Wayne Taylor Racing won their third consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona, which ties the record held by Chip Ganassi Racing. Oddly enough, Ganassi’s return to the series nearly resulted in another trip to victory lane. Instead, it was the talented driver lineup for WTR that got the job done in the final minutes of the 59th running of the iconic endurance race.
It was a monumental victory for full-time drivers Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque, as they begin their season in the best way possible. It was also an iconic win for IndyCar drivers Alexander Rossi and Helio Castroneves. They join Scott Dixon, Juan Montoya, AJ Foyt, Dario Franchitti, Arie Luyendyk, Mark Donohue, Bobby Rahal, Buddy Rice, Al Unser, Al Unser Jr, and Dan Wheldon as the only drivers to ever win the Indianapolis 500 and the Rolex 24.
A flurry of storylines played out through the night, but nothing compared to all of the action that took place in the final hour. The battle for the overall win the DPi class was tightly contested all the way down to the wire. All three DPi manufacturers were in contention for the win after 22 hours of racing.
Ganassi’s pursuit of the lead ended with less than eight minutes remaining, when a cut right-rear tire on the No. 01 Cadillac sent Renger van der Zande onto pit lane. It was heartbreak for the Ganassi team, as Scott Dixon and Kevin Magnussen could only watch the nightmare unfold right before their eyes.
This was Acura’s first Rolex 24 victory and the fourth in five years and fifth overall for Wayne Taylor’s team, which is just one shy of Ganassi’s record of six overall wins. The No. 48 Ally Cadillac Racing team finished runner up with drivers Kamui Kobayashi, Simon Pagenaud, Jimmie Johnson, and Mike Rockenfeller. Mazda Motorsports joined them on the podium with Oliver Jarvis, Harry Tincknell, and Jonathan Bomarito in the No. 55 Mazda DPi machine.
Era Motorsport took the victory in the LMP2 class, with drivers Dwight Merriman, Kyle Tilley, Ryan Dalziel, and Paul-Loup Chatin. The No. 74 Riley Motorsports entry won in the LMP3 class. That team featured IndyCar drivers Spencer Pigot and Oliver Askew along with Gar Robinson and Scott Andrews. The GTD class win went to Winward Racing’s Russell Ward, Philip Ellis, Indy Dontje, and Maro Engel.
The GTLM class win went to the No. 3 C8R of Corvette Racing, which was the icing on the cake for Wayne Taylor. While Jordan Taylor, Nicky Catsburg, and Antonio Garcia got the victory, the team immediately announced after the race that Garcia has tested positive for COVID-19.
Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott finished 9th overall (6th in DPi) in his Rolex 24 debut. The No. 31 team lost 22 laps after suffering a broken gear with about five hours remaining in the race. “We’re obviously out of the race at this point, but I feel like my progression has been a lot better than that first one,” Elliott told NBC Sports. “I got back in about 3 o’clock this morning and feel like I made a lot of gains. I’m not at my teammate’s pace by any means but a lot closer to the point where I didn’t feel like I put us in a huge hole like I did that first run.”
Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate last season also enjoyed his time in Daytona. Johnson was making his first Rolex 24 start in a decade but did solid work during his stints. “This DPi category is so stacked from top to bottom,” Johnson stated in his interview. “When I ran this race ten years ago, a NASCAR guy could make his way through and not give up too much, and it was fine. What’s required now and the effort these guys put in and how good these guys are, it is so impressive. I’ve had a lot of fun.”
The official margin of victory for Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Acura DPi was 4.704 seconds. There were some more notable records in this race. Five DPi cars completed all 807 laps, setting a record for most cars to finish on the lead lap. One of Johnson’s teammates finished runner-up for the third time. This was the first overall win for Acura and the Only other team to win three consecutive years, matching Ganassi’s run from 2006 to 2008.
The next event for the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship Series is the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 20.
Photos courtesy of IMSA