The Racers Group No. 66 Porsche victorious in 41st anniversary Of The Rolex 24 At Daytona. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Feb. 2, 2003) -- The reliability of the Porsche dominated the 41st anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona as the No. 66 The Racers...
The Racers Group No. 66 Porsche victorious in 41st anniversary Of The Rolex 24 At Daytona.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Feb. 2, 2003) -- The reliability of the Porsche dominated the 41st anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona as the No. 66 The Racers Group Porsche GT3 RS with drivers Kevin Buckler, Michael Schrom, Timo Bernhard and Jorg Bergmeister captured the overall victory in the twice-around-the-clock challenge at the "World Center of Racing."
The flawless performance by The Racers Group delivered Porsche its 20th overall victory and its 55th class victory in the Rolex 24.
Buckler, Schrom, Bernhard and Bergmeister captured their first GT class win at Daytona last year. On Sunday, they celebrated class and overall triumphs.
"I can't believe it," said Buckler, who is also the owner. "We knew we had a tiny chance (at overall), but the guys did what they always do."
The GT class swept the top three overall spots in the Rolex 24.
The No. 35 Risi Competizione Ferrari 360GT with drivers Ralf Kelleners, Anthony Lazzaro and Johnny Mowlem survived gearbox woes to take runner-up honors.
The No. 83 Rennwerks Motorsports Porsche GT3 R finished third with Johannes Van Overbeck, Richard Steranka, Dave Standridge and David Murry in what was the team's first 24-hour race.
The No. 66 The Racers Group Porsche seized the overall lead for the first time on Saturday at 6:50 p.m. on Lap 166 and took the lead for good on early Sunday morning at 12:41 a.m. on Lap 341.
"I thought we could win during the last two or three hours, but not in the sixth hour," Bernhard said. "It was a big surprise. A lot of people expected us to win, but I didn't even think about it. I thought just getting a class win would be good. To win overall, it's a dream come true."
The Daytona Prototype had a solid outing in its debut as a new premier class in the Rolex Sports Car Series. The No. 88 Multimatic Ford Focus placed fourth overall while the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche FABCAR settled for fifth.
The No. 88 Multimatic Ford Focus, which took top class honors in the Daytona Prototype class battled not only the No. 66 The Racers Group Porsche throughout the Rolex 24, but also other numerous obstacles. Mechanical problems on Sunday morning finally caught up to the Robert Yates Racing-powered car.
"My feelings are sort of mixed right now," said Scott Maxwell, who shared the driving duties on the No. 88 car with David Empringham and David Brabham. "If you had told me before the weekend or before the race that this would be the result, I probably would be pretty happy.
"I think we were pretty close to winning the whole thing and we worked so hard through the night. We really pushed and I thought it was going to pay off."
The No. 46 Morgan Dollar Motorsports Corvette appeared to be on their way to a GTS class victory before problems arrived in the final hour. After changing the rear end gear, Rob Morgan had the shifter break, leaving him with just third gear.
Morgan Dollar's problems opened the door for the No. 24 Perspective Racing Mosler MT900R and drivers Andy Wallace, Michael Neugarten, Joao Barbosa and Jerome Policand to capture GTS honors.
In the SportsRacing Prototype II class, Team Seattle swept the top two spots with the No. 5 Team Seattle/Essex Racing Nissan Lola taking the class win and the No. 15 Team Seattle/Essex Racing settling for runner-up honors.
Solid day for NASCAR veterans: NASCAR drivers had a solid outing in the Rolex 24. Kyle Petty, who drives the No. 45 Georgia-Pacific Dodge in the Winston Cup Series, finished sixth overall and fourth in the GT class with co-drivers Marc Lieb, Leo Hindery and Peter Baron.
"When you come down here, you would like to finish in the top three of your class," Petty said. "When you come down here and run in the top four and still not be in the top three of your class, that's tough."
Derrike Cope, who drives and owns the No. 37 Friendly's Chevrolet in Winston Cup, finished 18th overall and third in the SportsRacing Prototype II class with co-drivers Chris Bingham, Brian DeVries and Larry Oberto.
The SRP II entry was involved in a major incident Saturday night, but battled to back to earn a podium finish.
"For what happened, you got to give the crew credit," said Cope, the 1990 Daytona 500. "They worked their guts out last night. They had to overcome a great deal to get this car proficient. It's a great job by everybody. We got a chance to race and participate all night long.
"It's finally met its demise just short from the end. What a great time. I had a ball. It's my first time being in an open cockpit car of this magnitude. It's a unique experience."
Going to DAYTONA USA: From Gatorade Victory Lane to DAYTONA USA, the No. 66 The Racers Group Porsche will be on display at DAYTONA USA beginning on Feb. 10.
Next up: The Speedway will play host to the stock car portion of Speedweeks 2003. Tickets for any of the events are available at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at (386) 253-7223.