Rolex 24 At Daytona Roundup
Rolex 24 At Daytona Most-Watched Event in Series History
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 2, 2007) -- The 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona--which included the inaugural network television appearance for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve--was viewed by more people than any race in Rolex Series history and was the most-watched North American sports car race of any kind since 2004.
The first network television offering in Rolex Series history kicked off the coverage with the first 90 minutes of the race on FOX while the remaining 13.5 hours of Rolex 24 At Daytona coverage was carried on SPEED. The FOX telecast drew a .88 rating with more than 1.2 million viewers and nearly 1 million households, the best network showing for a North American sports car race in more than two years.
The FOX lead-in proved to be a strong contributor to the largest Rolex 24 rating in history for SPEED, which announced Wednesday a 26 percent increase in household viewership and a 28 percent increase in viewers over the 2006 telecast. Overall, the SPEED broadcast produced a strong .55 rating, a 28 percent increase over last season's airing on SPEED. Both the FOX results and the record SPEED numbers, which in total saw a 62 percent increase in households and a 52 percent increase in viewers, combined to make this year's memorable Rolex 24 At Daytona the biggest television event in Grand-Am's seven-year history.
"While we knew our first-ever network television race would take us into new territory in regard to total viewers, we are also very pleased that the outstanding FOX results had a strong effect on SPEED's record-setting performance," said Grand-Am President Roger Edmondson. "Those television viewers witnessed one of the most competitive and entertaining Rolex 24 At Daytona races in the event's illustrious history, and we are encouraged by these ratings. We look forward to building on this in the future with our colleagues at FOX and SPEED."
Also of significance was the fact that viewership rose steadily on Sunday beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET through the 2:00 p.m. ET conclusion of the SPEED telecast. Viewership increased from 315,000 households at 9:00 a.m. to 440,000 households at 10:00 a.m. and a race-high total of 689,000 households were tuned-in for the final hour of the race. SPEED also saw a race-high ratings peak of 1.13 during Sunday's telecast.
The increase is likely attributed to the thrilling, three-car battle for the overall lead featuring eventual race winners Juan Pablo Montoya and Scott Pruett in the No. 01 TELMEX/Target Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley, second-place finishers Ryan Dalziel and Patrick Carpentier in the No. 11 CITGO/SAMAX Pontiac Riley and Max Angelelli and Jan Magnussen in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley. The winning co-drivers shared the No. 01 Lexus Riley with breakout rookie Salvador Duran, the second-place CITGO/SAMAX race car was also driven by Darren Manning and Milka Duno -- who recorded the highest overall Rolex 24 finish for a woman in race history -- while NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon and team owner/driver Wayne Taylor co-drove the SunTrust machine.
HUGE CROWD TAKES IN ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA
A crowd that some media reports indicated was the largest for the Rolex 24 At Daytona in more than 20 years turned out to see sports car racing stars mix it up with champions from the worlds of NASCAR and open-wheel racing. Advance ticket sales for the 2007 Rolex 24 increased by nearly 20 percent over the previous year, and total ticket sales increased by more than 10 percent. The Daytona infield was full to capacity hours before the green flag flew and speedway officials closed the tunnel entrances into the track before 10 a.m. on Saturday morning.
SIGNING ROOM ONLY
Part of the fan experience at every Grand-Am Rolex Series race is a driver autograph session and the annual signing session at the Rolex 24 is usually among the biggest. Like just about everything else associated with the 2007 Rolex 24, however, this year's race-day morning autograph session was without question the biggest in Grand-Am history. A crowd estimated at more than 2,000 race fans started forming up in one of several designated lines hours before the session started and official Grand-Am Partner Hoosier Tire reported that the 1,800 souvenir bags they distributed to fans were grabbed-up quickly.
In addition to the autograph session, Rolex 24 fans were also treated to a prime-time fireworks show Saturday night, an all-day Chili Cook-Off on Saturday, a midnight showing of the cult-favorite movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show and several carnival attractions and midway rides in the infield, including an illuminated Ferris Wheel that could be seen throughout the Speedway grounds. A hearty group of 1,457 fans also started their Rolex 24 race day a little early on Saturday and participated in the third annual Daytona 5K & Fun Walk that benefited the United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties.
HISTORIC FEATS ACCOMPLISHED IN THE ROLEX 24
* While much was made of No. 01 TELMEX/Target Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley co-drivers Scott Pruett, who became the all-time leader in Rolex 24 At Daytona class wins with his seventh in last weekend's race, and Juan Pablo Montoya--who became the first driver to win a 24-hour race at Daytona in addition to owning victories in the Indianapolis 500, Formula 1 races and an open-wheel racing championship--the team's third driver, Salvador Duran, also made a little bit of history.
Duran became the first Mexican driver to earn an overall victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona since the legendary Pedro Rodriguez claimed back-to-back overall wins in 1970 and 1971. Rodriguez earned a total of four sports car victories at Daytona International Speedway, with wins in a 327-lap race in 1964 and a three-hour event in 1963 to go with his two 24-hour race victories.
* Daytona Prototypes swept the top-10 overall finishing positions marking the first time in the 45-race history of the Rolex 24 At Daytona that one class accounted for the entire top 10. Two years ago, Daytona Prototypes claimed the first nine positions, and GTP cars also swept the top nine in 1988.
* The GT class established a new record in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, as the 41 cars that started the race made it the largest single class in race history. The previous record was set in 1983, when 40 GTO cars competed in the Rolex 24.
* The GT race was won by the foursome of Carlos de Quesada, Jean-Francois Dumoulin, Scooter Gabel and Marc Basseng in the No. 22 Alegra Motorsports/Fiorano Racing Porsche GT3 by a margin of just 7.072 seconds over the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R quartet of Paul Edwards, Kelly Collins, Andy Pilgrim and Johnny O'Connell. The class margin of victory was the closest for a Rolex 24 since Mike Fitzgerald, Robin Liddell and Jay and Joe Policastro co-drove the No. 44 Orbit Racing Porsche GT3 to a 6.973-second victory in the GT class over Johannes van Overbeek, Seth Neiman, Lonnie Pechnik and Peter Cunningham in the No. 74 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche GT3.