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Rolex 24 at Daytona – Support Races


 

Daytona, January, 2020

The Rolex 24 at Daytona race meeting featured support races for the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series, together with a pair of Ferrari North America Ferrari Challenge races, all preceding the main feature race at the weekend.

BMW Endurance Challenge

This was a 4 hour enduro on the Friday afternoon with a strong 51 car entry in the two classes, 33 in the premier GS (Grand Sport) class for GT4 specification cars, and 18 in the TCR (Touring Car) class, the latter comprising mainly of Audi RS3s, Honda Civics and Hyundai Velosters with a lone Alfa Romeo Giulietta. In qualifying it was the # 13 McLaren 570S GT4 of Wittmer / Fidani that topped the timesheets, followed by the # 39 Audi R8 GT4 of McQuarrie / Westphal, the # 4 Mercedes-AMG GT GT4 of Dontje / Ward and the # 60 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 of Stacy / Marcelli. So, with four different makes covered by a fraction over a second, it bode well for an interesting inter-marque battle. In the TCR group it was the lone # 5 Alfa Romeo of Lewis/Block that took the class pole position.

The race itself was interspersed with a number of full course yellows, and these seemed to upset the strategies of some of the teams, as of the top three qualifiers only the # 4 Mercedes of Dontje / Ward finished on the podium, and that in its 3rd place starting position sitting # 13 McLaren led for the first 21 laps, but by the time the chequered flag fell it was classified as 38th overall. The race win went to the # 35 Mercedes of Murry / Bleekemolen / Cox, which held the lead for over half of the race at various stages, after only having started from 15th place on the grid. The 2nd place Mercedes of Ellis / Ward did slightly better in terms of improving on its grid position, as it had started in 18th place, whilst Philip Ellis posted the race’s fastest lap. In the TCR class it was the # 61 Audi of Morley / Ernstone that eventually took the honours having always been near or at the head of the group. The TCR class was an Audi benefit, with the # 32 example of Taylor/Tally finishing 2nd and the # 54 car of Simpson / Johnson taking 3rd, thus the two podiums were dominated by German cars. Unfortunately the race finished under a full course yellow, as with 15mins left on the clock the # 19 Ford Mustang driven by Scott Maxwell slid rear first into the tyre barrier at the Bus Stop chicane, then flipped over, fortunately without injury to the driver.

Overall & GS Podium

1st - # 35, Dylan Murry / Jeroen Bleekemolen / Jim Cox, Mercedes-AMG GT GT4
2nd - # 57, Philip Ellis / Bryce Ward, Mercedes-AMG GT GT4
3rd - # 4. Indy Dontje / Russell Ward, Mercedes-AMG GT GT4

TCR Class Podium

1st - # 61, Jon Morley / Gavin Ernstone, Audi RS3 LMS TCR
2nd - # 32, Mikey Taylor / William Tally, Audi RS3 LMS TCR
3rd - # 54, Stephen Simpson / Michael Johnson, Audi RS3 LMS TCR

 

Ferrari Challenge

The opening rounds of the 2020 Ferrari North America Challenge series comprised of two 30 minutes duration evening races on the Thursday and Friday, with a very colourful 38 car entry of 488 Challenge models. The qualifying session for race 1 saw Cooper MacNeil in his # 63 car take pole position from the # 23 example of John Megrue. From the start it was this duo cleanly away and through the first turn, but behind them chaos reigned as the remainder of the field barrelled into the tight Turn 1, with multiple contacts and seven cars rendered hors de combat. This resulted in a lengthy full course yellow whilst the wreckage was cleared, the race resuming with only 10 minutes left to run. Cooper MacNeil took the Trofeo Pirelli class and overall race win by a fraction over 3secs from John Megrue, who won the Trofeo Pirelli-AM class in the process. The Coppa Shell class was won by the # 115 car of Jason McCarthy and the Coppa Shell-AM win went to the # 199 example driven by Justin Wetherill.

The qualifying session for the second race on Friday once again saw Cooper MacNeil’s # 63 car on pole position, this time with the # 28 example of Joseph Rubbo alongside him on the front row. After the fracas into Turn 1 the previous day everybody was more circumspect this time around, and everybody made it through cleanly, and in fact (unusually) the whole race was run without a caution period. Once again it was Cooper MacNeil in his # 63 car that led the field home, this time by a more comfortable 18+secs from Joseph Rubbo’s # 28 example, with John Megrue completing the overall podium and once again winning the Trofeo Pirelli-AM class. The Coppa Shell class win was taken by the # 187 car of Richard Baek, and once again the Coppa Shell-AM win went to the # 199 example driven by Justin Wetherill.

Race 1

Trofeo Pirelli Podium

1st - # 63, Cooper MacNeil
2nd - # 28, Joseph Rubbo
3rd - # 25, Ross Chouest

Trofeo Pirelli AM Podium

1st - # 23, John Megrue
2nd - # 30, Dave Musial
3rd - # 99, Barry Zekelman

Coppa Shell Podium

1st - # 115, Jason McCarthy
2nd - # 193, Osvaldo Gaio
3rd - # 144, Jim Booth

Coppa Shell AM Podium

1st - # 199, Justin Wetherill
2nd - # 119, Christopher Aitken
3rd - # 114, Stephen Lawler

Race 2

Trofeo Pirelli Podium

1st - # 63, Cooper MacNeil
2nd - # 28,Joseph Rubbo
3rd - # 25, Ross Chouest

Trofeo Pirelli AM Podium

1st - # 23, John Megrue
2nd - # 61, Jean-Claude Saada
3rd - # 30, Dave Musial

Coppa Shell Podium

1st - # 187, Rich Baek
2nd - # 105, Brad Horstmann
3rd - # 163, Jay Schreibman

Coppa Shell AM Podium

1st - # 199, Justin Wetherill
2nd - # 139, John Cervini
3rd - # 130, Dave Musial Jr.

 

Keith Bluemel         
02/2020