The 2016 Rolex at Daytona Motor racing Circuit was home to the biggest sports car race in North America and watched by millions worldwide on January 30-31 at Daytona, Florida. In the ultimate quest for supremacy in a test of longevity, reliability and durability with an added touch of luck, 54 competitors took the green flag. There were a total of 13 Prototypes (P), 11 GT Le Mans (GTLM), 22 GT Daytona (GTD) and 8 Prototype Challenge (PC) cars that competed in 4 different classes.
At the drop of the green flag, Pipo Derani in the # 2 Extreme Speed Motorsports Honda Ligier JS P2 rocketed to the lead with other lead changes in the different classes taking place as the competitors hurried around for lap 1. The most unusual car, Panoz Deltawing driven by Katherine Legge started a charge up the field before the first caution flag only 20 minutes into the famed race to retrieve the # 70 Speedsource Mazda Prototype with transmission issues. Also, with early issues was the # 67 Ford GT, they spend most of the first hour behind the wall (away from the pits). Around the first hour marker, the Panoz Deltawing was the leader.
As the 2nd hour approached, the Two Honda Ligiers were 1, 2 before making contact with each other. Then, disaster, The # 60 Michael Shank Racing Honda ran into the rear of the # 2 Extreme Speed Motorsports Honda by the chicane at the end of the straights. Unfortunately, around the 3 hour mark, both Ford GT’s were suffering from similar issues and were in the hole. Around the 4 hour mark, reigning ‘2015 champions of the this race with the heavily talented team of the # 02, Chip Ganassi Ford Ecoboost Riley DP, Jamie McMurray sharing the ride with (Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Kyle Larson) spun from up front and ended up towards the back of the field but, was
fortunate to avoid contact.
The lesser known debut of the BMW M6 GTLM were quietly making their way up the standings whereas, the much anticipated Ford GT’s were struggling. There were numerous penalties throughout the field dished out to cars for passing under caution, speeding in the pits, exiting pit lane without being approved to do so under yellow, not acknowledging the pit lane red exit light etc… As the midnight hour approached, the BMW M6 GTLM’s mounted a strong attack on the Corvette’s for the class lead. But, the # 60 Honda that was tearing up the track in the lead position had an off-course excursion and was stranded.
By the midway point of the race, numerous cars were on the lead lap for each respective class which proves that each class was being vigorously contested since it appears that everyone left their sandbags behind before the start of the race as each cars were accused of sandbagging during practice and qualifying by race control. Thus, the overall leader at the halfway point was the # 2 Honda driven by Derani followed by # 5, Scott Pruett in the Chevrolet Corvette DP with # 31, Simon Pagenaud in another Chevrolet Corvette DP as they completed 355 laps.
The ultracompetitive GTLM class crossed the 12th hour with the # 68 Ferrari 488 GTE leading followed by the two Porsche’s # 911 Porsche 911 RSR then, # 912 Porsche 911 RSR with 350 laps completed.
The Prototype Challenge class saw a modest lead by the # 85 JDC Miller Motorsports Oreca FLM09 over the # 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports team with 3rd place being the # 20 BAR1 Motorsports, all with 348 laps under wraps. Trailing behind the other classes were the GTD cars of # 23 Porsche 991 GT3 R followed in 2nd by # 98 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 then, # 30 Porsche 911 GT3. The overnight portion of the race saw all kinds of action with endless amounts of lead changes in the 4 different classes.
Then came the ultimate finish after hours and hours of slicing and dicing between competitors. The finish will go down in history as arguably the best in motorsports history. The overall winner was the # 2 Extreme Speed Motorsports Honda Ligier JS P2 as it crossed the line with Derani at the helm. He narrowly edged by after serving a penalty for speeding in the pits in the last 2 hours which almost cost them the race before rejoining the race to take the lead and ultimately taking the checkered flag with a total of 736 Laps completed and 29 pit laps. The crew along with drivers’ Scott Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek, Ed Brown, Pipo Derani shared the win. They were closely followed by #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype with Ricky Taylor, Max Angelelli, Jordan Taylor, Rubens Barrichello. Please note, Jordan Taylor returned for a brief stint towards the end after everyone thought he was done at the 9 p.m. mark the previous mark due to illness however, he was feeling ill as he stepped out the car to pass it onto Max Angelelli whom finished the race but, had to be hospitalized with an unknown medical issue. Both of these drivers followed Ricky Taylor with complaints of fumes from inside the car. Nonetheless, they were about 27 seconds behind the winners. Third place, #90 Visit Florida Spirit of Daytona Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype Chevrolet with Ryan Dalziel, Marc Goosens, Ryan Hunter-Reay were about 1:27 behind the race winners but, they managed to stay on the lead lap.
The GTLM class saw an epic battle between the Chevrolet Corvette’s. For a 24 hour race to come down to 00.034 seconds that separated the class winners in the # 4 – Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Marcel Fassler over # 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen, Mike Rockenfeller is unheard of. Even Shakespeare couldn’t have written a better script. They had multiple passes amongst themselves as the capacity crowd was on their feet as nothing such as this has ever been witnessed. 3rd place, # 912 Porsche Motorsport North America Porsche 911 GT3 RSR Earl Bamber, Frederic Makowiecki, Michael Christensen was a mere 12 seconds back on the same lap(lap 722) as the Corvettes, # 912, Bamber as the closing driver was earlier bumped aside by the # 4 with Gavin driving to set up the battle with Garcia in the # 3 Corvette.
The GTD class that finished on the podium all had 703 laps completed. Class winners, # 44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS Andy Lally, John Potter, Marco Seefried, Rene Rast managed 14th overall as they were determined to not let any ugly ducklings beat them with a 3.5 seconds cushion to the runner-up team of 2nd # 540 – Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R Timothy Pappas, Nick Catsburg, Patrick Long, Andy Pilgrim. Rounding out the podium were # 93 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R Ben Keating, Gar Robinson, Jeff Mosing, Eric Foss, Damien Faulkner whom were only 5 seconds behind the class winners.
The Prototype Challenge class finished in the exact order as they crossed the mid-way point of the race during the night. However, the # 85 JDC Miller Motorsports Chris Miller, Misha Goikhberg, Stephen Simon, Kenton Koch were a clear 4 laps ahead after squandering a 22 lap’s lead. They managed to complete 702 laps on 27 pit stops. Runners-up, # 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Robert Alon, Tom Kimber-Smith, Jose Guttierez, Nicholas Boulle squeezed into the top 25 with 698 laps completed. Rounding out the podium were in 3rd # 20 BAR1 Motorsports Tomy Drissi, Marc Drumwright, Johnny Mowlem, Ricardo Vera, Brendan Gaughan. All of the Prototype Challenge cars had their fare share of challenges but, managed to complete a respectable race.
Only one month into the calendar year and the motorsports news keeps getting better and better. There were certainly some ups and downs but, most will come out of this season opening with a positive outlook. The Ford GT’s made their long awaited debut closing in on their 50th anniversary. They are a factory-backed team just like others in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship as they will certainly be back with a vengeance and look to make up ground because the season only got underway. As for the rest of the team, you can bet that they will get their issues out of the way going forward. As could be seen during and throughout the race, the driver’s weren’t letting back, there were as much if not more action as if it was a sprint race. No doubt!!!
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