24h Daytona ... GrandAm and the American Le Mans Series, combined as one, under the title Tudor United SportsCar Championship


Ferrari 458 Challenge s/n 181345

Ferrari 458 Challenge s/n 181345

 

Daytona, 25 – 26 January 2014

The 2014 edition of the Rolex 24 at Daytona (24 Hours of Daytona in old money), its 52nd running, heralded the start of a new era in sports car racing in the USA. After prolonged negotiations which culminated in agreement during 2013, the two major sports car series, GrandAm and the American Le Mans Series, combined as one for 2014, under the title Tudor United SportsCar Championship, Tudor being the name of the series title sponsor. The regulations for the new series encompass four classes,
- Prototype (P) for original Daytona Prototypes and LMP2 cars,
- Prototype Challenge (PC) for Oreca FLM09 cars,
- GT Le Mans (GTLM), for GT2 specification GT cars, and
- GT Daytona (GTD) for GT3-AM specification GT cars.
All classes apart from the GTL class use Continental tyres and IMSA E10 specification fuel, whilst the GTL class runners are on Michelin tyres and use IMSA E85C specification fuel.

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The combination of the two series attracted strong interest from potential competitors in the new series, with a total of 67 entries for the race, 18 in the P class, 9 in the PC class, 11 in the GTLM class and 29 in the GTD class. Public interest was also strong, both in the numbers attracted to the event, with a record crowd, and audience viewing figures for the live coverage on television. To get the two major elements for overall victory together, i.e. the Daytona Prototypes and LMP2 cars, there had been a balance of performance equation worked out, and this seemed to have been pretty accurate in terms of lap times. Although the LMP 2 cars could run with the Daytona Prototypes, they didn’t seem to have anything in reserve to make a pass on the front runners. We will have to wait for round 2 at Sebring to see how this will evolve.

As in any endurance race, there are multiple stories of woe, as mechanical and electrical problems, plus driver errors or misunderstandings take their toll. Whilst there were a number of minor incidents, and the usual safety car periods, there was only one of real consequence. This occurred late in the 3rd hour of the race, when the # 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 driven by Matteo Malucelli slowed with a sudden loss of power or drive, maybe a relic of the hydraulic-electric problems that blighted the car’s qualifying session, and the pole sitting # 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP, driven by Memo Gidley, came upon a GTD class Ferrari in the infield section, jinking to the left to pass and ploughed into the back of the unsighted slow moving Ferrari at unabated speed. The force of the impact destroyed the front of the Corvette DP and demolished the rear of the Ferrari, and the race was red flagged for nearly an hour while the debris was cleared up. Both drivers were taken to hospital, where Memo Gidley was diagnosed with fractures to his left arm and leg, together with back injuries. Matteo Malucelli was badly shaken but uninjured, although he was kept in hospital overnight for observation.

As already noted, the # 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP took pole position in qualifying, courtesy of Alex Gurney, but there was only 1sec covering the top eight cars, the eighth one being the DeltaWing DWC 13 driven by Katherine Legge. In the PC class it was the #54 CORE Autosport entered Oreca FLM09 driven by Colin Braun that took the honours, with GTLM class qualifying headed by the #91 SRT Motorsports entered Dodge Viper GTS-R driven by Marc Goosens, less than 0.1sec ahead on the # 911 Porsche 911RSR, with the sister SRT Viper 3rd quickest. The fancied # 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia suffered from electro-hydraulic problems in qualifying, and didn’t complete a flying lap, relegating it to the tail of the field for the race. The GTD class qualifying times were headed by the # 48 Paul Miller Racing entered Audi R8 LMS driven by Christopher Haase, although the fastest of the Ferrari runners, the # 63 Scuderia Corse entry, was only 0.055sec slower, with the # 65 Scuderia Corsa entry 4th quickest, sandwiching the # 46 Fall-Line Motorsports Audi R8 LMS.

During the course of the race, which was run in dry conditions throughout, there were a total of 52 lead changes during the course of the 695 laps completed by the top three finishers. Having three cars on the same lap at the end of a 24 hour race was pretty impressive, although this was partially due to a late race full course yellow, the 16th during the course of the race, and the associate safety car, with the trio making a mad dash for the chequered flag in the final minutes. However, it was the # 5 Action Express entered Corvette DP of Barbosa / Fittipaldi / Bourdais / Frisselle that made the best of the re-start and held the lead through to the chequered flag by a scant 1.4secs. Hot on its heels was the # 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP of Taylor W. / Taylor R. / Taylor J. / Angelleli, with the second # 9 Action Express entered Corvette DP driven by Frisselle / Brian / Frisselle Burt / Martin / Giroix taking the final podium spot. It was not the fairy tale ending that Wayne Taylor wanted to end his driving career, a win at Daytona driving with his two sons would have been magical, but it wasn’t to be by the smallest of margins, although one shouldn’t be too sad about a 2nd place finish. If one looks at the cold statistics, the winning car led 18 times for a total of 313 laps, to the 12 times and 228 laps of the 2nd place car, so it could be said that the result was just. The best of the LMP2 runners was the # 6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing ORECA-Nissan of Graf / Luhr / Brundle which finished 5th, 3 laps down on the winning car.

