The Grand Am season got underway over the weekend with the famed Rolex 24 from Daytona. This will be the final Daytona 24 before the Grand Am Series merges with the American Le Mans Series. The race got underway with a scrappy start before the field settled. There were some yellow flag periods, including an extended period for fog. Ganassi took the win with Audi winning the GT class.
The race in brief
The results can be found here
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 27, 2013) – Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates was clearly the team to beat throughout the 51st running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. A couple teams, however, came close to doing just that over the final few hours of the twice-around-the-clock race around the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course.
In the end, however, the No. 01 TELMEX/Target BMW/Riley team of Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Juan Pablo Montoya and Charlie Kimball gave CGRFS its fifth victory in 10 attempts at the Rolex 24. In the process, Pruett joined Hurley Haywood – who served as the event’s grand marshal – as the only drivers to claim five overall Rolex 24 victories.
“It’s just an incredible day all the way around, winning with these guys, winning with Chip, with TELMEX and with BMW,” Pruett said. “Then at the end of it, having gotten to know Hurley real well over the years by racing with him and just as a friend – and to have him there at the end – was pretty special. It was a very special thing.”
With its victory CGRFS has an early lead in the North American Endurance Championship presented by VISITFLORIDA.com. The NAEC is a three-race competition that includes the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and the Super Weekend at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Despite the strength of the No. 01, the DP lead changed hands six times over the final 90 minutes between Montoya, Max Angelelli in the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette DP and AJ Allmendinger, whose No. 60 Michael Shank Racing team rallied all the way back from a seven-lap deficit early in the race.
A dramatic final hour saw both Montoya and Angelelli try to stretch their fuel loads to the finish, while Allmendinger was effectively removed from contention for the victory with an unscheduled pit stop after contact with Joao Barbosa in the No. 9 Action Express Racing Corvette DP.
Montoya and the Ganassi team blinked first as Montoya surrendered the lead to Angelelli when the No. 01 came to pit lane for a splash with seven minutes to go. Angelelli came into the pits on the next lap and moved Montoya back to the front in a race-record 77th lead change.
The Colombian crossed the stripe 21.922 seconds ahead of Angelelli, who teamed with Jordan Taylor and Ryan Hunter-Reay in the No. 10 machine. Allmendinger and co-drivers Ozz Negri, John Pew, Justin Wilson and Marcos Ambrose placed third in the No. 60. Allmendinger, Negri, Pew and Wilson were the race’s defending champions.
The GT race came down to a battle between European luxury manufacturers Audi, Ferrari and Porsche. Similar to the action in DP, the GT race also saw a number of lead changes over the final hours and fuel concerns coming to the checkered flag.
Filipe Albuquerque drove the No. 24 Alex Job Racing WeatherTech Audi R8 GRAND-AM into the GT lead for the final time with a little more than 40 minutes remaining. He went on to win by 1.476 seconds ahead of Rene Rast in the No. 52 Audi Sport Customer Racing/APR Motorsport Audi R8. Albuquerque and co-drivers Oliver Jarvis, Edoardo Mortara and Dion von Moltke gave Audi its first victory in GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series competition.
The green marble prize that everyone is fighting for.
Some of the practice sessions were run in the wet – something that would come in very handy as fog hit the early morning race action
The DP teams would always be in traffic with a very healthy GT field. The race would undoubtedly be affected by the GT traffic, getting through it is an art form.
The Action Express Corvette would take fourth overall, a lap behind the leaders
Despite colour coordinating with the ferris wheel, the Highway to Help DP would finish 40th overall, completing 517 laps. Their best lap was a couple seconds slower than the leaders
The GT field got underway and was picture perfect in their lanes.
The DP field, however wasn’t as neat – though it was a clean start.
And if you wanted to see the drivers out of the car, this is the class photo for the DP field.
At the other end of the race, the AJR team allowed the Audi R8 to put its stamp on another major endurance race
The Ganassi team put their stamp well and truly on the Grand Am era of the Daytona 24 with their record fifth win
The Napleton Racing Porsceh Cayman took out the first GX class victory
The Ganassi team will have a lot to clean with their Riley BMW covered in confetti in victory lane
Scott Pruett was successful in Champ Car but has found his home in Grand Am – the most successful driver in the category’s history
The Ganassi team with the Rolex watches and marble green trophy celebrate a great win
And a gratuitous night shot to end with. The Sahlen team stepped up from GT to DP for 2013. They had a hard debut, finishing 23rd and 44th overall.
Photos courtesy of the Rolex, Grand Am, January 2013
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