Kevin Roush had the best opportunity of his career at last weekend's 47th annual running of The Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Upland sports car racer took advantage of it by playing a key role in the Farnbacher Loles Racing team's impressive fifth-place finish in the GT class.
Roush and teammates Dominik Farnbacher, Matthew Marsh and Eric Lux had their Flex-Box/Wheel Enhancement Porsche 911 GT3 on top of the GT Class standings for a race-high 268 laps of the Daytona International Speedway road course and never were off the leader board until encountering mechanical problems during the 19th hour of the 24-hour event.
Roush, of Upland, Calif., had moved the white, blue and orange No. 86 car back into the lead with about 5½ hours remaining in the race and was maintaining the advantage an hour later when the car suddenly slowed and coasted to a stop on lap 553 with a broken driveshaft.
The team had started ninth and taken the lead within the first half- hour, ultimately Farnbacher had recorded the fastest race lap in the class, and Roush said when the driveshaft failed "we had the ideal car that took steady, but not heroic human effort to keep it out front, & were just waiting for the last 2 or 3 hours to start really pushing if need be. Congratulations to the 67 Team for a great finish."
The disabled Porsche was towed to the garage and with crew chiefs Kurt Keitel & Steve Cosgrove directing repairs a team of mechanics quickly replaced both axles. Unfortunately, the car dropped five positions in the standings during the 10 laps it took to complete the work and The Flex-Box/ Farnbacher Loles/Wheel Enhancement Porsche returned to the 3.56-mile course running eighth in the GT class.
While Roush rested and prepared for his final driving stint of the race, Lux, March and Farnbacher were busy overcoming some of the deficit and Roush took the checkered flag fifth in the GT class, seven laps behind the winning Porsche, and 13th overall.
It was Roush's best finish in four outings in the 24-hour opener of the Rolex Sports Car Series. He had finished 10th in a 996 Porsche two years ago. But he couldn't help thinking of what might have been.
"We had the car, the team and the driver lineup to win, so anything short of mixing it up for the checkered flag in the final moments is disappointing," said Roush, whose Daytona effort was supported by Wheel Enhancement, "the Porsche Wheel and Tire Specialists," of Culver City, Calif., and JSI Shipping, a Burlingame, Calif., company that specializes in customized logistics solutions for the semi-conductor industry.
Marsh, an Englishman who lives in Hong Kong, said simply finishing the Rolex 24 is a triumph, however, and that on occasion winning isn't the ultimate prize.
"We were the class of the field," Marsh said. "We had the best- looking car, with the nicest drivers and the most fun mechanics. Just everything was brilliant. For most of us, the doing is more important than the result. And the doing was special."
Roush, who is also an accomplished skier, Porsche tuner, and private driving coach, had similar feelings.
"Each driver did a fantastic job and the car looked and drove like it could go another 24 hours when I brought it to the finish," he said. "We had a great group of people. I can't thank the 86 crew enough. They worked tirelessly to give us an awesome car, starting at the test days, and I can't recall them ever eating lunch sitting down."
"I'm fortunate to have such supportive partners as Wheel Enhancement and JSI Shipping. I'm grateful to Greg (Loles) and Horst (Farnbacher) for giving me such a great opportunity. Lastly, I want to say a special thank you to each member of the Farnbacher Loles organization for making this Rolex 24 such a memorable and fun experience for myself and our guests.
"This Team gave me a chance to show that I could run up front with many of the finest sports car racers in the world at this spectacular event and I hope I get a chance to do it again."