DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY, 31 JANUARY 2016
Under sunny Florida skies, 54 cars fittingly started the 54th edition of the Rolex 24 At Daytona® at 14.40 EST on Saturday 30 January. As the race began the teams and drivers set out to go the furthest in 24 gruelling hours. The iconic Rolex 24 At Daytona® is regarded by many as the toughest endurance race and is now referred to as ‘The Rolex’. This weekend’s race marked the 24th anniversary of Rolex’s Title Sponsorship, making a win even more poignant for those competing. After an action-packed race it was Rolex 24 At Daytona® newcomer, Pipo Derani, in the Extreme Speed Motorsports Honda HPD Ligier JS P2 that took the chequered flag, as well as motor sport’s most sought after award: an engraved Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona watch, revered for its legendary status, reliability and performance.
MAN AND MACHINE
Like any great endurance race, the 2016 Rolex 24 At Daytona® wasn’t without drama. There were 21 cautions, 11 of those before the 10-hour mark, but these only added to the excitement of the race, inaugurating the redeveloped Daytona International Speedway and beginning the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. With a high percentage of each lap spent at full throttle, the 3.56-mile circuit takes it toll on both the drivers and cars, demanding a unique combination of skill and concentration, as well as reliability and performance – the ultimate test of man and machine. This test proved too much for some, with only 43 of the 54 race starters making it to the finish line. The winning team, Extreme Speed Motorsports (ESM), completed 736 laps of the circuit and the fastest lap, 1:39.192, was posted by Brazilian Pipo Derani from ESM, who set the fastest time at Roar before the 24 earlier this month.
RACE AGAINST TIME
The Saturday afternoon racing provided fans, both in the Grandstand and infield, with action early on. With just over 20 hours to go, the #0 Panoz DeltaWing Racing car, in the eye-catching United States of America livery, sustained serious damage when its driver Andy Meyrick drove into a stationary Prototype Challenge car at Turn 1, spelling an early and disappointing retirement for the team after an impressive start. The long-awaited Ford GT race cars, preparing to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year, both encountered transmission problems during the early stages of the race, but eventually finished in 7th (#66) and 9th (#67) positions in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. At the six-hour mark it was Michael Shank Racing, with Oswaldo Negri Jr at the wheel, who led the 2016 Rolex 24 At Daytona®, but shortly after midnight, a blown engine forced another retirement from the front. That led to a tussle for the lead between the Daytona Prototypes, including the #5 Corvette DP of Action Express Racing; Scott Pruett doing his usual exemplary job and simultaneously chasing down a record-breaking sixth win here at Daytona, a record that would prove elusive this time around.
TWO LAPS OF THE CLOCK
As the new day dawned at the Daytona International Speedway the long hours and pressure began to take its toll. As ever, the ‘Rolex’ rewards patience and determination and those who have prepared and strategized effectively; timing and good fortune also play a key part. As the race entered the last few hours, damage limitation and reliability became paramount and with only one hour left on the Rolex countdown clock the two Corvette GTLM entries duelled to take the class win, entertaining the 35,000 strong crowd. Oliver Gavin finally pipped his teammate Antonio Garcia to the line by 0.034 seconds in the most nail-biting finish seen at Daytona in recent memory; such a slight time difference after 24 hours epitomizes the challenge of endurance racing and the focus of the teams and drivers. These values perfectly reflect Rolex’s ethos of pushing the boundaries and quest for excellence.
To finish the Rolex 24 At Daytona® is an achievement, to win it takes something special. Newly crowned winner and Brazilian Extreme Speed Motorsports driver Pipo Derani described his first Rolex 24 At Daytona® win: “It feels amazing and surreal. It’s my first time here so to have gone fastest at Roar before the 24, qualify on the front row and to win the race is just amazing. I got pretty emotional during the last few laps, but I had to stay focused to cross the finish line. To have this Rolex watch on my wrist is pretty special and I am going to take care of it for the rest of my life”.
Rolex Testimonee, nine-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner and this year’s Rolex 24 At Daytona® Grand Marshal, Tom Kristensen, explained how special it is to win the ultimate motor sport prize, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona: “What an incredible showcase of endurance racing we have seen this weekend. The Rolex 24 At Daytona demands a cocktail of determination, grit and team spirit so there is no question that the race winners earned their Rolex watch. Anyone who wears a Rolex, has a special moment or story around when they got it or why they got it. Today’s winners have a very special story to tell and what better way to remember it than with a Rolex timepiece they can treasure for the rest of their lives”.
ROLEX AND MOTOR SPORT
Rolex’s alliance with and great appreciation for motor sport dates back to the 1930s on Daytona Beach when Sir Malcolm Campbell broke the 300 mile per hour barrier at the wheel of his World Land Speed Record car, Bluebird, with a Rolex on his wrist. Since then, Rolex’s presence in motor sport has grown steadily, thanks to a shared passion for performance and innovation on the wrist and track. In 1959, Rolex partnered the Daytona International Speedway and in 1963, launched the iconic Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph. A few years later, Rolex added the name ‘Daytona’ to the dial of the iconic chronograph created for racing drivers to mark its connection with the Daytona International Speedway. In 1992, Rolex announced its Title Sponsorship of the Rolex 24 At Daytona® and in 2001 became the Official Timepiece of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s oldest endurance sports car race. More recently, the brand partnered with the FIA World Endurance Championship, further strengthening its relationship with endurance racing. Rolex is proud to be celebrating its fourth year as a long-term Global Partner and the Official Timepiece of Formula 1® and is now looking forward to the start of another exciting season in Melbourne this March.
Rolex, the leading brand of the Swiss watch industry, is headquartered in Geneva and enjoys an unrivalled reputation for quality and expertise the world over. Its Oyster watches, all certified as Superlative Chronometers for their precision, performance and reliability, are symbols of excellence, elegance and prestige. A pioneer in the development of the wristwatch as early as 1905, the brand is at the origin of numerous major watchmaking innovations, such as the Oyster, the first waterproof wristwatch, launched in 1926, and the Perpetual rotor self-winding mechanism invented in 1931. Rolex has registered over 400 patents in the course of its history. A truly integrated and independent manufacturing company, Rolex designs, develops and produces all the essential components of its watches in-house, from the casting of the gold alloys to the machining, crafting, assembly and finishing of the movement, case, dial and bracelet. Rolex is also actively involved in supporting the arts, sports, exploration, the spirit of enterprise, and the environment through a broad palette of sponsoring activities as well as philanthropic programmes.
Virginie Chevailler, Rolex SA
+41 22 302 26 19
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