Daytona 24: Race report

Bell Motorsports captures Rolex 24 at Daytona victory in closing laps. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 1, 2004) -- As the final hour of the 42nd anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona clicked away, it appeared as the though the Howard-Boss ...

Bell Motorsports captures Rolex 24 at Daytona victory in closing laps.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 1, 2004) -- As the final hour of the 42nd anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona clicked away, it appeared as the though the Howard-Boss Motorsports No. 2 CITGO Chevrolet Crawford had victory at hand. But the surprises never stop during the Rolex 24, and the No. 2 Chevrolet, that had once held a three-lap lead, fell victim to suspension problems in the chicane, opening the door for the Bell Motorsports No. 54 Kodak Pontiac Doran JE4 and drivers Terry Borcheller, Forest Barber, Andy Pilgrim and Christian Fittipaldi to capture the overall Rolex 24 victory.

"It's astounding what can happen in 24 hours," said owner and co-driver Forest Barber, who brought the car across the start/finish line for the checkered flag.

The Bell Motorsports team, which won the 2003 North American Road Racing Championship, not only picked up four Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona watches for each of the drivers, but also $100,000 in prize money, the largest amount ever offered by the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series to the winner.

Bell Motorsports has now won the last three races at Daytona International Speedway. Last year, the No. 54 car captured both the Paul Revere 250 and the Grand American Champions Weekend presented by Brumos Porsche.

Tony Stewart, who was teamed with fellow NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. and sports car veteran Andy Wallace, was nursing the No. 2 car for the last hour with the suspension problem.

"Evidently a rocker was breaking, which is your spring on the right rear corner," said Stewart after the car finally broke down. "That was the first major problem, and it kept getting worse and worse."

The No. 2 Chevrolet managed to hold onto third-place in the Daytona Prototypes class, after being passed with only two laps remaining in the race by the Doran-Lista Racing No. 27 Lexus Doran JE4 of Didier Theys, Fredy Lienhard, Jan Lammers and Marc Goossens, which took home second-place honors in the Daytona Prototypes class with its fourth-place overall finish.

The conditions in the Rolex 24 were grueling, with most of the race held under cool temperatures, wind and rain. During the early morning hours, the race was run under caution for more than three hours and at 7:38 a.m., for the first time in 15 years, the Rolex 24 was red flagged for poor visibility and standing water. At 10:30 a.m., the race resumed setting up a two hour, 42-minute sprint to the finish. The GT class battle was just as thrilling as the fight for the overall title.

The team of Mike Fitzgerald, Joe and Jay Policastro, Robin Liddell and Johnny Mowlem in the Orbit Racing No. 44 Porsche GT3 RS captured the GT class victory, in addition to second place overall, by a margin of victory of only 6.9 seconds over the Flying Lizard Motorsports No. 74 Porsche GT3 Cup and drivers Johannes van Overbeek, Seth Neiman, Lonnie Pechnik, Peter Cunningham and Mike Rockenfeller.

"I think I have a few more gray hairs now than I did before," said Mowlem of his battle with the No. 74 Porsche for the win. "We lost a rear window sometime during the middle of the night. With the wet (tires), it wasn't too much of an issue, but as soon as it dried out, Mike went out there when it dried out with slicks on. We could see from his times that it was really affecting our straight-line speed. When I got in, it was the same problem - really slow on the banking. I had to drive really hard to keep Mike Rockenfeller at bay."

The Red Bull BE Racing No. 73 Ferrari 360GT of Philipp Peter, Klaus Engelhorn, Dieter Quester and Andrea Montermini rounded out the GT-class podium and finished sixth overall.

In Rolex Series's new Super Grand Sport class, the Doncaster Racing No. 91 Porsche GT3 Cup with Jean-Francois Dumoulin, Robert Julien, Greg Pootmans and Marc Lieb captured the class crown and took the ninth-place position overall.

"At the start we had a little bit of a clutch problem. We had to double clutch to make sure we didn't grind the gears. Then we finally got it fixed and the car came back really good," said Dumoulin. "We had a really good setup. The Doncaster team did an amazing job driving that car. It was really good in the dry, wet and it was pretty good to drive and the team did amazing changes. All of the way through the 24 hours we were out there, and that's why we're here again."

The drivers shared the podium with Doncaster Racing teammates Dave Lacey, Greg Wilkins, Mark Wilkins, Tom Nastasi and Kenny Wilden of the No. 71 Porsche, which finished third in the SGS class. The TPC Racing No. 38 Porsche GT3 Cup of Randy Pobst, Marc Bunting, Andy Lally, John Littlechild and Michael Levitas, split the teammates with its second-place finish in the class

Doran-Lista Racing, Red Bull BE Racing and AASCO Motorsports were the first the first-ever receipts of the SunTrust Improve Your Position award, for gaining the most places in class during the race. Doran-Lista Racing started 17th in the Daytona Prototype class and finished second, Red Bull BE Racing started 16th in the GT class and finished third, and AASCO Motorsports started 14th in the SGS class and finished sixth. Each of the teams received $500 from SunTrust and is now in the running to receive the year-long award and bonus.

Orbit Racing and Doncaster Racing also received awards from the Acxiom Grand Touring Challenge. Each of the teams were presented with checks for $1,000 for winning the GT and SGS classes.

The Rolex Sports Car Series will travel next to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Grand Prix of Miami, part of the Toyota Indy 300 weekend, February 26-29. Tickets are currently on sale for the event and can be purchased online at www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at 305-230-RACE (7223).

Additional information on the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series and Rolex 24 At Daytona is available online at www.grandamerican.com.

-garra-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Andy Wallace , Jan Lammers , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Tony Stewart , Didier Theys , Christian Fittipaldi , Andy Pilgrim , Marc Goossens , Robin Liddell , Randy Pobst , Andy Lally , Terry Borcheller , Tom Nastasi , Andrea Montermini , Johannes van Overbeek , Dieter Quester , Jean-Francois Dumoulin , Michael Levitas , Robert Julien , Johnny Mowlem , Marc Lieb , Dave Lacey , John Littlechild , Greg Wilkins , Forest Barber , Marc Bunting , Seth Neiman , Lonnie Pechnik , Mark Wilkins , Mike Rockenfeller , Greg Pootmans , Jay Policastro , Philipp Peter
Teams Flying Lizard Motorsports