The Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team of Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Juan Pablo Montoya and Charlie Kimball scored the fifth Rolex 24 at Daytona triumph for team with a dominant performance at Daytona International Speedway.
Between them the quartet combined to lead 450 laps of the 709 total laps in the race – the number a concrete sign of the dominance of the team, and of their BMW-Riley package with the sister #02 also leading the race for over 100 laps, before falling off the lead lap after Jamie McMurray hit the pit exit wall. Their participation came to end with three hours left, Dario Franchitti stopping out on track with reported drivetrain problem.
Despite the 450 laps lead the #01’s race was far from straight forward. Charlie Kimball – the Indycar driver making his first Rolex 24 at Daytona appearance – went through the grass at the bus stop chicane, giving up the lead during the night. However, a quick cautionary pitstop to clear the grass from the front of the car only dropped the car to the end of the lead lap, while the #02 picked up the lead.
The final challenge to the Ganassi team’s dominance and to their chances of winning was brought about by a pair of cautions in the final two hours, the first of debris, the second after the #45 Magnus Racing Porsche blew a tyre, the final neutralised period bleeding into the final hour.
That final hour began with four Daytona Prototypes on the lead lap. Montoya in the #01, Max Angelelli for Wayne Taylor Racing, Joao Barbosa in the #9 Action Express Racing Corvette DP and A.J. Allmendinger in a #60 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley that had fought back from multiple laps down.
Allmendinger’s opening stint of the race been interrupted by a broken steering arm that seemed to sound an early death knell for their chances of successfully defending their race win. A further – but briefer – stay in the pits for a replacement fuel filter was a further set back but, aided by the wave-around available under caution periods (including a one hour, 45 minute yellow for fog just before sunrise) was able to make it back onto the lead lap Allmendinger completing a most unlikely come back by taking the lead in the penultimate hour before Montoya roared past to retake the lead.
Under the final caution pit stops for the top four shuffled the order again, Angelelli leading to the green flag from Montoya, who fell back from second to fourth as Allmendinger and Barbosa both surged past on the drop from the tri-oval into turn one on the infield. The pair were only a temporary obstacle to Montoya, as the battled on the infield Barbosa eased Allmendinger on to the grass, the need to clear the grass from the front of the radiators the final set back in an eventful race of the #60 team.
Barbosa in turn was removed from second place, called in for a penalty for jumping the start. That left Montoya to make the easy pass for the lead on Angelelli under braking for the bus stop chicane. The speed advantage of the BMW powerplant allowed Montoya to ease away into a lead approaching second place before he dived to pitlane for a final splash of fuel. Angelelli assumed the lead, but only for a single lap before his own final stop restored the status quo.
The late sequence of pit stops was reflected in the outcome of the GT race too.
Anthony Lazzaro and Rene Rast broke off their battle for the class lead to come in for their final stop early in final hour, putting Filipe Albuquerque in the lead in the WeatherTech liveried Alex Job Racing Audi R8. Such was his advantage – especially after Damien Faulkner had pitted Alex Job’s Porsche from second place – that when Albuquerque pitted he returned to track still in the class lead.
A brief battle for second in the class between a charged up Rast, who had charged up from sixth after his pit stop, and Rum Bum Racing’s Markus Winkelhock may just have spared Albuquerque a final battle on track. In and Audi R8 1-2-3 Rast passed Winkelhock on the infield of the final lap for second, driving around the outside of Winkelhock’s #13 car with ease that, in hindsight, perhaps makes Rum Bum’s heartbreak, running out of fuel on the final lap of a 24 hour race, more predictable.
They would fall to finish seventh, the first car off a crowded lead lap in GT, while Lazzaro and the #69 AIM Autosport team FXDD with Ferrari team were the immediate beneficiaries picking up third place, with Scuderia Corsa fourth in another of Ferrari 458 in the class. The two cars – both of which had had spells in the lead came to blows in the final hour – Alessandro Pier Guidi clattering into the back of Mark Wilkins’ #69 under braking for turn one sending both cars into the run-off area with thankfully little damage to the cars, though Pier Guidi was given a penalty for his role in the incident.
