Action Express Racing knew the drill. The team that won in its very first race – the 2010 Rolex 24 At Daytona – returned to Daytona prepared and ready to win the first race in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Mission Accomplished. Team regulars Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi joined open-wheel superstar Sebastian Bourdais to win the 52nd Rolex 24.
The race came down to a 10-minute sprint to the checkered flag, with Barbosa beating rival Max Angelelli to the checkered flag by 1.461 seconds – the second-closest finish in event history. Barbosa won his third Rolex Daytona Cosmograph (he also won in class in 2003 and was part of the Action Express winning lineup in 2010). Fittipaldi took his second Rolex 24 victory (he won overall in 2004) and Bourdais – a four-time Champ Car titlist – won the event for the first time.
"Bob was convincingly, absolutely dead sure that we were going to win it, and I was scared to death," Bourdais admitted. "But he was right. The guys were prepared. Everybody was on top of things. Everybody knew exactly what to do and how to do it, and the execution was perfect. What can I say? It's a dream come true."
The race featured 52 lead changes, with the winning Action Express team leading 18 times for 313 laps, and the Wayne Taylor Racing team leading 12 times for 228 laps. The winning team completed 695 laps on the 3.56-mile circuit, covering 2,474.2 miles for the team owned by Daytona Beach businessman Bob Johnson.
Angelelli was looking to complete a dream weekend for Taylor Racing, which had team owner Wayne Taylor co-driving with sons Rickey and Jordan for the first time.
"I tried everything to find a good balance, a good run," Angelelli said. "But I didn't have enough for him. I thought I had (enough) when I picked up the car for the final two stints. But the final rush, unfortunately not."
Action Express had a second car in the fight, with the No. 9 Corvette DP of Brian and Burt Frisselle, John Martin and Fabien Giroix taking third, around 20 seconds behind their winning teammates.
Scott Pruett entered the race with the opportunity to break a tie with Hurley Haywood and become the lone six-time overall winner of the Rolex 24. His No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford EcoBoost/Riley co-driven by Memo Rojas, Sage Karam and Jamie McMurray led after six hours, but suffered major right-front damage when something broke and sent Pruett into the wall. The team lost more than an hour in the garage and was out of contention.
In Prototype Challenge, Colin Braun took a one-lap triumph in the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA FLM09 with Jon Bennett, Mark Wilkins and James Gue. It was another standout performance for Braun – who first came to the national stage as part of "Team 16" in the 2005 Rolex 24. The following year, he took a DP victory in GRAND-AM's Brumos Porsche 250 in July, joining Krohn Racing teammate Jorg Bergmeister. Only three months ago, Braun set the all-time speed record on the 2.5-mile Daytona trioval, running an exhibition lap of 222.971 mph in a Michael Shank Racing Ford EcoBoost DP.
"It's really cool to win here at Daytona," Braun said. "Obviously this is a special place, and it's neat to do it with these guys at CORE autosport. I've driven with Jon the last couple years and I'm thankful that he gave me an opportunity to drive with that group."
Enzo Potolicchio, Tom Kimber-Smith, Mike Marsal and Rob Huff took second in the No. 25 8Star Motorsports entry, followed by Ryan Booth, Raphael Matos, Tomy Drissi, Gabriel Casagrande and Julio Campos in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports entry.