Daytona 24: Race report

The Racer's Group captures Rolex Crown; Multimatic Ford takes first Daytona Prototype win. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 2, 2003) -- The Racer's Group ...

The Racer's Group captures Rolex Crown; Multimatic Ford takes first Daytona Prototype win.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 2, 2003) -- The Racer's Group #66 Porsche GT3 RS persevered to capture the overall victory at the 41st Rolex 24 At Daytona today. After taking the GT title at the Rolex 24 one year ago, drivers Kevin Buckler, Michael Schrom, Timo Bernhard and Jorg Bergmeister reunited for this year's win.

Schrom piloted the #66 Porsche to the checkered flag with a nine-lap lead over the second-place #35 Ferrari 360GT of Risi Competizione and an 11-lap advantage over the third-place #83 Porsche of Rennwerks Motorsports. The win marks the 20th time a Porsche has taken the overall victory at the historic twice-around-the-clock event.

"We never really wanted to think about (winning overall) because it seemed out of touch. We knew we had a little shot at it, but that's all it was. We put our heads down and did what we do best," said team owner and driver Buckler, who had a Cinderella season in 2002 that included winning the GT class at the Rolex 24 and LeMans, as well as the Porsche Cup. "After everything going right last year, I thought (this season) was going to be all downhill actually. But I guess we got a good start."

The Racer's Group entry first took the lead at the end of the sixth hour of racing on lap 160 when the leading Brumos Racing #58 Porsche Daytona Prototype went out of the race with engine failure. The Porsche held the lead off and on throughout the early hours of the evening, but took control of the front position for the final time after midnight on lap 341 when the second Brumos Daytona Prototype pitted with a flat tire.

The Racer's Group Porsche held the lead for the remainder of the race, despite a serious threat from the Multimatic #88 Ford Focus Daytona Prototype in the early morning hours. The polesitting Ford Daytona Prototype, which led only the first lap of the race, was able to battle back from several small gremlins to move within seven seconds of the #66 Porsche when a caution bunched up the leaders.

However, as the green flag came out and the field jockeyed for positions in turn one, Scott Maxwell, at the wheel of the Ford, spun out after making contact with another competitor. The spin dropped the Daytona Prototype to more than 30 seconds behind the leading Porsche, and an extended pit stop for a throttle spring replacement took the pressure off the leader.

Despite the minor problems that plagued the Multimatic entry in the final hours of the race, the Ford Daytona Prototype held on for a fourth-place finish overall and top honors in the Rolex Series new premier class with Maxwell, David Brabham and David Empringham sharing the driving duties.

"It is bit bitter sweet in the sense that we were so close we could taste the overall victory. Just a couple of little things cost us a lot of time," said Maxwell. "If you had told us before the start of the weekend that we would actually finish the event, yet alone win it, we'd been pretty happy. It is a great result from Multimatic."

Team Seattle, which partnered with Essex Racing this year, not only raised more than $100,000 for Seattle's Children's Hospital, but also took home four Rolex watches after winning the SportsRacing Prototype II class with its seventh-place overall finish. In its seventh year of raising money for the hospital, the team fielded a pair of Nissan-powered Lolas.

"You can't get any sweeter than this. One-two finish and $125,000 for the kids. Motor racing at its absolute best. We get to race, we get to make money for our kids and we represent the beautiful city of Seattle," said driver and team co-founder Don Kitch Jr.

Kitch, Ross Bentley, Joe Pruskowski and Justin Pruskowski piloted the team's #5 entry to the class win, after the Lucchini Engineering #97 Nissan, which had led the class for several hours, dropped out with engine failure.

In its second win ever in the Rolex Series, a Mosler MT900R won the GTS class. The #24 Mosler of Perspective Racing moved to the front of the class in the final hour after the Morgan-Dollar Motorsports #46 Corvette, which had led the class for more than half the race, suffered transmission trouble at the end of the race.

"This is a big victory and very special for Mosler. Last year we had a lot of problems, but this year we have proven that the car can be very strong and be a contender for the win," said Joao Barbosa, who partnered with Andy Wallace, Jerome Policand and Michel Neugarten in the10th-place overall finish to capture the GTS title.

In addition to taking overall honors at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, The Racer's Group won the first-ever Acxiom Grand Touring Challenge and its $10,000.

The Rolex Sports Car Series will next travel to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Nextel Grand Prix of Miami, February 28-March 1. Tickets are currently on sale for the event and can be purchased online at www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com or by calling 305-230-RACE.

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

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Andy Wallace , David Brabham , Scott Maxwell , Kevin Buckler , David Empringham , Timo Bernhard , Michael Schrom , Joe Pruskowski , Joao Barbosa , Ross Bentley , Justin Pruskowski , Don Kitch Jr. , Jérome Policand , Michel Neugarten
Teams Risi Competizione