Throughout the race the control of the GT race swung from Porsche to Audi to Ferrari. The lone Chevrolet Camaro in the race – of Stevenson Motorsports – was a factor early in the race, but brake problems took them out of a lead group were near perfection was required. Transmission failure would end their race early.
They were not the only high profile team to fall short during the 24 hours. Arguably the best of the Ferrari teams, the AIM Autosport #61 of defending series champion Jeff Segal with Max Papis, Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander hit problems early on, as did the Konrad Motorsport/Orbit run Porsche that Nick Tandy started from pole position. The Briton converted the pole spot in the race lead but a blown tyre inside of the first hour pitched him into the tyre wall, extensively damaging the right hand side of the #32 car.
While Porsche teams were absent from the GT class podium, defending Rolex 24 winner Magnus Racing – with their #44 entry – and the Alex Job Racing crew losing out in the final shuffle of positions the Stuttgart brand swept the podium in the new GX class.
The class debuted with just six entrant, three Porsche Cayman facing three diesel fuelled Mazda 6. Unfortunately the new Mazda’s endured a disastrous race, all bowing out after mechanical failure in the early hours of the race, leaving the Porsche teams a clean run to the finish. That fact, however, should take little away from the Napleton Racing team of David Donahue, Nelson Canache, Shane Lewis and Jim Norman who were near faultless as they went on to win the class by ten laps. Their only visible mis-step in the 24 hours was a spin as lurid as their car’s ‘Hippy’ paint scheme pirouetting through the tri-oval grass.
As well as the Magnus Racing and AJR MOMO/NGT Motorsport were, for much of the race, a feature of the top ten for much of the race before the left-front suspension failed under Kuba Giermaziak entering the tri-oval. The resulting caution helped the #60, as well as the Spirit of Daytona Racing and Starworks Motorsport’s #2 Ford-Riley back into the lead lap after their own delays during the race.
However, while the Michael Shank Racing charge would go on to be part of the climactic battle at the head of the field the other two would fall from the lead lap after further problems brake problems claiming the Starworks team of Ryan Dalziel, Sebastian Bourdais, Alex Popow and Allan McNish. The #5 Action Express car was also a regular in the top five – spending a portion of the race fighting for position with their teammate – but a driver error in the early hours of Sunday morning would pull them out of the running for the victory.
Expected to do well with its driving staff including four former Peugeot Sport men the 8 Star Motorsports Corvette DP was never in contention, the car smoking visibly in the opening hour before being called into the garage for the team to fix the apparent oil leak. The rear axle on the bright orange car was placed and the team returned to the race though they would only be able to finish 34th overall.
Even for those Corvette or Ford teams that ran problem free there was nothing they could do to preventing the Ganassi teams from taking victory. Driver error, then mechanical failure, stopped the #02 car but no-one was able to stop Montoya from helping Pruett and Rojas from starting off their Rolex Series championship defence in the best possible fashion.
Their challenge is now to continue the season in the same vein, starting at the Circuit of the Americas on March 2.
2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona Daytona Prototype Podium winners
1 – #01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
Scott Dixon, Charlie Kimball, Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas
2 – #10 VelocityWW
Max Angelelli, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Jordan Taylor
3 – #60 Michael Shank Racing
A.J. Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Ozz Negri Jr., John Pew, Justin Wilson
2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona GT Podium winners
1 – #24 Audi Sport Customer Racing/Alex Job Racing
Filipe Albuquerque, Oliver Jarvis, Edoardo Mortara, Dion von Moltke
2 – #52 Audi Sport Customer Racing/APR Motorsport
Ian Baas, Marc Basseng, Rene Rast, Frank Stippler
3 – #69 AIM Autosport team FXDD with Ferrari
Emil Assentato, Guy Cosmo, Anthony Lazzaro, Nick Longhi, Mark Wilkins
2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona GX Podium winners
1 – #16 Napleton Racing
Nelson Canache, David Donahue, Shane Lewis, Jim Norma
2 – #22 Bullet Racing
James Clay, Darryl O’Young, Daniel Rogers, Seth Thomas, K Thomas
3 – #38 BGB Motorsports
Lee Davis, Ryan Eversley, Eric Foss, Jeff Mosing, John Tecce