday. Bold moves made by both Tristan Vautier and Loic Duval pushed the car into the lead under the lights. For instance, four-time IndyCar Champion Sebastien Bourdais hopped in, he held off six-time IndyCar Champion Scott Dixon.

After that, the car was ultimately retired from the race early when struck by a Porsche 911 GT3 in the middle of the night.

The No. 9 Pfaff Porsche in GTD spun the No. 16 Wright Motorsports GTD around in the opening corner, sending the Wright No. 16 ricochetting into the JDC No. 5. The damage sustained put them behind the wall for roughly fifty laps, eliminating their shot at a win before retiring within the final hour.

Podium Finishers

Kobayashi looked to have a shot at the overall win for a third straight year, battling with former teammate van der Zande in the closing minutes. However, when the No. 10 Acura and No. 55 Mazda opted for their alternate strategy, Kobayashi was trapped behind the slower Mazda at the beginning of the final stint, losing pace to the Ganassi Cadillac.

Above all, the Ally AXR No. 48 managed to eventually get around the factory Mazda and took second-place when the Ganassi No. 01 lost their rear tire. In other words, Kobayashi managed to be another highlight reel in the race, making amazing passes, despite an early morning spin Sunday.

Mazda Motorsports’ No. 55 was behind literally all day — forcing to start last overall when replacing a steering wheel. After that, the issues they built up throughout the event couldn’t even fit on the single notecard.

The commentators even couldn’t keep up when attempting to recap their day. After being a pair of laps down nearly the entire time, a string of Full Course Cautions late allowed them to catch up, and with the misfortune of the Ganassi Cadillac, place on the final step of the podium.

LMP2

Race of Attrition

The race in Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) was yet another of attrition at Daytona. The ten-car class saw just five finish on-course — and only the top-two paced on the same lap.

LMP2

The No. 18 Era Motorsports ORECA cross the finish line at Daytona Int’l Speedway. (Picture Credit: IMSA via Twitter)

The Era Motorsport No. 18 claimed the class victory for ORECA, who captured their third straight victory in the class after being the spec-chassis the previous two seasons. The No. 18 sported a very remarkable livery. The team placed a crayon-inspired pattern on the car after a five-year old fan from Ottawa, named Owen, sent in his submission for the livery design contest.

The Tower Motorsport No. 8 and DragonSpeed’s No. 82 rounded out the podium positions.

In addition, DragonSpeed’s No. 81 crashed Saturday evening, striking the guardrail on the outside of the first turn with Rob Hodes driving. The car had won the previous two class races at the Rolex 24, being the inaugural LMP2 class victories in the race.

LMP3

The Riley Motorsports Ligier crosses the line at Daytona. (Picture Credit: Ligier Automotive via Twitter)

The Riley Motorsports No. 74 Ligier JS P320 took the class victory in LMP3. Gar Robinson, Scott Andrews, Oliver Askew and Spencer Pigot dominated nearly the entire race and put on a clinic in class. The No. 74 lapped the entire class at least three times, with the runner-up car finishing three laps down and the final position on the podium going down seven laps to the Riley team.

The Rolex 24 was the debut race for the LMP3 class in the top division of IMSA. Many speculated their role in WTSC competition and feared the cars would eliminate top-tier teams with their amateur driver lineups, however, just one failed to finish — crashing early in the race and the rest of the class relatively had clean days for the remainder of the race.

GTLM

Corvette, Corvette

It was a day for the Chevrolets at Daytona. The factory-backed Corvette team nearly ran 1-2 the entire 24 hours this past weekend, with the championship defending No. 3 team taking Corvette’s first GT Le Mans (GTLM) Rolex 24 class victory in five years.

The No. 4 Corvette of Tommy Milner, Nick Tandy, and Alexander Sims paced the sister car for the majority of the event, however, Jordan Taylor took the No. 3 to the lead and cruised away in the final hours — never looking back, despite full course cautions eliminating the advantage he had built up.

COVID Concern in Corvette camp

With the win, Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor, and Alexander Sims looked to celebrate together in victory lane. However, as soon as the checkered flag flew, Corvette Racing released a statement declaring Garcia positive with COVID-19 following a test earlier in the week.

The No. 3 Corvette C8.R cuts through the night sky in the infield of Daytona Int’l Speedway. (Picture Credit: Corvette Racing via Twitter)

Garcia, a Spanish driver, was set to leave the United States following the Rolex 24, hence, needing to take a COVID test. However, the team received word of the test at approximately 8 am on Sunday, with Garcia behind the wheel. When Garcia got out of the C8.R, he was taken away from the team’s pit and forced Taylor and Catsburg to complete the race as a duo for about the final seven hours. IMSA was quickly notified and allowed the team to complete the event.

