Following a late-race dual with Wayne Taylor Racing, Action Express Racing broke through to claim victory in the 52nd Rolex 24 at Daytona, the opening round of the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
The No. 5 Corvette DP took the overall win in the hands of Sebastien Bourdais, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi. The trio held off WTR’s No. 10 Corvette DP, driven by Max Angelelli, Jordan, Ricky and Wayne Taylor, by 1.461 seconds after 695 laps.
A late-race caution inside of the final 25 minutes flew when the No. 22 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America went off course. Barbosa hung on against Angelelli after the restart to secure Action Express’ second Rolex 24 win, having also won on the team’s debut in 2010 in a Porsche Riley.
The second Action Express entry, the No. 9 Millennium-backed Corvette DP driven by Brian and Burt Frisselle, John Martin and Fabien Giroix, rounded out the podium. Spirit of Daytona’s No. 90 Corvette DP, driven by Mike Rockenfeller, Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante, making it a Corvette 1-2-3-4.
The No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford of Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Marino Franchitti and Kyle Larson appeared to be en route to a fourth place finish but retired in the final hour due to an issue with the car’s floor.
It promoted the No. 6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Oreca 03 Nissan of Klaus Graf, Lucas Luhr and Alex Brundle to a fifth place finish, the best of the P2 runners after being the only ACO-spec prototype to have a relatively trouble-free race.
Another P2 car, No. 42 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan, lost more than 15 laps in the sixth hour due to alternator failure but finished eighth overall, behind two of the top-placed GTLM cars.
A number of other Prototype contenders hit trouble throughout the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic, most notably the defending race-winning No. 01 Ganassi entry of Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Jamie McMurray and Sage Karam, which lost 30 laps just before halfway due to an accident overnight before retiring with engine failure with less than two hours to go.
The No. 60 Michael Shank Racing entry, the other Ford EcoBoost-powered DP, lost first gear early on before replacing the entire gearbox in the morning, which cost the 2012 race winners three hours.
The DeltaWing, which showed promise throughout the week, retired in the 17th hour with gearbox failure following fuel pump issues and contact with the wall during the night. Both debuting Mazda SKYACTIV-D powered diesel prototypes failed to finish after overheating and intercooler issues.
A heavy accident in the third hour involving the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP of Memo Gidley and Matteo Malucelli’s No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia GT resulted in a red flag for more than an hour.
Both drivers were transported to Halifax Medical Center, with Gidley undergoing surgery to his left leg and arm, while also having an unstable fracture to his back that will need to be operated on. Malucelli is believed to have escaped serious injuries, although no confirmation has been made.
Prototype Challenge class honors went to CORE autosport’s Colin Braun, Jon Bennett, Mark Wilkins and James Gue following a near-flawless run for the three-time class champions, which had started from the pole.
The No. 54 Oreca FLM09 enjoyed a spirited battle with the No. 25 8Star Motorsports entry of Tom Kimber-Smith, Rob Huff, Mike Marsal and team boss Enzo Potolicchio, which saw both cars swap the lead though the night.
However, the CORE entry managed to open up a one-lap lead by the morning and hold onto the class win, finishing ahead of Kimber-Smith.
It marked a monumental double class victory for the CORE squad, which also operated the factory Porsche North American squad, which took top honors in GTLM.
The No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports car completed the podium, thanks to a late-race fire for the contending No. 7 Starworks entry of Kyle Marcelli, who was running in second with just more than two hours to go.
RSR Racing’s Bruno Junqueira led early but suffered a broken cylinder head in the first hour. It gave the top spot to the No. 8 Starworks car of Renger van der Zande, which lost 30 laps just after the red flag due to power steering issues.
Other cars to hit trouble early included the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports car, which lost 10 laps with an alternator change. It however managed to come back for a fourth place finish in class. RSR’s No. 08 car, meanwhile, retired due to an accident.