Porsche North America and Flying Lizard Motorsports captured the GT Le Mans and GT Daytona class victories in the Rolex 24 at Daytona after a dramatic ending to the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship series opener.
Porsche’s win with the 911 RSR follows up a 1-2 finish in last year’s GTE Pro class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Nick Tandy, Richard Lietz and Patrick Pilet took the win in the No. 911 car. The No. 911 was one of two GTLM cars in the top 10 overall, as it finished sixth in the 67-car field. This marks the 40th 911 victory at Daytona; Lietz’s second and Tandy and Pilet’s first in the Rolex 24.
Meanwhile Flying Lizard, which had never tasted much success at Daytona in its history, was unofficially awarded the GTD class victory in the No. 45 Audi R8 driven by Spencer Pumpelly, Markus Winkelhock, Tim Pappas and Nelson Canache. The win is Pumpelly’s third, Canache’s second and the first for Winkelhock and Pappas at the Rolex 24.
On the final lap, Level 5 Motorsports’ No. 555 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, driven by Alessandro Pier Guidi, was assessed a stop-and-hold plus 75 second penalty for what was deemed avoidable contact with Winkelhock, although television replays did not appear to show any contact.
The two were engaged in a thrilling battle in the final 10 minutes, which only occurred after a full course caution was thrown when Alex Job’s No. 22 Porsche 911 GT America ran off course at the first hairpin.
At the Kink, Winkelhock attempted to pass at the outside of the left-handed corner and went off course. Pier Guidi moved through the corner but was assessed the penalty there afterwards.
The penalty drops the No. 555, driven by Pier Guidi, Scott Tucker, Jeff Segal, Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler, unofficially off of the podium to fourth.
Flying Lizard only entered the fray in the second half of the race, when Winkelhock and Pumpelly helped overcome a several-lap deficit.
Pumpelly took the lead from Bell into the 22nd hour, but lost the spot after an emergency pit stop for fuel an hour later. Pumpelly handed off to Winkelhock for the final hour, to set up the battle between he and Pier Guidi.
Snow Racing’s No. 58 Porsche 911 GT America of Jan Heylen, Madison Snow and Marco Seefried finished behind the pair on the road and was promoted to second, in the GTD class’ only three-driver lineup.
Other cars that impressed included the No. 72 SMP/ESM Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, which finished fourth on the road but leapt to third, the second Flying Lizard Audi (No. 35) in fifth, and the second Level 5 Ferrari, the No. 556 that finished sixth.
In general, Porsche’s new 911 GT Americas struggled to keep pace given a straight line speed gap; it was a sentiment also echoed by Turner Motorsport with its new GT3-spec BMW Z4 GT3.
The lone SRT Viper GT3-R had clutch and differential issues in its first race; meanwhile front-end issues plagued a promising outing, pace-wise, from the No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage.
The GTLM battle was more or less a battle of attrition, although the winning lineup in the No. 911 led often throughout the night.
Oftentimes the No. 911’s toughest competition came internally, from the sister No. 912, but the car retired at sunrise with engine issues while leading.
The SRT Viper GTS-Rs each took their turns leading early, but between broken steering units and front end damage affecting the Nos. 91 and 93 cars, they fell from winning contention.
Corvette’s No. 3 C7.R retired due to overheating in the engine, and the sister No. 4, which was second, went to the garage in the 22nd hour to change the gearbox. The car fell outside the top five after a 30-minute fix.
Risi Competizione, of course, never got the true chance to showcase the pace of its Ferrari F458 Italia after the severe accident in the third hour involving Matteo Malucelli.
That left the No. 55 BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE and No. 91 Viper, which minimized its losses, to benefit for podium position after surviving rather than conquering the field with outright pace.
The No. 55 inherited third place in class when the sister No. 56 went to the garage in the 21st hour with a right rear wheel bearing issue. The Viper picked up third when the No. 4 Corvette went behind the wall.