Porsche Problem at Start

The WeatherTech Racing Porsche was eliminated from Rolex 24 contention before it even began. 

With a split start between the Prototype and GT classes Saturday, the Corvette duo were waiting to accelerate to begin the race when Bruno Spengler, driving the No. 25 BMW for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, drove right into the back of Kevin Estre in the Porsche 911 RSR – 19.

The contact spun Estre and the Porsche into the door of the Risi Competizione Ferrari and down the track’s surface, causing a sea of GT3’s in the GTD class to scatter all over the track.

With the damage sustained, the No. 79 Porsche began laying debris down around the entire track, causing a full course yellow in the opening ten minutes. In addition, damage repair sent the team down 12 laps early and were only able to make two of them back up.

In conclusion, the driver lineup on the WeatherTech Porsche were furious with Spengler, calling it a pro-race minus one driver at one point in interviews. Spengler defended his stance at acceleration when he did, citing the green flag had been waving — however, viewers were quick to point out the green had already been waving since the Prototypes were already half a lap complete when the GT field had reached the front straight.

GTD

Mercedes vs. Ferrari: GT3 Edition

The battle for the GT Daytona (GTD) victory was thrilling all morning Sunday. A fierce battle between the Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG and AF Corse’s Ferrari 488 began at roughly 5 am Sunday, and despite driver changes the battle raged on until about 11:30 am, when the Winward Mercedes spun the Ferrari.

The Ferrari pinned the Mercedes into a narrow lane entering the course’s first turn, causing the No. 57 to dip into the grass dividing the pit lane and the course, making the Mercedes lose control. When attempting to save the car, the Mercedes pierced the Ferrari, spinning the No. 21 into the outside tire barrier in the opening corner.

After that, the AF Corse No. 21 continued on but lost a pair of laps after coasting to the pit lane with a punctured tire. They ultimately finished 8th.

However, no action was taken by race control.

Winward’s Winning Ward

Russell Ward celebrated a win in the Rolex 24 with their Winward Mercedes despite the incident. They beat Kenny Habul’s Sun Energy 1 team by over 16-seconds at the conclusion of the race Sunday.

Mercedes from Winward Racing leading the way.

The No. 57 Mercedes-AMG from Winward Racing brakes into the Western Horseshoe Sunday morning. (Picture Credit: Mercedes-AMG via Twitter)

Ward, Philip Ellis, Indy Dontje, and Maro Engel were underdogs in the event, despite leading most of the race (sharing those honors with No. 21). The GT3 Evo wasn’t looked at as a strong factor for the victory as the driver lineup included three Rolex rookies in the team’s WTSC debut.

Rough Race for Regulars

Similarly, as with the LMP2 class, the GTD class saw a heavy attrition race. In the 19-car class, just the top five finished on the lead lap.

Only four of the cars retired, however, several were forced to head to the garage or spent an extensive amount of time in the pit lane.

Both Vasser Sullivan cars finished in the bottom five while the Turner Motorsport BMW finished a lap behind. The Pfaff Porsche finished 43 laps down while the Magnus Acura failed to post a top-10.

The top two finishes only planned on competing in just one of the WeatherTech Championship races during the 2021 season ahead of the weekend.

Results

DPi Results

Pos.: Driver (No.) Team – Laps

1: R. Taylor / F. Albuquerque / A. Rossi / H. Castroneves (10) Wayne Taylor Racing – 807


2: J. Johnson / K. Kobayashi / S. Pagenaud / M. Rockenfeller (48) Ally AXR – 807
3: O. Jarvis / H. Tincknell / Bomarito (55) Mazda Motorsports – 807
4: D. Cameron / O. Pla / J.P. Montoya / A. Allmendinger (60) Meyer Shank Racing – 807
5: R. van der Zande / K. Magnussen / S. Dixon (01) Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing – 807
6: F. Nasr / M. Conway / P. Derani / C. Elliott (31) Whelen Engineering AXR – 783
7: T. Vautier / L. Duval / S. Bourdais (5) JDC-Miller MotorSports – 723

LMP2 Results

Pos.: Drivers (No.) Team – Laps

1: D. Merriman / K. Tilley / R. Dalziel / P. Chatin (18) Era Motorsport – 787

2: J. Farano / G. Aubry / T. Buret / M. Vaxiviere (8) Tower Motorsport – 787
3: C. Mies / E. Lux / D. DeFrancesco / F. Schiller (82) DragonSpeed USA – 783
4: C. Ware / S. Yoluc / A. Dillon / S. Muller (51) Rick Ware Racing w/ Eurasia – 778
5: S. Thomas / T. Nunez / T. Merrill / M. Bell (11) WIN Autosport – 764
6: R. Lacorte / A. Fuoco / A. Belicchi / G. Sernagiotto (47) Cetilar Racing – 710
7: B. Keating / M. Jensen / S. Huffaker / N. Lapierre (52) PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports – 664
8: F. Van Eerd / G. van der Garde / J. van Uitert / C. Milesi (29) Team Nederland – 64
9: D. Andersen / F. Lothringen / A. Fjordbach / R. Kubica (20) High Class Racing – 56
10: B. Hanley / R. Rhodes / R. VeeKay / G. Grist (81) DragonSpeed USA – 53

