The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R of Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor, Jeff Gordon and Max Angelelli claimed a dramatic victory in the 2017 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, after Ricky Taylor took the lead in the final few laps off the #5 Action Express Cadillac DPi of Filipe Albuquerque . The result marked Cadillac’s first win in the Rolex 24, and GM’s seventh across four brands.
For the winning crew in particular, it also saw Max Angelelli take the win on his final ever race, the Italian set to retire upon leaving Daytona. It was also the first win for the team which has narrowly missed out on taking the victory for the past few years.
“This has been one of my most difficult races,” Angelelli said after his final stint in the car. “I was hoping to have a little easier dry race, but that did not happen. My career has been a rollercoaster, from a complete disaster to a lot of success. It has been long and difficult.”
It was an unpredictable 24 hours up and down the field throughout, with over half of the race run in the driving rain, at times so heavy that the race was neutralised. In the end though the Prototype race came down to a battle between the two Cadillacs which had a mostly clean run.
Through the late caution periods and pit cycles there was little between the two leading cars, with the #5 Action Express leapfrogging the WTR Caddy in the penultimate round of stops after a lucky break pitting just as a caution was called, resulting in Albuquerque having a small advantage going into the final hour.
In the final two restarts Ricky Taylor was unable to make up ground to Albuquerque, in the first instance after Mike Conway in the sister #31 Action Express Cadillac, which was 20 laps down, made it difficult for the WTR DPi-V.R to get by.
But at the final restart there was only three cars between the two leaders and Jordan was able to negotiate the traffic quickly to mount a challenge. The pair ran close together for the final 20 minutes of the race, with Ricky able to run side-by-side with Albuquerque at one point into Turn 1, but he was unable to make it stick.
Instead, Ricky Taylor then sat back and waited patiently to find one more chance to nab the lead. With just under seven minutes remaining he dived up the inside into Turn 1 once again, this time hitting the side of Albuquerque as the pair went round Turn 1, sending Albuquerque into a spin. No further action was taken for the move and the pair crossed the line within a second of each other.
“Im so proud of my brother,” said Jordan Taylor after the flag fell. “He came up with the goods when it mattered.”
For the two teams it was hard fought, all race long, though the Cadillac was clearly the car to have in the Prototype class. Early in the race it was a Cadillac 1-2-3, the GM brand looking unbeatable.
The #31 Whelen-liveried Cadillac of Seb Morris, Eric Curran, Mike Conway and Dane Cameron fell by the wayside however, after a collision with a PC car running on the banking during the night. The incident which saw Curran side-swipe the wall hard caused subsequent steering and shifter issues that cost the team valuable time in the pits.
Towards the end of the race the only other car able to stay in the running was the #90 Visit Florida Racing Riley which gradually made its way up the order during the race after strong performances by Marc Goosens, Renger van Der Zande and in particular Rene Rast, who towards the end was in the car when it was on the lead lap.
The car couldn’t match the Cadillacs on pace as the track dried out in the morning though, and ended up finishing a lap down after leading the race in the final two hours. It was nevertheless a fine effort by Troy Fliss’ team.
Fourth and just off the podium was the #2 ESM Nissan Ligier of Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel, Pipo Derani and Brendon Hartley which had a good run, but had a few small issues and also couldn’t go toe-to-toe with the leaders on raw pace.
The team’s other DPi meanwhile crashed during the night while running second after a bizarre sequence on cold tyres for Hartley (who drove both cars) which saw him go off track at both hairpins and collide with the TRG Porsche on the banking, damaging the steering. It limped home 23 laps back.
Nevertheless it was a good run for the new DPi which was poised for a podium had the top three had any sort of issues towards the end.
Behind the top four, the rest of the Prototype field was walking wounded after multiple issues for each of the other cars. Mazda’s challenge ended in flames with the #55 in the pits while running fifth overall, while the #70 suffered with gear cluster issues among other niggles, that set it back 197 laps in the end.
The LMP2 runners meanwhile all proved relatively fast, but fragile. The #85 JDC Miller Oreca was the best of the bunch, but it finished fifth in class and down in 13th overall.
All in all though, with only two retirements in the 12-car Prototype field for the race, it proved to be a success for the new formula, despite the balance of power proving to be firmly in the Cadillac camp, as the DPi-V.Rs topped every practice, Qualifying and the race.
Last gasp win for Ford in GTLM
Like Prototype, and GTD for that matter, the GTLM race came down to a showdown in the final two hours, but in this case between the top seven in the class, that finished within seven seconds of each other. This year the premier GT class saw #66 Ford GT of Joey Hand, Dirk Muller and Sebastien Bourdais end up taking home the watches.