In the PC class the pole sitting # 54 CORE Autosport car of Braun / Bennett / Gue / Wilkins, turned the qualifying performance into a class victory, finishing 9th overall and a lap ahead of the similar # 25 8Star Motorsports entry of Potolicchio / Kimber-Smith / Marsal. The # 38 example of Performance Tech Motorsports driven by Booth / Matos / Drissi / Casagrande / Campos, took the final class podium position.

The GTLM class was initially a Viper benefit with the pair of SRT entries running 1 & 2 for much of the first 6 hours, but then a power steering leak on the lead car and a pit lane accident for the second car put them out of contention, whilst a power steering problem also blunted the Aston Martin effort in the same class. With the demise of the Risi Ferrari as mentioned earlier, it was then a battle between the pair of new works entered Porsche 911 RSRs and the new Corvette C7.Rs, with the equally new BMW Z4 GTEs holding a watching brief should any of their slightly quicker competitors fail. That was exactly as it panned out, as the Porsches and Corvettes were going at it hammer and tongs running into the final stages, when the # 4 Corvette of Gavin / Milner / Lidell had gearbox problems in the 22nd hour, and the sister # 3 car of Magnussen / Garcia / Briscoe suffered a late race engine failure after overheating problems. The late race safety car period allowed the # 55 BMW of Auberlen / Priaulx / Hand / Martin back onto the same lap as the class leading # 911 Porsche of Tandy / Lietz / Pilet making for another grandstand finish, with the Porsche taking the class win by 2.8secs, after Joey Hand felt that he was forced high on the banking passing a GTD class car losing momentum. The class pole sitting # 91 Viper of Farnbacher / Goossens / Hunter-Reay, recovered from its earlier problems to grab the final podium spot.

The large GTD class was the scene of many hard fought battles, but it was the one for the class lead in the dying minutes of the race that caused the most excitement. After the final safety car period had allowed the # 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS of Canache Jr. / Pumpelly / Pappas / Winkelhock to get on the tail of the class leading # 555 Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari 458 of Tucker / Sweedler / Bell / Segal / Pier Guidi, there was what was deemed by the race director to have been “avoidable contact” on the infield during the final lap. The cars had not in fact touched, but the Audi ended up having a trip across the grass in its unsuccessful effort to pass the Ferrari. So, although the Ferrari crossed the line first, it was demoted to 4th in class by the race director, but then the supervisory officials of IMSA, the governing body, reviewed the evidence and decided that it was a racing incident, handing the class win back to the Ferrari. Thus the # 45 Audi finished 2nd in the class, with the # 58 Snow Racing Porsche 911 GT America of Snow / Heylen / Seefried just beating the # 72 Ferrari 458 entered by SMP/EMS Racing, and driven by Rotenburg / Zlobin / Mediani / Salo / Aleshin, to the final podium spot, with all four cars on the same lap. Again statistically justice was done, as the # 555 Ferrari had led for longer than any other car in its class, and never went a lap down on its rivals.

Ferrari Entry

 

R#

Model

Chassis #

Team

Colour

Drivers

Position

 

 

 

 

 

 

O/A

Cl.

Class GTLM

 

 

57

Ferrari 458 GT2

2844

Krohn Racing

Lime/Blue Stripe

T. Krohn/
N. Jonsson/
A. Bertolini/
P. Dumbreck

33rd

7th

62

Ferrari 458 GT2

2866

Risi Competizione

Red

G. Fisichella/ G. Bruni/
M. Malucelli/ O. Beretta

DNF

DNF

Class GTD

 

 

555

Ferrari 458 GT3-AM

3484

Level 5 Motorsports

Black-Silver

A. Pier Guidi/ J. Segal/
B. Sweedler/ T. Bell/
S. Tucker

18th

1st

72

Ferrari 458 GT3-AM

3274

SMP/ESM Racing

Red-White-Blue

B. Rotenburg/ S. Zlobin/
M. Mediani/

M. Salo/
M. Aleshin

21st

4th 

556

Ferrari 458 GT3-AM

3486

Level 5 Motorsports

Black-Silver

M. Valverde/ M. LaMarra/ G. Cosmo/
S. Tucker/
T. Borcheller

23rd

6th

65

Ferrari 458 GT3-AM

3234

Scuderia Corsa

Red-Yellow- Green-Blue

F. Longo/
D. Serra/
X. Negrao/
M. Gomes

29th

10th

63

Ferrari 458 GT3-AM

3446

Scuderia Corsa

Red-White

A. Balzan/
J. Westphal/ T. Vilander/
L. Case

30th

11th

64

Ferrari 458 GT3-AM

3276

Scuderia Corsa

Red-White

R. Randall/
J. Farano/
K. Wilden/
D. Empringham

33rd

14th

51

Ferrari 458 GT3-AM

3272

Spirit of Race

Red-Tricolore

M. Griffin/
M. Rugolo/
M. Cioci/
J. Gerber

38th

17th

49

Ferrari 458 GT3-AM

3448

Spirit of Race

Red

P. Perazzini/ G. Roda/
P. Ruberti/
D. Rigon

39th

18th

Keith Bluemel          
02/2014