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The 52nd Rolex 24

by • February 10, 2014 • EventComments (0)2792

Action Express Racing is the team that won its very first race at the 2010 Rolex 24 At Daytona – returned to Daytona in 2014 prepared and ready. They ended up taking home the first race in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi joined former open-wheel superstar Sebastian Bourdais to win the 52nd Rolex 24.

The race came down to a 10-minute sprint to the checkered flag, with Barbosa beating rival Max Angelelli to the checkered flag by 1.461 seconds, the second-closest finish in event history.
“Bob was convincingly, absolutely dead sure that we were going to win it, and I was scared to death,” Bourdais admitted. “But he was right. The guys were prepared. Everybody was on top of things. Everybody knew exactly what to do and how to do it, and the execution was perfect. What can I say? It’s a dream come true.”

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The race featured 52 lead changes, with the winning Action Express team leading 18 times for 313 laps, Wayne Taylor Racing lead 12 times for 228 laps. The winning team completed 695 laps on the 3.56-mile circuit, covering 2,474.2 miles.

Two-time ALMS P1 champions Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr led the LMP2-based Prototypes finishing fifth with Alex Brundle in the No. 6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Nissan/ORECA. Scott Pruett entered the race with the opportunity to break a tie with Hurley Haywood and become the lone six-time overall winner of the Rolex 24. However, his Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost/Riley co-driven by Memo Rojas, Sage Karam and Jamie McMurray led after six hours, but suffered major right-front damage when something broke and sent Pruett into the wall.

In Prototype Challenge, Colin Braun took a one-lap triumph in the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA FLM09 with Jon Bennett, Mark Wilkins and James Gue. Only three months ago, Braun set the all-time speed record on the 2.5-mile Daytona trioval, running an exhibition lap of 222.971 mph in a Michael Shank Racing Ford EcoBoost DP.

“It’s really cool to win here at Daytona,” Braun said. “Obviously this is a special place, and it’s neat to do it with these guys at CORE autosport. I’ve driven with Jon the last couple years and I’m thankful that he gave me an opportunity to drive with that group.”

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Both of the GT classes provided plenty of excitement with both GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) going down to the final lap after 24 hours of intense competition. Porsche North America won in GT Le Mans (GTLM) in the debut of the factory team run in conjunction with CORE autosport. Patrick Pilet beat BMW Team RLL’s Joey Hand to the checkered flag by 2.838 seconds in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR.

“When I jumped in the car, I had a two-lap lead,” Pilet said. “I thought I could cruise to the finish. But the BMW came back, and it was really close. There was a lot of traffic in front of me, and I had to take a lot of risk in the closing laps. I tried to do my best and it worked – fantastic! This is a brand-new team, a new car and a new championship. It was a lot of hard work. There was no Merry Christmas or Happy New Year for many people. Tough, but we got the best result we can expect.”

GT Daytona (GTD) was even closer. The No. 555 Ferrari took the checkered flag but was quickly penalized for what officials deemed was “avoidable contact” with the Audi from Flying Lizard Motorsports on the final lap. The penalty made Flying Lizard the winner of the fourth-tier class in the United SportsCar Championship, and the team celebrated in Victory Lane as its four drivers hoisted their prize Rolex watches.

However Level 5 argued no contact was made between the cars. Four hours after the race, IMSA’s group of supervisory officials reversed the call.

“We came to the conclusion that … it was a racing incident, one that was not deemed a penalty,” said Scot Elkins, vice president of competition and technical regulations for IMSA.
Ferrari drivers Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell, Jeff Segal and Alessandro Pier Guidi — who was behind the wheel on the final lap — remained at the track during the review and were on hand to get their watches after the lengthy delay.

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“It’s bittersweet that we weren’t part of the podium ceremony, but frankly it is exciting that IMSA really took a look at what actually happened, which was incredible racing in the last five minutes of this race,” Sweedler said. “While its bittersweet we weren’t there, the fact is the winning team is now declared the winner. I think that’s the right thing that needs to happen.”

The comments and congratulation poured in from around the world, including from the Chairman of Ferrari S.p.A Luca di Montezemolo, who reached out to team owner Scott Tucker directly: “I wish to congratulate you on the victory conquered in the GTD category at the 24h of Daytona! This great result is the good reward for you as a driver but also for the good job of your Team Level 5. I hope that this season will continue to bring you real gratifications,” he said.

Photos courtesy High Revs Photography

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