Elton Julian hopes that a second consecutive LMP2 class win at the Rolex 24 will help get manufacturer attention and support for his DragonSpeed operation.
The team’s Oreca 07 Gibson was pedaled to classd victory by longtime driver Henrik Hedman along with Ben Hanley, Colin Braun, and Harrison Newey.
Founded in 2007, DragonSpeed has turned into a championship-winning operation in sports cars and made its NTT IndyCar Series debut last year.
When asked about the significance of a second Daytona win for the team, Julian said he hopes this year’s triumph will help propel the squad to greater heights as it embarks on its first full season of LMP2 competition in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“It’s a shiny trophy, lots of confetti, and don’t forget it’s the first step of the IMSA season,” he told Sportscar365.
“We’d like to reach the days when winning the Rolex 24 means something other than in the top class. We’re aspiring to get there.
“Everybody had their little bits of adversity, little niggly things, and the puncture didn’t help.
“It damaged some bodywork and there were some things that came from that, but we managed it. So did PR1. It was a real pleasure to chase them for 12, 13 hours as we did. It’s a great start to a new formula.
“I guess the best way to answer that question is: what more can I do to turn myself into a factory deal?”
Julian was especially pleased for Hedman, now domiciled in Florida, who made the full-season commitment to IMSA after DragonSpeed and other teams successfully petitioned the series to implement a Bronze-rated driver mandate in the class.
“This means [so] much,” Julian said. “He’s won in Europe, he’s accomplished things as a Bronze, and the guy’s lived in Florida for years. He’s a Ft. Lauderdale guy, and it’s a big one for him.
“We do it because we love it, we want things to be fair and right, and at the end of the day the customer decides. Here they’ve created a product where certain types of customers want to be here.
“One of my customers enjoys it very much. Henrik Hedman just won the Rolex 24 at Daytona!”
Hedman Hopes for LMP2 Growth
For Hedman, the win came after three years of trying and a near miss last year. He said that he hopes his success will demonstrate the strength of the class to other gentleman drivers who may be evaluating a championship bid.
IMSA’s six-round LMP2 championship kicks off in March at Sebring with Daytona having served as an optional, non-points event.
“Being in the ELMS for years and seeing how competitive it is, it’s really, really hard to be a gentleman driver,” Hedman said. “Unless you’re Ben Keating, I’m guessing!
“What they did [with the Bronze driver mandate] is fantastic. I’m trying to talk to all my friends in GT3. I’m not saying they should leave it, but there’s so many good gentlemen out there and there are other opportunities.
“You don’t have to go Porsche, Ferrari, Lambo, or whatever. At the end of the day I did that for awhile and with the BoP there were certain races you just don’t have to go to. It was just ridiculous. With the LMP2, there is no BoP.
“I really hope that this will grow in the US. We’ll see, but it would be nice to see a car count at ten. At the end of the day GT3 cars now are more expensive and more expensive to run than the LMP2. Hey guys out there, go LMP2.”