HERE COMES THE SUN
Taking place on the last Saturday in January means that more than half of The Rolex 24 At Daytona is run in darkness - 13 hours of racing action takes place between Saturday's sunset and Sunday's sunrise. And with the flawless weather that blessed this edition of the legendary endurance race, the drivers were looking forward to sunset and relief from the glare, especially going into turn one and the kink.
By early evening it was obvious that the 2011 Rolex 24 At Daytona was going to see a lot of action taking place on the turf, as well as on pit row. Scott Pruett (Sacramento/Auburn, Calif.), driving the #01 Ganassi Racing BMW Riley, commented on the conditions at the end of his first stint behind the wheel. "A lot of guys are running real aggressive. There were six or seven spins ahead of me, tearin' cars up. I had to dodge guys [who were] overdriving." Pruett is a front-runner to add another Rolex timepiece to his existing collection which includes three he received for wins of the Rolex 24 At Daytona (1994, '07, '08).
About 5:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, after ideal conditions for the first 14 hours of the race, the fog rolled in resulting in a two hour, 47 minute delay as racers circulated behind the pace car while waiting for the fog to lift. When the green flag dropped, the dog fight resumed between leader Dario Franchitti (Edinburgh, Scotland/Nashville, Tenn.) in the #2 Ganassi Racing BMW Riley, Michael McDowell (Glendale, Az./Charlotte, N.C.) in the #6 Michael Shank Racing Ford/Dallara and third-positioned Pruett.
During a mid-morning walk through the pits the physical strain on crew members and drivers was fully evident. The #9 Action Express Racing Porsche Riley was in third place when Christian Fittipaldi (Key Biscayne, Fla.) came out of the car. Although exhaustion showed on his face he was clearly delighted with the performance of his machine and the pace with which he drove.
"So far everything is going fine so I am hoping for the best," said Fittipaldi. "We still have about four hours to go so there's still a lot of racing to do. As of right now everything is going as planned and I guess we will see what happens."
The #76 Krohn Racing Ford Lola's team owner/driver Tracy Krohn (Houston, Texas) is running the only Lola chassis in the field. "I am very pleased because we have put a lot of work into this car," said Krohn about the Lola's apparent ability to match the pace of the Rileys. "Most significantly though is our driver lineup, we have real quality drivers."
Krohn was also feeling good about his chances to have a podium finish with four hours remaining in the race. "It's really good to be right where we are after 20 hours of racing," said Krohn who has promised to buy his wife a new Rolex timepiece if he wins. "We've lost our lead lap position, but there is still a lot of racing to do and I am very confident we will be there at the finish. All we need is a little luck."
-source: rolex motorsports