Throughout the race GTLM proved to be spectacular, with four of the five brands in the class proving capable to win the race. The #66 looked the strongest overall, but the Risi Ferrari, #3 Corvette, both new Porsche 911 RSRs and the other three Fords all led the race at times. The only omission was a showing from BMW, its #24 M6 retiring early on and #19 struggling for pace.
The 21 cautions in the race kept the field bunched up, creating a freight-train finish with the top seven all pushing each other to the limit.
To win it all in the final hour after the final stops, Dirk Muller had to fight his way past Corvette’s Antonio Garcia to take third, which he did at the Bus Stop, and then James Calado in the Risi Ferrari. The final move which sealed it was a bold dive up the inside into Turn 1 on Calado, who was caught napping, allowing the Ford and the #911 Porsche of Patrick Pilet (who had got by Garcia) through into the top two spots.
From then on it was a battle between Muller and Pilet, with Pilet unable to take the place after multiple attempts into Turn 1, and later Calado and Pilet after the German weathered the storm and pulled away in the closing minutes.
“That was a mental breaker,” Hand commented when asked about Muller’s drive. “And he did what he needed to do. We led most of the race too, so it was a good result for us.”
No further moves were made and Pilet took second with Calado third and Garcia relegated to fourth, the Corvette not as quick in the dry, but able to stay in the fight after a series of quick stops by the Pratt and Miller crew. Making up the top five was the #69 Ford of Tony Kanaan, that got by the #912 Porsche with Porsche’s new works driver Laurens Vanthoor driving in the dying moments.
For Ford it was a well earned result, for Risi it was another near miss against the Blue Oval, for Corvette was a far cry from the dominance of 2016 and for Porsche it was a very encouraging debut for its new GTLM challenger.
Surprise GTD victory for Alegra
Alegra Motorsport’s Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Daniel Morad, Carlos de Quesada, Michael de Quesada, Jesse Lazare and Michael Christensen scored a remarkable GTD win, beating out the 27-strong class in the most unlikely circumstances.
“I wasn’t expecting any of this, to be on the podium or win, I just wanted to learn,” admitted Lazare. “But the more I found out about our lineup, I knew we had a good shot. I can’t wait to find out what happens after this.”
The team had a quiet run for the entire race, putting itself in position ton fight for the win at the very end with a car that had zero scratches on its bodywork. The car took the lead for the first time in the final stint when Michael Christensen muscled past Jeroen Bleekemolen in the #33 Riley Mercedes, the Dutchman struggling for grip, and later leapfrogged the Land Motorsports’ Audi in the final stops. Land Motorsports it must be noted did look poised to win it all after Connor Di Philippi’s final stint ahead of the final stop, when the American snatched the lead off Bleekemolen after a thrilling sequence.
For the final dash to the flag though, Porsche factory man Christensen kept his cool, and beat Chris Mies in the Land Motorsports Audi R8 LMS to the line by less than three tenths. Bleekemolen came home third for Riley, capping off an impressive debut in IMSA for Mercedes and its AMG GT3. The Riley crew’s run to the podium denied the Stevenson Audi crew a podium after its R8 pushed hard throughout to be in with a shout at the end when Lawson Aschenbach was behind the wheel.
Alegra’s victory also played a part in a significant record for Porsche, as the the team’s win along with the #911’s podium provides Porsche with a yet further extension to one of the longest podium scoring runs in world motorsport, now over 55 runnings of this race.
Further down the field, most of the brands taking part led at some stage, including the Michael Shank Racing Acuras, which even held a 1-2 at various points, and the #15 3GT Lexus RCF GT3, both making their North American race debuts. The Acuras NSX GT3s proved both durable and quick, though by the end the #93 looked worse for wear with significant front-end damage, and the #86 slipped down to fifth in the class in all the melee at the end.
For Lexus, a crash for star driver Scott Pruett in the opening stint forced the #14 into retirement, before the #15 went on a charge to the front before a shunt in the heavy rain put it out of the running.
There was also heartbreak for the Ferrari teams, as the pole-sitting Spirit of Race 488 GT3 retired with a misfire and the #63 Scuderia Corsa entry, which won the class title in 2016, retired while running in the lead with Sam Bird in with two hours remaining after its engine expired.
As a whole, GTD came up with the goods and like GTLM delivered good racing and a surprise finish.
Dominant run to the flag for Performance Tech in PC
The only class which became a formality early on was PC, which saw Performance Tech’s #38 Oreca FLM of Patricio O’Ward, Kyle Masson, James French and Nicholas Boulle win the race by 22 laps after a faultless run.
For the other four runners it was not an easy ride, as all of them had multiple offs and mechanical issues which caused the #38 to walk away with it.
Finishing second was the #26 BAR1 entry in the end which saw Johnny Mowlem, again, conclude his illustrious career with a podium. The sister BAR1 Motorsports entry came home third.
The two Starworts Orecas meanwhile, retired before the end after numerous trips into the infield grass, walls and tyre barriers.