LMP3 Results

Pos.: Drivers (No.) Team – Laps

1: G. Robinson / S. Andrews / O. Askew / S. Pigot (74) Riley Motorsports – 757
2: L. Willsey / J. Barbosa / W. Boyd / Y. Clairay (33) Sean Creech Motorsport – 754
3: M. Kranz / L. Hoerr / K. Koch / S. McAleer (6) Muehlner Motorsports America – 750
4: J. Cox / D. Murry / A. McCusker / J. Bleekemolen (91) Riley Motorsports – 746
5: J. Bennett / G. Kurtz / C. Braun / M. McMurry (54) CORE Autosport – 737
6: R. Lindh / C. Cassels / M. Llarena / A. Ori (38) Performance Tech Motorsports – 687
7: M. Kvamme / R. Norman / G. Chaves / T. Estep (7) Forty7 Motorsports – 413

GTLM Results

Pos.: Drivers (No.) Team – Laps

1: J. Taylor / A. Garcia / N. Catsburg (3) Corvette Racing – 770
2: T. Milner / N. Tandy / A. Sims (4) Corvette Racing – 770
3: J. Edwards / J. Krohn / A. Farfus / M. Wittmann (24) BMW Team RLL – 769
4: J. Caladao / A. Pier Guidi / J. Gounon / D. Rigon (62) Risi Competizione – 769
5: C. De Phillippi / P. Eng / T. Glock / B. Spengler (25) BMW Team RLL – 768
6: C. MacNeil / K. Estre / R. Lietz / G. Bruni (79) WeatherTech Racing – 760

GTD Results

Pos.: Drivers (No.) Team – Laps

 

1: R. Ward / P. Ellis / I. Dontje / M. Engel (57) Winward Racing – 745
2: L. Stolz / K. Habul / R. Marciello / M. Grenier (75) Sun Energy 1 – 745
3: B. Sellers / M. Snow / C. Lewis / A. Caldarelli (1) Paul Miller Racing – 745
4: T. Hindman / P. Long / J. Heylen / K. Bachler (16) Wright Motorsports – 745
5: I. James / R. De Angelis / D. Turner / R. Gunn (23) Heart of Racing Team – 745
6: B. Auberlen / R. Foley / C. Herta / A. Read (96) Turner Motorsport – 744
7: M. Root / C. Eastwood / B. Keating / R. Westbrook (97) TF Sport AMV – 744
8: S. Mann / N. Nielsen / D. Serra / M. Cressoni (21) AF Corse – 743
9: D. Morad / M. Skeen / B. Johnson / M. Buhk (28) Alegra Motorsports – 741
10: R. Ferriol / E. Bamber / K. Legge / C. Nielsen (88) Team Hardpoint/EBM – 737
11: J. Potter / A. Lally / M. Farnbacher / S. Pumpelly (44) Magnus w/ Archangel – 736
12: Z. Robichon / L. Vanthoor / M. Campbell / L. Kern (9) Pfaff Motorsports – 702
13: R. Megennis / Z. Veach / T. Bell / F. Montecalvo (12) Vasser Sullivan – 681
14: E. Jones / B. Curtis / R. Briscoe / M. Gomes (63) Scuderia Corsa – 676
15: A. Metni / A. Davis / J. Hildebrand / D. Yount (42) NTE Sport – 665
16: A. Telitz / O. Gavin / J. Hawksworth / K. Kirkwood (14) Vasser Sullivan – 641
17: T. Giovanis / O. Trinkler / H. Plumb / M. Plumb (64) TeamTGM – 515
18: S. Schothorst / M. Mapelli / R. Ineichen / M. Bortolotti (111) Grasser GRT – 347
19: M. Goikhberg / F. Perera / A. Costa / T. Zimmerman (19) Grasser GRT – 195

Overall results of the 59th Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona (PDF).

acoon9919@gmail.com'
Adam Coon

Since being 15 years old, Adam Coon has been apart of the NASCAR Media scene and has been covering racing content online since 2016. At 18 years old today, he now covers the IMSA WeatherTech Championship and IndyCar Series for The Podium Finish.

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