Meyer Shank Racing has delivered Acura its third consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona victory following a hard-fought first race for the new IMSA GTP hybrid era.
Tom Blomqvist took the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 to the overall win in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener, holding off Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport’s Filipe Albuquerque to give Acura a 1-2 finish in the the car’s competition debut.
It came in an up-and-down race for both Acuras, which showcased superior pace and energy efficiency yet overcame making regular engine oil flushes with the 2.4-liter twin turbo V6-powered internal combustion engine.
The winning MSR Acura also battled increased gearbox temperatures for nearly three-quarters of the race.
Blomqvist shared top honors with Colin Braun, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, marking the second straight Rolex 24 win for the Ohio-based squad with three of its four drivers.
Castroneves, meanwhile, becomes only the second three-time consecutive winner of the race joining the late Peter Gregg.
Albuquerque’s No. 10 Acura came from a three-lap deficit after a garage visit to fix an oil filler bracket in the 13th hour, and subsequent penalty for working in a closed pit, to get back on to the lead lap in the third-to-final full course caution.
The Portuguese ace then made a bold move on the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-LMDh of Earl Bamber to grab second on the subsequent restart with 1 hour and 24 minutes to go prior to the final round of pit stops some 30 minutes later.
Albuquerque finished 4.190 seconds behind Blomqvist in the car he shared with Ricky Taylor, Louis Deletraz and Brendon Hartley.
CGR’s Renger van der Zande brought the No. 01 Cadillac home in third overall after a late-restart battle with the sister, full season FIA World Endurance Championship entry that was driven to the finish by Bamber.
The No. 01 Cadillac overcame an incident in the fifth hour after getting rear-ended by a LMP3 car when Scott Dixon was forced to check up on a spinning Tower Motorsport Oreca 07 Gibson.
The Kiwi then encountered electrical gremlins during his overnight stint that was solved with a replacement steering wheel.
Bamber and co-drivers Alex Lynn and Richard Westbrook came home fourth, also on the lead lap.
A collision between Pipo Derani and an unidentified GTD car with nine hours to go forced the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac to the garage with left-rear suspension damage, costing the car 25 minutes.
Derani and co-drivers Alexander Sims and Jack Aitken finished 12 laps behind in fifth as a result.
The No. 24 Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8 of Philipp Eng, Augusto Farfus, Marco Wittmann and Colton Herta was classified sixth overall after battling electrical issues early on prior to a brake change late in the running.
Surprisingly, eight of the nine GTP entries finished the race, with only two having significant hybrid-related issues.
A MGU failure forced the No. 25 BMW of Nick Yelloly to IMSA’s new hybrid vehicle safety area at the end of the opening hour, with the car returning to action some three-and-a-half hours later after replacing the electric motor.
The No. 7 Penske-run Porsche 963, meanwhile, went behind the wall for a battery change in the sixth hour, initially resulting in a 35-minute delay, prior to an additional trip to the garage en route to a 14th place overall result.
Its sister No. 6 Porsche lost three laps in Hour 16 when Nick Tandy spun in avoidance of a LMP3 car, leading to a sluggish pit stop to replace the car’s front splitter and rear diffuser.
Aided by a caution and wave-by, Tandy overtook Pagenaud to un-lap himself to put the Porsche only one lap behind, until the Englishman was forced to stop on track for two consecutive laps for power re-cycles.
It was followed by gearbox failure the following lap and led to the car’s eventual retirement.
RESULTS: Rolex 24 at Daytona