The Lexus Riley shared by Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Pruett, and Salvador Duran ran virtually trouble free throughout the 45th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway, leading 468 of 668 laps and handing Chip Ganassi Racing its ...
The Lexus Riley shared by Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Pruett, and Salvador Duran ran virtually trouble free throughout the 45th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway, leading 468 of 668 laps and handing Chip Ganassi Racing its second consecutive victory in the Rolex Sports Car Series' biggest event. No team had taken the overall victory in back-to- back 24-hour races at Daytona since Holbert Racing accomplished the feat in 1986 and 1987.
The SAMAX Pontiac Riley driven by Patrick Carpentier, Darren Manning, Ryan Dalziel, and Milka Duno finished second, 1:14.749 seconds behind Pruett in the third closest finish in race history.
"I think (the race) was pretty tough," added Montoya, who is the only driver with a Rolex 24 win, an Indy 500 win, a Formula 1 win, and a ChampCar title. "It's a big deal. It's a bit like when I did the 500. Chip said, 'Let's do the 500,' and I thought, 'Okay, let's do it.' And we won. It was a big deal this morning when I got out of the car. But the last two hours were hard because it was completely out of your hands. Nothing failed on the car. We didn't have to do anything to it. We did not have a single misfire or a single problem with the brakes. It ran strong all day long."
Pruett, who started 12th, steadily worked his way to the front in the early going, taking the lead for the first time during the second hour. As many of the potential contenders, including the pole sitting Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley, the Alex Job Racing Porsche Crawford, the Howard Motorsports Pontiac Crawford, and the Wayne Taylor Racing Pontiac Riley faltered in the early hours, Pruett and company ran virtually trouble free, reeling off a relentless succession of quick and consistent lap times.
"We had a good car," said Duran, the first racer from Mexico to take the overall Daytona 24 hour win since Pedro Rodriguez in 1971. "It was just a matter of keeping it on the track and just being consistently quick. I think the three of us ran pretty good."
At one point early Saturday evening, it looked as if the No. 58 Brumos Porsche might have something for the Ganassi trio, but it was hit from behind by a GT class Porsche late Saturday night and lost valuable track time in the garage as repairs were affected.
"(Angelelli and Dalziel) were going at it really hard, and to tell you the truth it made my life pretty miserable," said Montoya. "But it got to a point, when I would run behind them I was starting to think that it wasn't going to happen. We led 18 to 20 hours to that point and we had to really step up to keep up with them. I knew our fuel mileage was better, so I knew if we got a clear track that it would work out and we would get ahead of them. It's hard because you want to try to get ahead of them, but you don't want to be the guy who screws up and loses the race. They remember more the guy that screwed up and lost the race than the guy who won it."
After the leaders made their final driver changes, a Corvette slammed into Carpentier's Pontiac Riley, breaking its nose and ending any chance the SAMAX car had of winning the race. "At the end there, I made a small mistake," admitted Carpentier. "I was following (Pruett and Magnussen) and I tried to get in front of a Corvette and he hit me at the back and pushed me off course and I almost got stuck in the mud. After that, the front end of the car was not doing so well. I had nothing for the No. 01 car after we went off. At the end, there was no way. Pruett gained about 20 seconds on his pit stop and there was no way I was going to get him."
Shortly after Carpentier's off-course excursion, Jan Magnussen, who had taken over for Angelelli, went straight instead of taking the left-hander into Turn 1 due to a brake problem. He managed to save the car, but lost two laps in the pits as his team made the necessary repairs. The brake failure the team suffered cleared the way for Pruett to cruise to the checkered flag.
Magnussen, Angelelli, Taylor, and Jeff Gordon, ended up third, two laps behind the winners. Rounding out the top-five were the No. 59 Brumos entry of Hurley Haywood, J.C. France, Joao Barbosa, and Roberto Moreno, which was six laps back, and the AIM Autosports No. 61 Lexus Riley of Mark Wilkins, Brian Frisselle, Burt Frisselle, and David Empringham, who finished 11 laps behind the winners.
"This was my second Rolex Series victory," said Dumoulin. "We had some concerns late in the race. We put water back in (the engine), and it worked really well. We still short-shifted for a little bit, but we were able to keep the pace."
The race featured 34 driver lead changes among 30 cars. There were 13 cautions for a total of 82 laps and a red flag, which brought the field to the pit lane for about 90 minutes while race officials repaired a section of guard rail at the end of the pit lane that had been damaged in a collision involving the No. 82 Synergy Racing Porsche of Chris Pallis, who was not hurt in the incident. It was only the third time that the race was stopped for a red flag. At 11:11 a.m. Sunday morning, ChampCar driver Katherine Legge recorded the one millionth lap in Rolex 24 history.
The Rolex Series will return to the track on March 3 in Mexico City.