A starring drive by Pipo Derani and a near-flawless effort by team, drivers and car saw the history books re-written in Daytona, with Tequila Patron ESM scoring overall victory in the 54th Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Derani, in his debut with the Scott Sharp-owned team, took ESM’s Ligier JS P2 Honda to a 26.166-second victory over the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP of Max Angelelli, following a heated late race battle that went the way of the P2 entry.
Having started from the front row, Derani jumped into an early lead, and after the DeltaWing and Michael Shank Racing’s early exits, ESM was virtually in a class of its own in terms of outright speed in the around-the-clock enduro.
Solid drives by co-drivers Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek, plus a short stint by Ed Brown kept the car crucially on the lead lap and ready to attack once the 22-year-old Brazilian got back behind the wheel for his closing triple stint.
Derani took over the lead from Ricky Taylor with 1 hour and 45 minutes ago, and never looked back, despite gearbox alarms going off inside the car on the closing laps.
The win marked a number of firsts, in ESM’s first Rolex 24 win, the first major endurance victory for the Onroak Automotive-designed Ligier JS P2, as well as Honda’s first overall win at Daytona.
It was also the first P2 car to claim victory in the Florida endurance classic and only the third win by the ACO-spec prototype in the post-merger.
For team owner Sharp, it was his second overall Rolex 24 victory, 20 years after sharing the winning car with Wayne Taylor, whose team finished second on Sunday after its bid for the win unwound in the closing hour.
A late-race vibration and exhaust fumes forced Jordan Taylor out of the No. 10 Corvette DP on the final pit stop, which ultimately dashed any hopes of victory for brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor, Angelelli and late addition Rubens Barrichello.
The No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Corvette DP of Ryan Dalziel, Marc Goossens and Ryan Hunter-Reay completed the podium in third after overcoming ECU issues during a late-race pit stop, which cost them a lap at the time.
Defending Prototype class champions Action Express came home fourth, with the No. 01 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford completed the top-five after both being delayed by trips to the garage.
An accident by Kyle Larson — caused by brake issues — derailed the sister No. 02 Ganassi entry, which finished 13th overall and 7th in class, behind the No. 31 Action Express entry, which suffered a flash fire and driveshaft failure.
While P2s dominated the early stages, all except the race-winning ESM entry ran into trouble.
The pole-sitting SMP Racing BR Engineering BR01 Nissan fought brake issues but ultimately finished. The same couldn’t be said for the two Mazdas, which showed impressive pace but retired with flywheel and engine failures, respectively.
Shank’s charge came to an end in the tenth hour when Ozz Negri stopped on track with engine failure, while the DeltaWing retired in the fourth hour following an accident with a Prototype Challenge car.
In PC, JDC-Miller Motorsports broke through to claim class victory, in a race of survival for the spec prototypes.
Kenton Koch took the team’s No. 85 Oreca FLM09 to a four-lap victory over the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry, driven to the finish by Tom Kimber-Smith following in an extreme battle of attrition.
Reigning IMSA Prototype Lites champion Koch survived both a fuel reserve issue early and a crash in the 16th hour, which cut their lead in half. It came after a storming opening stint by Stephen Simpson, who led the opening hours.
The pairing shared the class-winning car with Chris Miller and Mikhail Goikhberg, marking the Minnesota-based team’s maiden WeatherTech Championship victory after two seasons in top-level IMSA competition.
Defending Rolex 24 class winner PR1 and Kimber-Smith also led early but was delayed by a fuel pump issue overnight, followed by a further trip to the garage.
The No. 20 BAR1 Motorsports entry, led by Johnny Mowlem, completed the podium in third, although well down the running order after multiple delays.
Pre-race favorites CORE autosport retired in the sixth hour with engine failure, while leading, while the pair of Starworks Motorsport entries — also featuring stacked lineups — dropped out of contention in separate accidents.
There were a total of 21 full-course cautions totaling more than five hours of time under the safety car in the race, which also doubled as the opening round of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.
RESULTS: Rolex 24 at Daytona