Daytona 24: Justin Wilson race report

Justin and MSR finish 6th in Daytona 24 Hours The 46th Rolex 24 at Daytona was the usual war of attrition, played out in cool, changeable weather conditions with several rain showers to spice up the action. The ...

Justin and MSR finish 6th in Daytona 24 Hours

The 46th Rolex 24 at Daytona was the usual war of attrition, played out in cool, changeable weather conditions with several rain showers to spice up the action. The #01 Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus-Riley won for the third year running, with Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Dario Franchitti and Juan Pablo Montoya behind the wheel.

For much of the race, it looked like MSR's front row lock-out in qualifying might translate into a double podium and a shot at victory. But when the sun came up on Sunday morning the dream was shattered when suspension failures put both entries out of podium contention. The #60 Westfield Insurance Ford-Riley, piloted by Justin, Oswaldo Negri, Mark Patterson and Graham Rahal finished 6th. The sister #6 Ford-Riley entry, driven by John Pew, Ian James, Burt Frisselle and A.J. Allmendinger, finished 9th in the Daytona Prototype category.

Both MSR cars ran competitively through Saturday afternoon and well into the evening. The #60 car fell a lap down after a cut tyre as dusk fell, but ran consistently in the top 10 through the night and by daybreak it was P7, 6 laps down. The #6 entry raced at the sharp end for much of the night and was sitting comfortably in the top 3 as the sun came out for the final quarter of the race.

The #60 car's luck ran out on Lap 566, just after 09.00, when Justin clipped a kerb-side hole on the kink heading into the infield section. The right rear suspension failed instantly, pitching the car into the grass and causing extensive damage to the cooling systems at the front. Justin brought the stricken Ford-Riley back to the garage where the #60 crew performed expert repairs.

"I'd been in the car for about 2hrs 45 minutes when it happened," explained Justin. "I was pushing hard and trying to manage a high water temperature problem, and I ran about 6 inches wide coming out of Turn 1. I caught a hole, broke the suspension and spun across the grass. Up to that point the car was in pretty good shape. Mike and the guys did a great job as always. I'm just really disappointed that this cost us a possible podium."

A new radiator and rear suspension parts were installed, enabling Graham Rahal to take the car back on track just half an later. The closing stages were uneventful and regular Rolex series drivers Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson brought the car home.

About an hour later the #6 car suffered rear suspension failure on braking into the bus-stop chicane on the back straight. What looked like a relatively quick repair turned out to be agonisingly more. The suspension had been torn from the bell housing, requiring the installation of a new back end. Undeterred, the MSR crew got to work again and got the car back on track with 90 minutes to go.

Having seen both cars start from the front and fall out of contention so late in the event, the result was bitterly disappointing for team owner Mike Shank. "We're tremendously proud of the qualifying effort we put together to have both cars on the front row, but we were of course looking for more out of the race itself," he said. "There just aren't words to describe the disappointment we're experiencing. We really felt like we had a shot at a win here and showed that we were capable of running up front all day and all night, but our luck just didn't last the whole day. My hats off to the effort my entire crew put in to get ready for this event and for this season. It's great to come away with the points that we do for sixth and ninth, but we came down here to win."

-credit: justinwilson.co.uk

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Justin Wilson , Dario Franchitti , Scott Pruett , Graham Rahal , Ian James , Memo Rojas , A.J. Allmendinger , Burt Frisselle , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Chip Ganassi , John Pew , Mark Patterson
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing