Story By: JEFF OLSON / IMSA – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – Helio Castroneves kept the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-05 ahead of the field during the final 30 minutes to lift MSR and co-drivers Tom Blomqvist, Oliver Jarvis and Simon Pagenaud to victory Sunday in the 60th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The win led to Castroneves’ signature celebratory move of climbing the fence, which he made famous during four Indianapolis 500 wins.
“It sounds cliche, but it’s all about believing,” Castroneves said. “I believe in them, they believe in me. This is exactly what is happening with this group here. With Simon, with Tom and with Oliver – we all believed that we could do it.”
It was Castroneves’ second consecutive Rolex 24 victory. Last year, he won the race as part of Wayne Taylor Racing, then climbed a fence in Victory Lane. This time, Castroneves fought off the No. 10 WTR Acura and driver Ricky Taylor to win, then stopped at the start-finish line and climbed the catch fence.
“That was absolutely incredible,” he said. “I’m so happy for the entire group. Everyone did their job. At the end, I said, ‘Put me in, Coach.’ It was great.”
The victory ended Wayne Taylor Racing’s bid to win the race for a record fourth consecutive time. As the Meyer Shank Racing celebration moved from the fence to the pits, Wayne Taylor was among the first to congratulate his former driver.
The trip to the top of the podium continued the resurgence of the career of Castroneves, 46. After winning last year’s Rolex 24 with WTR, Castroneves went on to win the Indy 500 with MSR, tying A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears for most Indy 500 wins in a career.
“It’s priceless,” Castroneves said. “In my case, I’m still very passionate about it and learning every day … and improving my driving skills. That’s what makes me a better driver. That’s why I enjoy it. That’s why when I go out there I push as hard as I can.”
Ricky Taylor finished 3.028 seconds behind Castroneves for WTR teammates Filipe Albuquerque, Will Stevens and Alexander Rossi. The 1-2 Acura sweep came 18 hours after both cars fell off the lead lap and trailed the five Cadillacs in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class.
Loic Duval brought the No. 5 JDC Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi-V.R in third place with teammates Tristan Vautier, Richard Westbrook and Ben Keating.
The key to winning may have been the run by Blomqvist before Castroneves’ finishing run. Blomqvist got the No. 60 car into the lead with a back-and-forth duel with Taylor, then handed it to Castroneves.
“I was speechless after the race,” Blomqvist said. “I’ve dreamt of it. Did I believe? Yes. But you never know. It’s 24 hours of relentless racing. Every time I jumped in the car at moments I felt really comfortable and moments when I was like, ‘Man, I can’t get this car to work. It was just a rollercoaster of a race.”
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season resumes March 16-19 with the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts at Sebring International Raceway.
DragonSpeed USA Flies to LMP2 Victory
By Holly Cain
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In one of the most all-around dramatic Rolex 24 At Daytona races in history, the No. 81 DragonSpeed USA ORECA LMP2 rallied from five laps down to win the LMP2 class of the twice-around-the-clock race. Despite freezing cold conditions overnight at Daytona International Speedway, the group of highly-inspired young drivers were blazing fast come Sunday sunrise.
Armed with youthful enthusiasm and great racing talent, DragonSpeed’s roster of longtime friends overcame fast competition, pit road challenges and uncharacteristically cold weather to claim the team’s first ever victory in the season-opening IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race.
DragsonSpeed experienced problems right away – a technical glitch hampered pit road visits resulting in multiple speeding penalties that put it behind early. But the team finally got the system righted and it was go-time by nightfall.
Sports car veteran Eric Lux and IndyCar Series stars Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward and Devlin DeFrancesco kept making up ground in the class before ultimately handing over the car to Herta in the closing laps to bring home the victory.
The team led more than a 100 consecutive laps Sunday morning before getting passed by the No. 8 Tower Motosport car on a re-start with only 30 minutes remaining. But Herta – driving multiple consecutive stints – pursued. Even going down by almost a full second before catching the No. 8 in the Le Mans Chicane. Contact as they raced tightly sent the No. 8 off course briefly and Herta re-took the lead. For good.
Ultimately, DragonSpeed claimed a 7.089-second victory over the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland car co-driven by Frits van Eerd, Giedo van der Garde, Dylan Murry and another IndyCar driver, Rinus VeeKay.
Tower Motorsport rallied from the off-track excursion to complete the LMP2 podium with drivers John Farano, Louis Deletraz, Rui Pinto de Andrade and Ferdinand Habsburg-Lothringen.
Even after 24 hours, four LMP2 Class cars finished on the lead lap.
“He wasn’t really happy with the move, but I thought it was clean, I was alongside of him and two in the bus stop (Le Mans Chicane) just don’t go and I had the inside lane,’’ Herta said of the pass for the win.
“It’s unfortunate. I didn’t want the race to end that way for them, but you know these things happen, I guess. And I’m really happy with how it ended. I got a big five stints there at the end and was able to bring it up into the lead. Congrats to the whole team.”
Riley Motorsports Cruises to LMP3 Victory
By Godwin Kelly
The No. 74 Riley Motorsports team continues to own the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship LMP3 class by defending its Rolex 24 at Daytona title Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.
Gar Robinson, who was last year’s LMP3 driver champion, joined Felipe Fraga, Kay van Berlo and Michael Cooper to claim class honors once again.
“There isn’t one race on the schedule that’s easy to win,” Robinson said. “But when you do it with the team like we have, with Bill Riley and all the guys back at the shop, and all the prep we do, it does generate the results.
“We did some old-school endurance racing last year, where you have to watch what is going on, take care of the car and bring it back to pit road the best we could. These LMP3s are amazing cars. This race felt more like a sprint race for 24 hours. We were all pushing.”
The winning car turned 723 laps over Daytona’s 3.56-mile road course with a margin of victory of one lap.
IMSA introduced the LMP3 class in 2021 and for Robinson it was like a duck to water. He won last year’s Rolex 24 then tacked on four more wins before claiming the inaugural championship. He has a series-leading six career LMP3 wins. Fraga, who took the car to the checkered flag, has five.
“It was a very special day for me,” Fraga said. “They won this race last year and I was supposed to be here, but I couldn’t get into the country because of Covid-19. It hurt a lot for me to stay at home and watch. I’m so glad this year I am here. This has been the best day of my life.”
The No. 74 went to lead for good at the 20-hour, 28-minute mark (612 laps) with van Berlo at the wheel.
The No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier JS P320 driven by Joao Barbosa, Seb Priaulx, Lance Willsey and Malthe Jakobsen secured second-place honors in this hard-fought battle. Barbosa is a four-time Rolex 24 winner.
Rounding out the podium was the No. 54 CORE Autosport Ligier JS P320 of Jon Bennett, Colin Braun, George Kurtz and Nic Jonsson.
The No. 54 was heading toward a second-place finish, possibly challenging for the lead, but was penalized with a drive-through penalty after passing under the yellow flag with about 30 minutes left on the clock.
The penalty allowed the No. 33 car to move up to second place. The No. 54 finished two laps behind the class winner.