Meyer Shank Acura Halfway Home To Repeating As IMSA Rolex 24 At Daytona Winner

Story By: MARK ROBINSON / IMSA – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – Halfway through the 61st Rolex 24 At Daytona, defending overall winner Meyer Shank Racing led the race in a bid to repeat.

After 12 hours at the Daytona International Speedway, Simon Pagenaud had the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-06 ahead of Alexander Sims in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac V-LMDh under the seventh full-course caution of the race. Pagenaud, along with co-drivers Tom Blomqvist, Colin Braun and Helio Castroneves, combined to lead 172 of the 394 laps completed to that point.

The 2023 Rolex 24 features the debut of the LMDh prototypes in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class. The new hybrid-powered machines have been resilient in the grueling marathon, with seven of the nine GTP entries still running – and all within a lap of each other – after 12 hours.

Live flag-to-flag coverage of the Rolex 24 continues on Peacock through the checkered flag at 1:40 p.m. ET today. Tune in to USA Network for coverage from 6 a.m. to noon before the final hours of the race air live on NBC starting at noon.

Pagenaud, Blomqvist and Castroneves made up three-quarters of the Meyer Shank roster that won last year’s Rolex 24 in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class that gave way to GTP this year. Braun joined the team as Blomqvist’s full-season co-driver for this season.

Other class leaders after 12 hours of racing were: James Allen in the No. 55 Proton Competition ORECA LMP2 07 in Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2); four-time Rolex 24 winner Joao Barbosa in the No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier JS P320 in Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3); Ross Gunn in the No. 23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 in GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO); and Maximilian Goetz in the No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 in GT Daytona (GTD).

Attrition was remarkably low after 12 hours of grueling racing. Only five of the 61 cars had officially retired from the race.

“I just can’t believe all these cars are still running,” said Richard Westbrook, co-driver of the No. 02 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-LMDh. “It’s a testament to the manufacturers and all the hard work that’s gone into it. It’s a proper race out there, and it looks like it’s going to keep going.”

The Rolex 24 is also the first of four races in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup (IMEC), with drivers, teams and manufacturers earning points at designated junctures of each race. With Rolex 24 IMEC points awarded at six and 12 hours thus far, class leaders are: a three-way tie in GTP among the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura and No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac; a tie between the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen ORECA and No. 11 TDS Racing ORECA in LMP2; the No. 33 Sean Creech Ligier in LMP3; the No. 23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin in GTD PRO; and the No. 32 Team Korthoff Mercedes in GTD.


Tire Strategy Takes on Added Significance

Tire management could play a pivotal role in the closing hours of the race. GTP teams have fewer sets available than the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class had last year, making it necessary to complete two or three fuel stints on a set of Michelins multiple times throughout the race.

Teams able to keep pace over those long stints can gain important track position. And those able to save enough sets of fresh tires for single stints near the end put themselves in position to bid for victory.

“We’re trying to be quite frugal with how much we put on new tires,” Westbrook said. “You definitely want plenty of tires for the last three or four hours. We’re taking a bit of pain now and hoping to make that time back up (near the finish) when we have lots of new sets of tires. … We’re good over a double (tire stint) and I think we’re pretty good over a triple as well.”

Filipe Albuquerque, co-driver of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06, pointed to an example that may come back to haunt the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura. When Helio Castroneves flat-spotted a set avoiding contact with the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac on a restart just seven hours into the race, he had to pit for new rubber. Will it put the No. 60 in a more precarious position, Albuquerque wondered?

“It means that later on they have to do one more double stint than us,” Albuquerque said. “Maybe that will hurt them, we will see.”


I’m Lovin’ It, Grosjean Says of Rolex 24 Debut

Romain Grosjean has driven race cars at the highest levels around the world. He logged 179 Formula One starts, raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is about to embark on his third IndyCar Series season. The Swiss French driver ranks his Rolex 24 debut this year among his career highlights.

Grosjean is part of the No. 63 Iron Lynx Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2 lineup in the GTD PRO class, driving a pair of nighttime stints. The No. 63 ran fourth in class at the halfway point.

“I like that Daytona is an amazing race and it’s a race I wanted to do since I came racing in the U.S. in ’21,” said Grosjean, who’ll be a development driver this year for the Lamborghini LMDh project that will join the WeatherTech Championship in 2024. “I’m happy to be here in such an iconic brand as Lamborghini. … It’s a good experience, I love it.

“If you had told me when I was a kid that I would race the Monaco GP, Indy 500, Le Mans and Daytona, I would’ve told you that you were a bit crazy. But I have done that.”

error: Thanks For Visiting Race Pro Weekly ... Like what you see? Tell your friends to check us out!