59th Rolex 24 at Daytona Was Fast and Furious; Here’s What You May Have Missed02/01/2021
Under Chamber of Commerce skies, Daytona International Speedway was bathed in sun as the field of 49—or what was left of it—battled in the closing two-hour, all-green-flag run of the 2021 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Here’s 12 takeaways from the race:
Pedal to the Metal For All 24
The announcers kept insisting that Renger van der Zande was closing in for the kill as Filipe Albuquerque-piloted the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Konica-Minolta Acura DPi car led the field, but it became a moot point when van der Zande, essentially fired this year from the car that he was chasing, suffered a right rear flat in the closing minutes of the race, the second flat right rear tire on the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 01 Cadillac.
Only one other car had a problem with the right rear that wasn’t contact-related, so you have to wonder if it was just incredibly bad luck or some flaw with the Cadillac’s setup. Or, more likely, said Albuquerque, just van der Zande’s tail-out style of negotiating the bus stop turn.
COMPLETE PROVISIONAL RESULTS
It was a high-speed race for sure: “The most hectic, intense, flat-out race I’ve been a part of,” said winner Ricky Taylor, son of Wayne. Co-driver Alexander Rossi becomes another driver with an Indianapolis 500 and a Rolex 24 victory, including Taylor teammate Helio Castroneves.
The No. 10 Acura won by 4.704 seconds over the No. 48 Ally Cadillac Racing Cadillac DPi of drivers Jimmie Johnson, Mike Rockenfeller, Simon Pagenaud and Kamui Kobayashi.
Ganassi a Quick Learner
Speaking of the Ganassi Cadillac, a year ago that car was gathering dust as a defunct team was trying to sell it. Ganassi, having retired the Ford GTs he was racing in the GT Le Mans class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, was lured back when the winning Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac team was lured over to Acura, which had fired Roger Penske and divided up the two Acuras between Taylor and Meyer Shank Racing, the No. 60 car that turned out not to be a factor in the finish. Ganassi’s team, in the hunt until the very end, obviously learned the new Cadillac just as quickly as Taylor’s team learned the new Acura.
Kobayashi Comes Up Just Short
Kamui Kobayashi finished second, just 4.704 second away from a third straight Rolex 24 win, something that has never been done before. Kobayashi was the closer for the No. 48 Ally Cadillac, a one-and-done team with Action Express that also had NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson as a driver. The Japanese driver tried, but couldn’t close the gap on Albuquerque. This was the third straight for Wayne Taylor Racing; only Chip Ganassi has managed that as well.
2 Drivers Test Positive for COVID-19
Plenty of drivers have tested positive for COVID-19 before an event, including this one, when Michael de Quesada was positive just before the race and was pulled from the lineup. But this is the first time a driver has received news of a positive test result during a race, as did No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R driver Antonio Garcia. He was pulled in hour 17, leaving co-drivers Nicky Catsburg and Jordan Taylor to take the car to the checkered flag first.
It was a solid 1-2 debut for the new Corvette race director, Laura Klauser, who replaced veteran Doug Fehan, who essentially built Corvette Racing from scratch. Third was the No. 24 Team RLL BMW M8 GTE. Catsburg and Taylor were not part of the post-race in-person media sessions, having presumably gone into quarantine, so they did their interviews on Zoom.
International Flavor, and Then Some
We’ve long known that the Rolex 24 is a true international event, but we counted up the international drivers to see how international this is: Of the 181 drivers, 68 listed the U.S. as their home country.
Go Fly a Kite
The wind Sunday morning and afternoon was a factor, the drivers said; “It was easy to overshoot turn three,” with the wind pushing the car along, Ricky Taylor said. “The cars are so light, they were moving around with the 10 or 15 mph winds.”
Nearly a New Race Record
The race went 807 laps, short of the record of 833. But given the fact that the race had 11 full-course caution flags, had there been less carnage and breakdowns, the race easily could have set a distance record.
Already Thinking of Sebring
Thirty-one cars ran the 2020 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, but more cars are expected for the 2021 version, which was the last race of the 2020 season but returns to its regular slot of being the second race of the season this year. The LMP3 cars will be there, but it is expected that fewer of the LMP2 cars will attend than the 10 in the Rolex 24. The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is scheduled for March 17-20.
Dalziel Lifts LMP2 Winners
The LMP2 winning team, the No. 18 Era Motorsports Oreca-Gibson, contained a past overall winner, Ryan Dalziel, who helped get the first win for Action Express back in 2010, or, as the radio announcer said, “many years ago.” The fastest time the team set was 1 minute, 37.109 seconds, about 2.5 seconds slower than the fastest DPi cars. The ERA car was four laps down at one point but rallied back to the victory.
Surprise in GT Daytona
The GT Daytona winner was a bit of a dark horse; the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 stepped up from the GT4 class in the Michelin Pilot Challenge, and this was the first IMSA WeatherTech win for all four of the drivers. The team finished 16.329 seconds over another Mercedes AMG, the number 75 Sun Energy car.
No Drama in LMP3
The winning LMP3 team, the Riley Motorsports/74 Ranch Resort Liger/Nissan, had a drama-free race, but that wasn’t the case for all the LMP3s, particularly since they have never run a 24-hour race before. The No. 74 had a best time of 1:43.548, a little faster than the GT Daytona cars, a little slower than the GT Le Mans cars. Some of the P3 cars were caught up in passing incidents with faster cars, but there’s a learning curve to running with four other classes, rather than running only with LMP3 cars, which is what they’ve done up until now. It wasn’t a problem for No. 74, which won by three laps.
What Happened to Chase Elliott?
NASCAR Cup champion Chase Elliott, as well as the rest of the No. 31 Action Express Whelen Cadillac team, was sidelined by a transmission problem – had that not happened, the car likely would have been battling for the win. The car still finished eighth overall, 24 laps down.
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