Law, Donohue, Rice, Garcia and Brumos Porsche Take Nail Biter Grand-Am Rolex 24 at Daytona
After 24 hours of some of the toughest racing the famous Daytona International Speedway has seen in recent memory, it was Darren Law, David Donohue, Buddy Rice and Antonio Garcia that crossed the finish line first in their #58 Brumos Porsche Riley Daytona Prototype to win the 47th running of the Grand-Am Rolex 24. The victory represented Law's first with the Brumos organization that he has been a part of for the past five seasons, and also his first win in the Rolex 24 after a career high 3rd place finish in the endurance classic in 2003. The team's win also came after going some three laps down roughly halfway through the running of the event.
With the heated action coming down to the very end of the race, the January 24-25 event also marked the closest finish amongst the top four cars in Daytona 24-hour history. The twice around the clock race at Daytona was a true Brumos Porsche success story, as the team's #59 car finished a close 3rd. Porsche powered car swept the wins in both classes as a TRG GT3 Cup car won the GT class.
Law, a Phoenix resident, had several close calls to victory with the Brumos squad in 2008, and his win at this 2009 season opening 24 Hour event saw many years of hard work come to fruition. His exuberance was barely containable.
"I just don't know what to say," said an emotional Law immediately following the race. "We've been so close before, and our car has been fast here for the past couple of years. Certainly our new-for-09 4.0-liter Porsche power was a big help, but we were also smart through most of the race. It sure wasn't easy though, and to come from three laps down -- the team just never quit, and neither did we. Buddy and Antonio drove great, and David - putting him in at the end was a great idea. He just won the thing for us!"
The 2009 Rolex 24 at Daytona had started well for Law and the Brumos squad. The potential for success was clear as Law and Donohue traded off quick laps during the traditional preseason testing session held just weeks before the race.
The #58 was on the pace as it rolled off the trailer at Daytona for the 24 hour race. Donohue ended up putting the Brumos car on pole for the classic enduro, nipping the Penske Porsche Riley entry of Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas, and Ryan Briscoe by a mere .001 seconds. Law knew that the competition for the race would be tough, but he also knew that the hard work that the team had put into winter testing would eventually bear fruit.
"David was going through some physical rehab for his shoulder injury this winter," remarked Law. "So I ended up doing a bunch of the testing with the team through November and December. I knew we would be fast, but we were also realistic considering how tough the competition in the past was and also taking into account the Penske entry. We also knew though, that many of the issues we had in past years really boiled down to some bad luck."
Although Donohue relinquished the lead on the second lap following the late afternoon Saturday start, neither Brumos Porsche was very far from the front. Eventually the #58 driver quartet of Law, Donohue, Rice and Garcia would work their way back to the point and would combine their efforts to lead off and on for over 250 of the event's 735 laps. Law would lead for 64 laps himself.
The race was not all smooth sailing for the #58 however, and near midnight, the Brumos crew would end up battling adversity. Garcia, who had shown good speed throughout the race, would have a rare miscue on lap 231 with contact in the turn three tire wall. A subsequent visit to pit lane and replacement of the shattered nose of the #58 put the team three laps down.
"Its pretty much a standard thing that there are going to be problems during an event this long," said Darren after the race. "I'm just glad that we were able to get it out of the way relatively early on in the race, and that we had time to work our way back to the front."
Law's last stint in the #58 came shortly after sunrise and he led for much of his two-hour session in the car. He then turned the Porsche Riley Daytona Prototype over to Buddy Rice and watched as the rest of the race unfolded. With one hour left in the event and Montoya in the #01 Target Chip Ganassi Lexus Riley leading the race, the Brumos team decided to put Donohue in to finish the enduro. With only 40 minutes left, Donohue squeezed by Montoya on the tri-oval and led the remaining laps, only a few tenths separating them, until the checkered flag. The margin of victory was a mere 0.167 seconds, and the spread from Donohue to 4th place finisher Max Angelleli was only 10.589 seconds.
"I actually had a hard time watching the finish," said Law. "There was a lot of emotion in the pits. It was a real nail-biter all the way down to the end. I still can't believe we won, but I knew we could do it."
Law will have some time to savor the victory and the lead in the championship standings that comes with winning the season opening Rolex 24 at Daytona. He will be back at again before long though, as he will join the Flying Lizard Motorsports team for the American Le Mans Series season opener March 18-21 for the 57th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring endurance classic. Darren's next event with the Brumos squad will be at Virginia International Raceway for the Bosch Engineering 250 April 24-25.