“…the memories here, the races here, the fans here … it’s second to none.” Scott Pruett, endurance racing legend
Also finishing on the podium in the Prototype class was the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi driven by Eric Curran, Stuart Middleton, Mike Conway and Felipe Nasr.
BMW launched its new flagship M8 GTLM race cars which looked great and proved to be reliable, but were not able to continue the winning ways of the M6’s they are replacing. They finished seventh and ninth in class. This was the maiden race for this new car and it will likely prove to be more competitive in future races.
Porsche, Ferrari, Mercedes-AMG, Audi, Nissan, Lexus and Mazda did not have very fruitful weekends and did not finish on the podium in any of the race classes.
One of the big news items at this year’s race was the presence of not one, but two current Formula 1 drivers including Canada’s own Lance Stroll. The driver who really moved the needle, and contributed to the noticeable increase in media coverage and spectator attendance, was two-time Formula 1 Champion Fernando Alonso. His recent non-F1 exploits also include a drive in the 2017 Indianapolis 500 (for which he missed the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix which is held on the same weekend in May).
Alonso drove the No. 23 United Autosports Ligier LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype 2) with co-drivers Phil Hanson and Lando Norris. They did not achieve the results they were hoping for. The team qualified thirteenth in class and thirteen overall and finished thirteenth in class and thirty eighth overall.
Formula 1 Champion Fernando Alonso
A Frustrated Fernando Alonso
Canadian Formula 1 driver Lance Stroll drove in his second Rolex 24 at Daytona, this time in the No. 37 Jackie Chan DCR Jota ORECA LMP2 with team mates Daniel Juncadella, Felix Rosenqvist and Robin Frijns.
“I’m here and I’m looking forward to 2018 and I’m looking forward to kicking it off in style with the Rolex 24,” said a very relaxed Stroll the day before the race. When asked about what it’s like to come back to Daytona for his second 24 hour race Stroll said, “Now it’s starting to become easier and easier every time I step into the car. Having the experience of being here once before really helps. The car has been good. We’ve come a long way since the first session and now the race is just about staying out of trouble, executing pit stops, trying to get through the traffic as quick as possible. We have a good package.” The team qualified sixth in class and sixth overall but finished eleventh in class and fifteenth overall.
No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports ORECA LMP2 Driven by 18 Year-old Canadian Devlin DeFrancesco
The No. 15 car’s driver lineup included none other than endurance racing legend Scott Pruett. Prior to the race, Pruett announced that, after 50 years of racing, this would be his last race. The 57 year old Pruett (he was racing go-karts at the age of 7) has five overall Rolex 24 wins, tied for the most wins with Hurley Haywood.
“It was business as usual,” Pruett said. “But the memories here, the races here, the fans here … it’s second to none. The first thing to do, now, is toast this career with my wife and my family. And second, it will be just to take a moment to look back, and to savor it all.”
The No. 14 and 15 Lexus RC F GT3’s started third and sixth and finished ninth and fifteenth respectively.
Toronto, Ontario Driver, Paul Dalla Lana
Dalla Lana along with fellow drivers Daniel Serra, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda started the No. 51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3 in first place in GTD but with just over 5 hours to go, had to retire after a heavy impact with one of the tire barriers.
The next round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship takes place in Sebring, Florida with the 66th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on Saturday March 17th.