Taylor's Rolex 24 win a career highlight

Taylor's Rolex 24 win a career highlight

Was this a Rolex 24 "for the ages?" If you like SunTrust Racing, the team owned by veteran driver Wayne Taylor and run with his on-circuit partner Max Angelelli and, this year, with Emmanuel Collard in their ...

Was this a Rolex 24 "for the ages?" If you like SunTrust Racing, the team owned by veteran driver Wayne Taylor and run with his on-circuit partner Max Angelelli and, this year, with Emmanuel Collard in their #10 Pontiac/Riley, this is the high that all three have been waiting for.

#10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley: Wayne Taylor, Max Angelelli, Emmanuel Collard.
Photo by Bob Harmeyer.
The victory wasn't without difficulties as the team experienced gearbox problems to the end in addition to contact with a GT car early in the contest. "Oh, and I spun once," admitted Taylor, who last won this race in 1996. "All told the race was pretty flawless, wasn't it?"

Relinquishing the wheel with two hours remaining, Collard recognized, "It was real good out there. Yesterday night we were three laps behind and we gained two laps on our pit stops. That was great!"

Winning a hard-fought 43rd Rolex 24 on Daytona International Speedway's 3.56-mile road/oval circuit by 11 laps over the #4 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac/Crawford of veterans Butch Leitzinger, Elliott Forbes-Robinson and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup star Jimmie Johnson, the SunTrust group overcame adversity - as any winner here must - and persevered with a well developed package to take home the Rolex watches given to winners.

Angelelli, who has a 35-piece watch collection, has purchased all Rolex watches in the catalog but the model given the winner of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. ""Finally I can put this one on top," he remarked.

For the veteran Forbes-Robinson with 41 years in this business, "having to run hard all through the night paid off and we got a podium finish out of it," unlike 2004. While there's "never a good time to have problems," having time to come back to a podium finish was gratifying.

Johnson, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup runner-up in 2004, recognized that, "After watching last year's race, I realized I didn't know anything. We had a very fast car and this is a great team and great teammates. I had so much fun." Leitzinger thought the race was a "total back-breaker. We just kept going and EFR kept pounding. We obviously knew we wouldn't win but we persevered to do the best we could."

On the same lap as the second place finishers, Andy Wallace, Jan Lammers and 2002 Cup champ Tony Stewart brought the #20 CITGO Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac/Crawford to the third podium set, giving General Motors' Pontiac division a sweep of the top three spots and Howard-Boss Motorsports two of the top three.

"It was really amazing to have two of the Howard-Boss cars in the top three," Wallace recognized. "This was a real thrill, particularly after I lost second gear and then there was a hole in the transmission. Suddenly is just popped out of second gear and that was it, unfortunately." While F1 veteran Lammers realized the "side of the gearbox was completely blown out" and the team needed to effect repairs late in the morning, he called the result "a true family effort."

Stewart, the 2002 Cup champ enjoyed "driving a race car not a school bus" on the 3.56-mile DIS road/oval circuit. The pace was different this year; we ran as hard as we could run and had to push the pace all day. It was so much fun because nobody was riding around." After coming close two years in a row here, "that would just make a win more gratifying at this amazing event."

The Daytona Prototype class of 29 starters yielded the first nine finishers, a good showing for a class that was minimal two years ago (6) and had 17 participants in 2004, yielding five top-10 results.

The first of three Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates entries, the #02 New Century Mortgage Lexus/Riley team with Stefan Johansson, Jamie McMurray and Cort Wagner came to the checkered flags 12 laps behind the winners. "This is an incredible opportunity," Wagner declared. In the Rolex 24 you've got to run the pace and stayout of the pits. We didn't stay out of the pits enough so we didn't win."

McMurray, who runs Cup competition for Ganassi thought the Rolex 24 was "different form anything I've ever done. It's really odd, waking up in the middle of the night and going racing, but I had a lot of fun and I'd definitely come back and do it again." McMurray spent a lot of his off- time in the pits sponging what he could from the Ganassi/'Sabates team members.

