CHECKERED FLAG FALLS ON 44TH ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA "It Was the Pits" DAYTONA BEACH, Fl., Jan.29, 2006 Six hours into the 44th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, a radio broadcaster was heard to comment that the ...
CHECKERED FLAG FALLS ON 44TH ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA
"It Was the Pits"
DAYTONA BEACH, Fl., Jan.29, 2006 Six hours into the 44th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, a radio broadcaster was heard to comment that the #1 position in class was the worst position on the track. It seemed shortly after any car took the lead, it soon was "behind the wall" for repairs. In the first six hours there were 22 lead changes involving 11 cars...and that didn't even include the GT class where the Tafel Racing Porsches qualified 1-2, setting a Rolex qualifying record.
Everything leading up to the green flag looked very promising for the two new Tafel Racing Porsche 997 GT3 Cup cars. The drivers' line up for the two cars was an impressive mix of seasoned professionals and enthusiastic youth. The #72 NEC Tafel Racing Porsche included Germany's Wolf Henzler and Scot Robin Liddell, previous Rolex GT winners, and Johannes van Overbeek of San Francisco, all very experienced Porsche drivers. Joining them was 17-year-old phenom Graham Rahal, son of the legendary racer.
Veterans Andrew Davis and Charles Espenlaub shared the #74 Rembrandt Charms Tafel Racing Porsche with Dr. Michael Cawley, Jim Tafel and Eric Lux, the youngest driver ever to "take the checkered flag" in last year's Rolex.
In Daytona testing earlier in January, three different Tafel Racing drivers posted the fastest lap during the three-day session. This trend continued earlier this week during the pre-qualifying practices as the two cars were 1-2 in every session culminating in an all-Tafel Racing front row to the GT grid. And then Friday afternoon, Espenlaub and Lux, who will share the #74 Rembrandt Charms car all season, combined for their first victory in the Grand-Am Cup.
The start was a proud beginning and beautiful sight for Jim Tafel, team owner/driver, and Technical Director Tony Dowe. "Seeing our two cars, side by side, leading the GT field across the start/finish line was the biggest moment in my brief racing career," exclaimed Tafel, who finished 4th with Davis in his first Rolex last year.
Henzler in the #72 NEC and Davis in the #74 Rembrandt Tafel Racing Porsches actually led the first two hours of the race-around-the-clock before the team's string of successes was halted. "It was the pits, literally!" exclaimed Dowe, disappointed in not winning his seventh Rolex 24.
The #72 Porsche lost a total of 18 laps in the pits due to mechanical problems, including siezed wheel nuts and studs and a damaged radiator; while replacing a half shaft and a radiator cost the #74 Porsche over 37 laps. They both fought back through the night to place 6th and 12th in class respectively and earn some critical points for the GT Championship
While the result was disappointing, Henzler set the fastest GT race lap in the 10th hour and the team's potential is very evident by the speed shown in practice, qualifying and the race. There's little question that Tafel Racing intends to challenge for the GT Championship during the entire 2006 Grand American Rolex GT Series.