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WESTPHAL: Many Layers to the Daytona Onion

CarBahn with Peregrine Racing’s Jeff Westphal files his first Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Peregrine Racing

The Rolex 24 at Daytona is a race that I’m fairly certain is high on every driver’s bucket list of “to do’s” or more specifically, in their “to win” column.

It’s the crown jewel on the Michelin Endurance Cup’s four-race schedule, which also counts toward the overall IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings as well. Prototypes and GT cars aplenty subscribe, with world renown talent in each and every car.

I show up to this event humbled by a few things:

1. How many excellent drivers are competitors on the grid, think 60 cars x 4 drivers.

2. All the work in getting the opportunity to compete, and yet 60 other cars amd 240 other drivers have achieved the same starting block.

3. The facility. Boy you sure feel the history the minute you drive through the tunnel into the oval

The 60th anniversary of the Rolex 24 was set to be the inaugural Daytona 24 for my program, Carbahn with Peregrine Racing.

It’s a newer team that began racing in GS in 2018, won a championship in 2019, and moved up into GTD in 2021.

But in ’21 we didn’t do the endurance events, just the selection of sprint rounds the WeatherTech Championship has to offer.

This may seem like an easy upgrade, but there are many layers to the Daytona onion.

Photo: Peregrine Racing

Basically, you need to do everything perfectly. Because if you don’t, someone from the 60-car field will. Albeit our class (GTD) was the largest of the five with 22 entries, but you get the idea.

The engineers have to create a fast, but forgiving car that works in all conditions, heat, cold, daylight, nighttime, rain, dry, new tires, one-hour old tires, AND be acceptable by four different drivers with four different styles and four different “feel”s from the seat of our pants.

The crew must nail every stop, tire change (24 of them), every lug nut, tank of fuel, the one brake change mid-race, windscreen tearoffs, set up work, etc.

The drivers need to hit their marks, in the pit stall and on track, every corner, brake zone, turn in, apex and most importantly (at Daytona) throttle application or corner exit.

And even with all that, you have to have luck.

The last bit here, luck, is what we were missing in our No. 39 Carbahn with Peregrine Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.

Even with short practice time, using Practice 1 as our first shakedown of the car ever, we created a decent, pretty fast and reliable racecar.

It wasn’t perfect in it’s dance around the 3.4 mile-circuit, and I think everyone involved knows we can find more speed, we just needed more time.

But we created a car that was within half-a-second or so of the race-winning Porsche, even being a bit down on straight-line speed from the Porsche, AMG, Aston and McLarens.

Our Luck or lack there of, started showing up in the first few hours, where two consecutive pitstops were foiled by a yellow on the exact lap we were coming in, forcing us to dodge the closed pit and take emergency service of five seconds of fuel, along with a drive-through penalty after that.

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

Next, Sandy Mitchell was hit while trying to avoid the Turn 6, Hour 4 ‘yard sale’ that destroyed a few cars, puncturing our left rear and destroying the tail light and fender liner in the process.

A quick pit to change the tire and rip the fender liner out was all it took, but not a great thing with 21 hours still to go.

Then during my double at night, we had worked ourselves back up the order from the previous incident and I was P2, heading into a restart.

I timed the acceleration well, got a run and sailed past a car while pressuring the leader into Turn 1. The two factory Corvettes were ahead in line, so we had 4-5 rows of cars 2×2 rolling into and out of Turn 1 side by side.

As we accelerated toward the International Horseshoe (Turn 3), the No. 3 Vette dropped a wheel, hit and spun an LMP3 car to his right into the middle of the track at a 90-degree angle.

We all slowed and tried to avoid with a wall on our left and grass on our right. I had minor contact to the back of the No. 4 Vette, who parked it as this unfolded 20 yards in front of him, which would’ve been insignificant however it pin-holed our radiator, causing me to have to stop about 15 minutes later due to rising engine temps. 

After 18 laps, the crew had the No. 39 Lamborghini back out, and not long after Corey Lewis was working back up through the field on a restart when the No. 21 Ferrari mis-judged the braking into the Bus Stop and used our Lamborghini as a brake, spinning us and bending both the right side suspension and knocking the alignment out.

Finally, as temps were above optimal for the remainder of the running, we opted to retire and limit the damage our strong little Bull has incurred.

This wasn’t the D24 we all were training, imagining and manifesting, yet this was the hand we were dealt, a bitter smack in the face.

Yet we all know the speed was there, and the performance from everyone in the team was on point, so though this wasn’t our year, our time will come!

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

Jeff Westphal (@westphalracing) is the 2019 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge GS champion, driving in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with CarBahn with Peregrine Racing.

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