Richard Westbrook said that he had “a lot of fun” during his first race stints aboard a DPi car in which he dueled with Ricky Taylor for victory in Sunday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona qualifying race.
Ex-Ford GT driver Westbrook, who shared the JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi-V.R with Tristan Vautier, challenged Taylor a handful of times in the closing hour of the 100-minute race before making a bold final-lap passing bid into Turn 1.
Despite spinning in his dramatic attempt to take the win — a result that would have put JDC-Miller on pole for next weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona — the 46-year-old nonetheless appeared to relish battling at the head of the overall IMSA field again.
Westbrook previously drove DP machinery in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s top prototype category but this season marks his first in a DPi car.
“I’m on a real steep learning curve and I was just learning out there, learning what I could get away with, what I couldn’t,” he told Sportscar365.
“Battling through traffic I felt really strong on the brakes; the car was so good on decel[eration].
“I had a little bit more than Ricky on that area. Had it been a proper race I probably would have gone off the brakes a little bit earlier.
“It was fantastic racing with Ricky. I’m sure it was a good race to watch. It was a lot of fun to be in the car.
“The Acura was quicker in some places and we were quick in others. It was very difficult to overtake down the straight here.
“It was really good. I’ve got to learn fast because I’m starting on the back foot somewhat.
“I did this deal quite late and wasn’t able to test [much]. I really just turned up here. I did a few laps in Atlanta in October.
“That was the perfect race for me, just getting used to the traffic. The team gave me such a good car. It was really strong. We worked really hard this week to improve it.
“We didn’t roll off the truck so good and just got better and better. We really worked hard on that.”
Taylor Felt “Under a Lot of Pressure” at End
Taylor said after the race that he felt Westbrook was putting him “under a lot of pressure” in the closing stages, and that the Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05 and the JDC-Miller Cadillac were strong at different stages of the Rolex 24 qualifying race.
Filipe Albuquerque started from the back of the grid based on a technical infringement found post-qualifying, but quickly made his way into the top four.
That set WTR on course to battle for the pole, with Taylor emerging from the driver swap in third behind Oliver Jarvis and Pipo Derani before losing a place to Westbrook. He then rose to the head of the field at the final round of DPi services.
“It doesn’t mean a whole lot in terms of the championship; obviously it’s nice to win any race,” Taylor said.
“But it goes to show how everybody’s purely racers here and you’re going to give it 100 percent whether it means 35 points or 350 points.
“The effort is still the same. It was a lot of work. We started the day from the back and we were strategizing some risky calls to get track position. By the time we got to the first pit stop, Filipe got the track position so we really didn’t need to make many risks.
“The team got me out into the virtual lead with the other cars gambling on yellows. I made a bit of a mistake judgment call with traffic that gave the No. 5 car the [net] lead and the team gave me the lead back, so I thought I can’t mess it up again.
“Honestly [in] the first stint I felt like the car was really strong and we had the pace compared to the No. 5 car in clean air. The last stint, I felt like he was quite a bit stronger than us and he was really putting me under a lot of pressure.
“If that’s as close as the Rolex 24 is, I don’t think people are going to sleep very much.
“He was really strong in the braking for T1. He went for it. It was pretty exciting. I’ve done that too!”