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Allen ‘Held His Breath’ Through LMP2 Photo Finish

James Allen revels in LMP2 photo finish at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, capturing dramatic victory…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

Proton Competition driver James Allen said he held his breath all throughout the dash to the line that saw him beat Ben Hanley to the LMP2 class honors at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in a photo finish.

Allen, sharing the No. 55 Oreca 07 Gibson with Fred Poordad, Francesco Pizzi and Porsche factory driver Gianmaria Bruni, gave the German squad a hard-fought victory in its first start in LMP2 competition.

The gap between Allen and the No. 04 CrowdStrike Racing by APR car piloted by Hanley was clocked at just 0.016 seconds at the finish line, with Allen pulling out of the Briton’s slipstream just at the right moment to snatch the win.

Allen, who was running third behind the No. 88 AF Corse Oreca of Nicklas Nielsen with just four laps to go, admitted that the odds of a race victory seemed small before his last-gasp charge.

“Honestly, I didn’t really think we were in with much of a shot,” he said.

“I was behind the AF Corse car for quite a while and I could see the CrowdStrike car pulling a gap more and more.

“So by the time I did get by the AF Corse car there was quite a distance.

“I honestly was not at all thinking I was going to catch this guy up but slowly but surely the gap sort of kept coming down and I could see from the penultimate lap that I was getting a good run going to the start finish line.”

The Australian driver made a first attempt at the race lead going into Turn 1 at the start of the closing lap, trying an overtaking maneuver around the outside only for Hanley to run him wide at the exit of the corner.

Allen, at that point, had already sensed that he would have another opportunity to take the lead later in the lap.

“I actually got in front before the start finish line so I thought there was no point trying to force an issue or take any crazy risks, I’ve got the straight line speed and I can do it,” he explained.

“Still, I did come out of the Bus Stop thinking ‘have I done this properly? Do I have enough time, did I have an exit good enough?’

“Luckily I did and just got in front of him in front of the line. I don’t think I was breathing coming out of Speedway Four and coming up to the start line.

“It was such a crazy moment. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything like that and I’m not sure I will ever again. It was really such an amazing feeling.”

Hanley: Result “Not Ideal” But Proud of Team

Hanley, for his part, said it had been “incredible” for the No. 04 car to come close to victory, despite narrowly missing out on the win.

The grey and red Oreca, piloted Hanley, George Kurtz, Matt McMurry and Esteban Gutierrez, enjoyed a strong run throughout, leading 170 laps in the first race for the new Algarve Pro Racing-run entry.

Notably, it was Bronze-rated driver Kurtz’s maiden outing in LMP2 after previously racing in the LMP3 category.

Hanley looked set to have victory nearly sealed when he held off a charge from TDS Racing’s Job van Uitert, who spun out at Turn 1 with less than half an hour on the clock.

Despite coming up just short in the final duel with Allen, Hanley reckoned his team could leave Daytona with their heads held high.

“The result isn’t ideal but there is a lot we can take from this weekend,” he said. “We showed that we can be competitive out of the box against a really deep P2 field.

“To come here to the Rolex 24 as a new team and a new group of drivers and come that close to winning is incredible. I’m really proud of everyone at CrowdStrike Racing and APR for the effort they put in.

“The sting will hurt for a bit but there is so much we can take from here to Sebring and the rest of the Michelin Endurance Cup season.”

John Dagys contributed to this report

Davey Euwema is Sportscar365's European Editor. Based in The Netherlands, Euwema covers the FIA World Endurance Championship, European Le Mans Series and Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS, among other series.

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