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Race Weekend Review – January 27, 2019

Race Weekend Review – January 27, 2019

IMSA WeatherTech Rolex 24 at Daytona, Daytona International Speedway
Alonso wins as part of the Wayne Taylor No. 10 team

Daytona Beach, Jan 27/19: This year’s Daytona 24-Hour race started in cool but clear weather with rain expected to come some time during the night. And rain it did. So much rain that the race was stopped twice when race officials decided that it was unsafe to keep the cars moving on the track. The second red-flag stoppage came at the 22 hour mark. Despite waiting until the clock ran out before declaring their decision, the race was never restarted and the positions that had been frozen by the red flag were declared as the results of the race.

This saw the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi driven by Fernando Alonso/Jordan Taylor/Kamui Kobayashi/Renger Van Der Zande declared the overall race winner. They completed 593 laps (2111.08 mile) at an average speed of 96.01 mph; last year the winning car covered 2,876.85 mi in a race that saw only four cautions compared to this year’s 17 yellows and two red flags. The yellows and the two red flag sessions meant that the overall race average speed was not close to the record race speed.

The No. 31 Cadillac of Felipe Nasr/Eric Curran/Pipo Derani was credited with a second place finish - but, save for some bad luck on the very wet track, they might well have been the race winners.

During the first part of the 24 hours, the two Penske Acuras were in contention with the two Cadillacs – the No. 10 and No. 31. Although, as it turned out, only the No. 7 Acura of Ricky Taylor/Helio Castroneves/Alexander Rossi had a good result – third behind the two Cadillacs – many were touting them as favourites going into the race – and on their early race performance here, one might predict some wins for them as the season goes on.

The No. 18 ORECA LMP2 of Roberto Gonzalez/Pastor Maldonado/Sebastian Saavedra/Ryan Cullen was the class winner in the separate LMP2 category – a class with only four entries so far. This could turn out to be an orphan class with the competitors here either turning to the DPi class or finding another series, such as WEC or European Le Mans, to run in.

In GTLM there were 13 entries. Both of the traditional favourites – the Corvettes and the Ford GTs – had their share of problems. As the end of the race approached and the cars were running under yellow for the last time, Richard Westbrook was leading the class in the No. 67 Ford GT and he looked to be set for the class win but, given the confusion caused by the many yellows, the team’s fuel strategy went wrong. Westbrook had to make an emergency stop for fuel when the pits were closed for the GT cars. This dropped him to fourth in class with no chance to regain positions because the race never went green again. In addition he was given a time penalty of 1:48 in lieu of the mandatory pit stop plus another pass through he would have been assigned as a penalty for refuelling when the pits were closed – had they been able to exact this penalty. However, since this car had a lap advantage over the next GTLM car, this penalty had no effect on his fourth-place finish. In this day of chaotic racing in the wet, there were many hard luck stories like this.

The GTLM class winner, who had inherited the class lead when the Ford pitted, was the No. 25 BMW M8 of Augusto Farfus/Connor De Phillippi/Philipp Eng/Colton Herta.

The GT-Daytona class had a strong representation with 23 entries. Going into the final green-flag session (in heavy rain) the No. 29 Audi R8 driven by Canadian Daniel Morad with Christopher Mies/Ricky Feller/Dries Vanthoor was leading the class but a couple of offs in the teeming rain saw Morad drop to second place letting the No. 11 Lamborghini of Rolf Ineichen/Mirko Bortolotti/Christian Engelhart/Rik Breukers into the lead. They were declared the class winners when the race was stopped for good.

The weather forecasts were predicting heavy rain for the area sometime early Sunday morning, so it was no surprise when the heavy rain came close to dawn, throwing the rest of the race into chaos. Ths 11th yellow flag came out at 6:04 am and this was changed to a red flag at 7:21 am after over an hour of running behind the pace car in the wet. At 8:59 am the red was taken in and the cars started up again under yellow behind the pace car. The rain never let up and whenever they tried to go green, cars started sliding off the track and crashing into barriers and each other.