In fifth place, Doran Racing's #77 Lexus/Doran with Fabrizio Gollin, Matteo Bobbi and Didier Theys were 13 laps back of the leaders. The #03 Ganassi/Sabates trio of Casey Mears, Scott Dixon and Darren Manning overcame fuel pressure difficulties (5:30AM) and a total loss of rear brakes at nine this morning to take sixth place.

"Scott had all the problems," Manning explained. "This was my first 24- hour race and I don't think anyone else had three guys that could turn the times we were able to run. I just went fast and had fun; it's just a shame we had a few problems." Mears, one of nine Cup drivers in the 250-pilot field believes the Rolex 24 "is a good physical challenge and good training for our Cup road races. I really enjoyed it."

Polesitters Scott Pruett, Luis Diaz and Ryan Briscoe, whose rear bodywork flew off within three hours of the start brought the #01 Ganassi Lexus/Riley back to the front in seventh position. Pruett credited his team owner: "Chip had all our guys prepared to handle each and every situation that arose. That says a lot to me. I guess the lesson learned is that no matter the odds, you just have to keep digging."

Eighth went to the Brumos Racing squad of David Donohue, Darren Law, Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen with their #58 Red Bull Fabcar/Porsche while the final Daytona Prototype in the top ten was Doran Racing's #44 DP with Bobby and Terry Labonte, Jan Magnussen and Bryan Herta. Unfortunately for Herta, much of the team's difficulties occurred on his watch. "Something broke when I dove into Turn 1, but hey! I'd do this again if they asked me."

Porsche added to its trophy case today by taking a 59th class victory in the GT class - 34 by a 911 model - as GT polesitter Farnbacher Racing with Wolf Henzler, Dominik Farnbacher, Shawn Price and Pierre Ehret nabbed the win by three laps in the #71 Porsche GT3 Cup racer and tenth overall.

"The whole race was pretty phenomenal," Farnbacher declared. "I couldn't believe we won." For Price, driving in his first professional race "it was an incredible experience." Henzler, who set the pole-sitting speed on Thursday afternoon in his first 24-hour race, "It was a great experience, a very hard race." Ehret believed, "We did so well because of the team. It was a great win for all of them."

Second in GT and 11th overall went to TPC Racing's #37 Porsche GT3 Cup driven by Mike Fitzgerald, Manuel Matos, Emil Assentato and Nick Longhi. TRG East's #61 Porsche GT3 Cup earned third in class and 12th overall for Robert Nearn, Dave Lacey, David Shep, Greg and Mark Wilkins, two laps behind the TPC Racing group.

By decreasing the number of classes in this year's competition, the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series officials made it easier for fans and competitors alike to keep track of on-circuit activities and follow their favorite teams' progress.

In a race that offered upwards of $500,000 in prize money with $100,000 of that funding going to the winners, there was a Grand Am record of 44 lead changes in 24 hours of racing.

"We predicted a milestone event and I congratulate every team that took part," declared Grand American president Roger Edmondson. The next race in a 14-event 2005 campaign for the Rolex Sports Car Series is the Grand Prix of Miami on March 3-5 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Andy Wallace , Jan Lammers , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Darren Manning , Fabrizio Gollin , Stefan Johansson , Jan Magnussen , Butch Leitzinger , Didier Theys , Casey Mears , Scott Dixon , Bryan Herta , Scott Pruett , Emmanuel Collard , Wayne Taylor , Jimmie Johnson , Emil Assentato , Nick Longhi , Jamie McMurray , Sascha Maassen , Lucas Luhr , Luis Diaz , Darren Law , David Donohue , Matteo Bobbi , Max Angelelli , Pierre Ehret , Ryan Briscoe , Dave Lacey , David Shep , Robert Nearn , Chip Ganassi , Mark Wilkins , Manuel Matos , Wolf Henzler , Dominik Farnbacher , Shawn Price , Felix Sabates , Cort Wagner
Teams Doran Racing