Wayne Taylor Racing has claimed its third consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona victory in its first race for Acura following a highly competitive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opener.
Filipe Albuquerque pedaled the No. 10 Konica Minolta-sponsored Acura ARX-05 over the line by 4.704 seconds to the No. 48 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R of Kamui Kobayashi after a dramatic late-race puncture for Renger van der Zande, who was closing in on the leader.
It came amid a frantic final two-hour green flag run that saw all three DPi manufacturers in contention for the win.
Albuquerque took over controls of the Acura DPi from Ricky Taylor with 90 minutes to go and extended an advantage the team had enjoyed for much of the second half of the Florida endurance classic.
While Cadillacs dominated the early stages of the race, the WTR Acura DPi came into form from the 12th hour, although it was under attack by the Dutchman in the closing minutes after it only left-side Michelins on its final stop.
A 6.4-second gap following the final round of stops was reduced to less than a second in the closing 20 minutes until van der Zande peeled into the pits with a right-rear puncture with eight minutes to go.
It dropped the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac to a fifth place result in the race.
Albuquerque, who claimed his second Rolex 24 overall win along with Ricky Taylor, shared top honors with Alexander Rossi and Helio Castroneves.
It marked the team’s fourth win in the last five years and the first overall Rolex 24 win for the Acura brand and the ARX-05.
Kobayashi and co-drivers Mike Rockenfeller, Simon Pagenauad and seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson were classified second.
The No. 55 Mazda RT24-P of Harry Tincknell, Jonathan Bomarito and Oliver Jarvis finished third after initially going three laps down due to various early-race glitches, including a gear selection issue while on the grid and a broken mounting pin after a tail change in the 11th hour.
Jarvis charged through the field on the series of final restarts that put the Multimatic-run entry back into contention.
Meyer Shank Racing, also in its first race with the Acura DPi, was fourth after struggling for outright pace at stages of the race, including an apparent electrical-related issue that was impacting the throttle in the early hours.
The pole-sitting No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac, which was among the race-long contenders, dropped out of contention with less than six hours to go when Felipe Nasr pitted while stuck in third gear.
It was compounded by a broken exhaust manifold that the team, featuring reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, had battled through the nighttime hours.
Elliott brought the No. 31 entry home eighth overall and sixth in class, ahead of the No. 5 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac that lost more than 40 laps after an accident with a GT Daytona class car in the 10th hour.
Era Motorsport Wins LMP2 After Starworks Penalty
Ryan Dalziel, Paul-Loup Chatin, Kyle Tilley and Dwight Merriman claimed LMP2 class honors, benefitting from a late-race penalty for the No. 8 Tower Motorsport Oreca 07 Gibson of Gabriel Aubry.
Aubry was forced to serve a drive-through for a jumped restart with 90 minutes to go, which ultimately handed the top spot to the No. 18 car after the Frenchman made an additional late-race pit stop for a splash of fuel.
It marked the Tilley-owned team’s maiden WeatherTech Championship class win.
Aubry, in the No. 8 Starworks-run Oreca finished 19 seconds behind in second.
The No. 82 DragonSpeed Oreca completed the class podium, with the Elton Julian-led squad unable to repeat as three-time class winners after dropping off the lead lap in the 21st hour with smoke coming from the rear of the car.
RWR-Eurasia’s Ligier JS P217 Gibson finished fourth, featuring Porsche factory driver Sven Mueller and 2018 Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon at the wheel.
The No. 11 WIN Autosport Oreca led through the night but lost multiple laps due to brake-related issues as well as a collision with a GT car that sent the car, which starred in the hands of Tristan Nunez, behind the wall multiple times.
Another front-runner, the No. 47 Cetilar Racing Dallara P217 Gibson, lost considerable time due to gearbox failure.
The class pole-sitting No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca battled a plethora of issues, including a misfire and starter motor and power steering failures that resulted in multiple trips to the garage, not to mention multiple spins.
Six of the ten LMP2 entries finished the race, with early retirements from the Orecas fielded by DragonSpeed (No. 81, accident), High Class Racing (gearbox) and Racing Team Nederland (accident).
Riley Dominates LMP3 Series Debut
The No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 Nissan of Gar Robinson, Spencer Pigot, Oliver Askew and Scott Andrews scored a commanding class victory in the WeatherTech Championship debut of the LMP3 class.
Having led from the fourth hour, the car encountered a challenge from the class pole-sitting No. 6 Muehlner Motorsports Duqueine D08 Nissan, which rebounded after suspension damage due to a collision with another LMP3 car in the opening hour.
Brake issues for the No. 54 CORE autosport Ligier LMP3 saw it lose multiple laps while the sister Riley entry went behind the wall early with a fuel pressure issue and water spraying from the drink bottle into the car’s cockpit.
The No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier LMP3 quartet of Joao Barbosa, Lance Willsey, Wayne Boyd and Yann Clairay finished second in class, three laps behind the class-winning Riley entry after losing time due to several penalties and incidents.
Muehlner’s Duqueine completed the class podium, meanwhile.
RESULTS: Rolex 24 at Daytona