Notably, at 11:41 am, under green, just under three hours before the end of the 24-hours, Nasr in the No. 31 Cadillac got past Jordan Taylor in the No. 10 Cadillac – but immediately Taylor pitted and handed over to Alonso. Forty minutes later – during another green-flag session – Nasr slid wide on the puddled water off Turn 1, letting Alonso gain the race lead. Now the track went yellow again as it was obvious that the standing water was making it impossible for anyone to race in safety. Five minutes later this yellow was changed over to red with Alonso ahead of Nasr.

It was obvious that many drivers – especially Alonso – were incensed that the race officials were allowing this race to continue under the impossible rain conditions. This second red came at 1:38 pm, almost exactly two hours before the scheduled end of the race. The race officials made a show of trying to dry the track with blowers and huddled away from the competitors. In the end they let the clock run out without ever going green again and they declared the race results based on the order in which the cars had taken that second red flag.

It was a result no one liked. The race winners by default were happy to accept the trophies but they had to know that the results of this race were as much based on chance as on good race management. After this, they will return home to lick their wounds, fix up their cars and get ready for Sebring in mid-March.

This is not the first time a race has been ruined by heavy rain. Someone recalled the terrible time at a CART race in Surfers’ paradise when the rain was so heavy that, despite a couple of serious efforts, they could never get the race started without the cars crashing everywhere in the heavy rain. I was once clerk-of-the course for a race that had not reached half-distance when darkness fell. I thought we had no choice but to red flag the race and call it a day – but the race series organizer overruled me and the race went several more laps in the growing darkness. A winner was declared but, in the post-race press conference, he called out the race organizers for allowing the race to continue. Nowadays, competitors get into trouble if they publicly criticise the race organization – but I bet that many of the team owners and drivers left Daytona hopping mad that they had been subjected to the decision to continue to the race despite the monsoon conditions. Thankfully, no one was hurt despite the many incidents.

The next IMSA WeatherTech race is the 12-hours of Sebring, which will be run on Saturday, March 16.

Click HERE for the full results of the Rolex 24 at Daytona (as amended post-race)

 

 IMSA MP galstad ROLEX 0119 31509The Compass Racing No 75 McLaren. Jake Galstad/LAT Images/IMSA

IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge at Daytona International Speedway
Compass Racing’s Holton and Wittmer win from the pole.

Daytona Beach, FL, Jan 25/19: The Canadian-based Compass Racing team saw its No. 75 McLaren start from the pole and emerge as the race winner in the hands of Paul Holton and Kumo Wittmer after a four-hour race that saw nine cautions. Holton regained the lead from the No. 99 Aston Martin during the final caution which ended on lap 95 and he led the rest of the way to the finish of the race six laps later.

Gary Ferrara/Kris Wilson, driving a seemingly outclassed Aston Martin hung on to take second seven seconds back. Another McLaren, the No. 69 Motorsports in Action car finished third in the hands of Jesse Lazare/Corey Fergus.

Last year, the new TCR front-wheel drive sedan class was struggling to become established here with virtually all the entries being more-or-less identical Audis. Ths class continues to be one with strictly controlled parameters but, this year, there were four different makes of car comprising 14 entries at Daytona. The race saw a hot contest between a pair of Honda Civics and an Alfa-Romeo Guliettai. Despite its familiar name, this compact car model is not marketed in North America. In the end, it was a pair of Hondas one-two, the No. 37 Civic of Tom O'Gorman/Shelby Blackstock taking the winners’ laurels while their teammates Mat Pombo/Mike LaMarra in the No. 73 Honda finished second, 1.6 seconds behind.

There were two Multimatic Mustangs entered. Ty Majeski qualified the No. 15 Mustang third on the grid but this car, shared with Scott Maxwell and Cole Custer, finished in ninth place after dropping far back mid-race. The other Multimatic car, driven by Austin Cindric/Chase Briscoe /Billy Johnson came home in fifth despite qualifying back in 15th place.

This IMSA support series looks like continuing to have a strong entry in both the GS and the TSR classes throughout the race season.
The next IMSA Michelin Pilot race will be a two-hour race held at Sebring on March 15 (sharing a billing with the WEC Sebring 1000 that same day).

Click HERE for the full results of the IMSA Michelin Pilot race from Daytona.

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