Following a drama-filled final 30 minutes that saw implications in two of the four classes, Chip Ganassi Racing powered through to claim overall victory in the 53rd Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Scott Dixon took the No. 02 Riley-Ford DP to a 1.333-second win over the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Sebastien Bourdais, following a late-race caution and driver time miscalculation that shook up the fight for top honors.
The twice-around-the-clock endurance classic developed into a two-horse race in the closing stages between Dixon’s Ganassi entry and the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP of Jordan Taylor.
While Dixon led into the final hour after getting around Jordan Taylor for the lead following the second-to-last round of pit stops, the WTR Corvette DP pitted while under the final yellow to put Ricky Taylor aboard due a drive time miscalculation.
Had Jordan Taylor finished the race, he would have gone over the four-hour maximum driver time in a six-hour period.
Ricky Taylor restarted in third with eight minutes to go but was forced to serve a stop-and-go penalty for entering a closed pit. As a result, he, brother Jordan and Max Angelelli had to settle for a third place overall finish.
Bourdais and co-drivers Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi benefitted from WTR’s misfortune to finish second, rebounding from a disconnected wire connector in the fuel pump in the ninth hour, where they lost three laps.
While Ganassi becomes a six-time Rolex 24 winner, Dixon notches his second Rolex watch, while co-drivers Tony Kanaan, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larsen each claim their first Daytona 24 win.
The win also marked the first 24-hour win for Ford’s EcoBoost engine, which debuted here one year ago with Ganassi and the Michael Shank Racing teams.
Additionally, NASCAR ace McMurray joins A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti to have won the Daytona 500 and Rolex 24.
The No. 90 VisitFlorida.com Corvette DP of Richard Westbrook, Michael Valiante and Mike Rockenfeller finished fourth, followed by the No. 31 Action Express/Whelen entry, which was classified 7th overall but 5th in the Prototype class.
Late-race clutch issues for the No. 01 Ganassi entry, led by Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, ended in retirement, while a problem with the left-front suspension in the final three hours dashed hopes for Michael Shank Racing’s Ligier JS P2 Honda, which had run inside the top-five.
The pole-sitting car salvaged a sixth place finish in class and 11th place overall result.
The P class saw an unusual high rate of attrition, with less than half of the 16 starters being classified at the finish.
Five of the six P2 cars failed to get to the finish, including the No. 57 Krohn Racing Ligier JS P2 Judd, which retired in the sixth hour with engine failure.
Both of the debuting Tequila Patron ESM HPD ARX-04bs showed promise but battled reliability woes. The No. 2 car lost power in the opening hours, although the No. 1 entry impressed through the first half, and even briefly led in the hands of Scott Sharp but suffered gearbox failure overnight.
Mazda also had its time in the spotlight, with the No. 70 Mazda SKYACTIV-D prototype of Tom Long leading overall for the first time in the TUDOR Championship. While showing significant improved pace, both Mazdas dropped out with oil pressure (No. 70) and overheating (No. 07) issues overnight.
The DeltaWing, a pre-race favorite based on its pace at the Roar, fought gearbox issues all weekend and was the first retirement in the second hour.
Prototype Challenge class honors went to PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports following a unpredictable final half-hour that saw the leader crash out in dramatic fashion.
Following a dominant race that saw his CORE autosport Oreca FLM09 hold control from the ninth hour, Colin Braun and his three co-drivers appeared to be en route to back-to-back class victories.
However, their race ended in flames on the backstretch after Braun slammed into the wall following contact with another car earlier that lap that caused a suspected tire puncture.
It handed the lead to Tom Kimber-Smith, who took the Bobby Oregel-led PR1 squad to its first-ever Rolex 24 win, after rebounding from a six-lap deficit early in the race.
Kimber-Smith shared driving duties with Mike Guasch, Andrew Novich and Andrew Palmer, marking all four drivers’ maiden win at Daytona, completing much of the race without power steering.
The tight-knit PR1/Mathiasen squad becomes one of the few teams to have claimed class victories at Daytona, Sebring and Petit Le Mans.
The No. 16 BAR1 Motorsports entry of Johnny Mowlem, Martin Plowman, Tomy Drissi, Tom Papadopoulos and team owner Brian Alder finished one lap behind in second.
Owing to the high rate of attrition, only three of the eight starters in the spec prototype class took the checkered flag at the end.
The second round of the TUDOR Championship, as well as the Patron Endurance Cup is the Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 21.
RESULTS: Rolex 24 at Daytona