JANUARY 26, 2014
The 52nd Rolex 24 At Daytona maintained tension right to the finish as a yellow flag 20 minutes from the end shrank the gap between the leading cars. In a race of attrition that saw several top teams fall by the wayside in the closing hours, the #5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP snatched overall victory by a mere 1.461 seconds. In the PC class, the ORECA FLM 9 of CORE autosport took the class victory, while in GTLM and GTD, it was #911 Porsche 911RSR of Porsche North America and #555 Level 5 Motorsport’s Ferrari F458 that topped the podium in their respective classes.
As their opponents licked their wounds following an intense 24 hours, the Action Express driver line up of Portuguese native Joao Barbosa, Brazilian Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastian Bourdais from France celebrated. A winner ten years ago, Fittipaldi hoped his third victory would not take so long. For Bourdais, born in Le Mans, this was his first 24-hour race win: “It’s one of those big races that you just want on your résumé. The guys were prepared. Everybody knew exactly what to do and how to do it, and the execution was perfect. It’s a heck of a feeling and I couldn’t be any happier.”
Team principal Bob Johnson, celebrating his second overall win at the Rolex 24 At Daytona was quick to praise the efforts of second-placed Wayne Taylor Racing: “If we didn’t have competitors like the #10 car it wouldn’t be as much fun.” For Johnson, though, overall victory and his second car finishing third was proof of a job well done: “It sounds arrogant to say I expected to win, but I knew the resources, talent and assets we had, how hard they had worked, how well our drivers had gelled. We had run every session of every test and for the most part were the fastest. That gave me every indication we had something going here.” Joao Barbosa, member of the 2010 overall winning team, was clear too that this win did not happen overnight: “It took a lot of preparation.”
In the PC class the battle was hard fought even if the gap to the next car was over one lap. Driver Colin Braun felt the win was also down to the team’s preparation in the off-season: “We worked really hard to come up with a plan that we wanted to stick with. We came prepared and executed our plan. We were able to stay out of the pits and just stopping for tyres, gas and changing drivers.”
Porsche celebrated a 76th class win at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, with success in GTLM class. The margin of victory was under one second and British driver Nick Tandy seemed in shock at the post race press conference: “We were all strangers more or less when we came to the Test, but now at the end of this weekend we’re the champions. It just goes to show what a good job everybody has done within the team.”
GTD winners Level 5 staked an early claim to their class title, hitting the front in the fifth hour of the race. The team looked relatively secure until dawn this morning when the challenge of #45 Flying Lizard became a real threat. For the next six hours the two cars traded places. Over the final two laps the pair raced side-by-side, neck and neck. For Townsend Bell in his first 24-hour race it was overwhelming: “I’ve never done a 24-hour race. I don’t think I’ve ever gone a day without at least three hours sleep. I didn’t realize how much really goes into it. It’s quite spectacular. What an unbelievable finish.”
The enormity of the winner’s achievement may take a while to sink in, but the validation came as always at the final prize giving with the award of the Champion’s Trophy and the traditional Rolex Cosmograph Daytona.
Provisional Top Three in Class
Pos/Car no./Team/Car/Laps/Fastest Lap/Best Ave. Speed (mph)
1/5/Action Express Racing/Corvette DP/695/1:39.180/129.220 (Overall Winner)
2/10/Wayne Taylor Racing/Corvette DP/695/1:39.850/128.353
3/9/Action Express Racing/Corvette DP/695/1:39.830/128.373
1/54/CORE autosport/ORECA FLM09/678/1.43.610/123.695
2/25/8Star Motorsport/ORECA FLM09/677/1:43.962/123.276
3/38/Performance Tech Racing/ORECA FLM09/669/1:43.582/123.728
1/911/Porsche North America/Porsche 911 RSR/679/1:44.914/122.157
2/55/BMW Team RLL/BMW Z4 GTE/679/1.45.648/121.308
3/91/SRT Motorsport/SRT Viper GTS-R/675/1:45.147/121.887
1/555/Level 5 Motorsport/Ferrari 458F/662/1:47.301/119.440
2/45/Flying Lizard Motorsport/Audi R8 LMS/662/1.47.261/119.484
3/58/Snow Racing/Porsche 911GT/662/1.48.856/117.734
A partner of track racing in Daytona Beach from its beginnings in the late 1950s, Rolex has been Title Sponsor of this motor-sport legend since 1992. The Rolex 24 At Daytona celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012 – just one year ahead of the Cosmograph Daytona, the Rolex chronograph dedicated to racing drivers. On its launch in 1963, the watch brand baptized its new model “Cosmograph Daytona” to mark the connection with the Daytona International Speedway, the fastest American track of its era.