Rolex 24 At Daytona Race Story

DYSON CAPTURES SECOND ROLEX 24 HOURS AT DAYTONA; PORSCHE DOMINATES GT3 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 31, 1999)--Team Dyson Racing, after a grueling day-and-night battle with the No. 7 Doyle-Risi Racing Ferrari 333 SP, brought home the win at the ...


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 31, 1999)--Team Dyson Racing, after a grueling day-and-night battle with the No. 7 Doyle-Risi Racing Ferrari 333 SP, brought home the win at the 708-lap, 2,520.54-mile Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona race behind the driving efforts of Butch Leitzinger, Andy Wallace and Elliot Forbes-Robinson.

In the GT category, Roock Racing won GT2 with its No. 83 Porsche 911 GT2, capturing the inaugural Daytona "Sports Car of the Year" award for Porsche, which also won GT3 with the No. 23 AJR/Aerofab/Yokohama/Team Seattle Porsche 911 RSR. GK Motorsports won the GTT class with its No. 19 Ford Mustang Cobra.

Leitzinger, who qualified the sixth, took the checkered flag more than one lap ahead of Doyle-Risi team owner Wayne Taylor in the 24:03:30.680 race that featured the largest North American prototype field for an endurance race since 1985.

"Last time we won, our car started down in the field and we didn't even think about winning until late in the race," said Leitzinger, "This year was different because we felt like we had a chance. We were in contention the whole race. All three of us had a great time."

Team owner Rob Dyson drove the pole-sitting No. 16 Goodyear/Bosch/Hella Riley & Scott Ford to an eighth-place finish in the Can-Am class after a night-time incident knocked the car out of contention. Dyson Racing's effort to push the No. 20 Riley & Scott Ford to victory was the team's second overall win at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

"This is as good or better than the first time," said Dyson. "What an awesome experience just to compete, but winning is an awesome experience in life. This is about the whole team. These guys did a great job, and we had a lot of luck going our way."

From the start, the battle for position at the front of the Can-Am field was hotly contested between the Dyson Team, the Doyle-Risi team and the Doran-Matthews team. Team Dyson, led by Leitzinger, Andy Wallace and Elliot Forbes-Robinson dueled with Doyle-Risi's Wayne Taylor, Allan McNish, Didier de Radigues and Massimillano Angelelli throughout Saturday night and into Sunday, with neither car extending to more than a two-lap lead over the other.

"A brake problem this morning cost us the race," said McNish. "It cost us three laps, and we could never make them up. I'm happy for the team. I'm sorry we didn't win, but it was a good result."

Leitzinger also made a lap 526 pass of Support Net Racing's Scott Shubot to take over the lead for good as daylight brought at first intermittent, and then heavy rain, causing teams to change equipment and race strategies several times throughout the final hours of the race. The No. 00 Autosport Racing Ferrari 333 SP finished fourth, followed by the No. 8 Support Net Racing Ferrari 333 SP in fifth.

The intense competition in the GT classes was equally impressive, featuring the largest GT2 field ever assembled at the Rolex 24, two new full-fledged factory supported teams, and ultimately, a resounding performance across the GT2 and GT3 fields by the Porsches.

Through qualifying and the early hours of Sunday morning, the GT2 race was shaping up as a muscle match between the factory-supported Viper Team Oreca (Dodge) and Corvette Racing (Chevrolet) teams. While the Vipers fell-off as dawn touched the Sunday morning horizon, the Corvette team of Ron Fellows, Chris Kneifel and John Paul Jr. ran strong until the 22nd hour, enjoying as much as a 12-lap lead over the Roock Racing Porsche before engine problems ended their hopes for debut win.

It was the durability and tenacity of the Porsche teams that would be the difference in the class, ending with the No. 83 team of Andre Ahrle, Hubert Haupt and David Warnock finishing first ahead of the No. 99 Schumacher Racing Porsche 933. The international team was satisfied to let other teams battle for the lead early on, conserving the Roock Racing Porsche 911 GT2 for a strong push Sunday morning. They would need all the car they could muster, as the field really pushed the leaders in the final hours.

"I've won here in GT2 before," said Ahrle, "and I ran the final hour with a broken engine. It was an unbelievable race; the pace was unbelievable."

Fifteen full course cautions (resulting in no injuries) and the ever-changing track conditions on Sunday seemed to play well to their strategy.

Schumacher Racing, while still running strong at the end, relied on sheer tenacity and will to overcome several mechanical problems, repeatedly gaining precious lost positions to score the runner-up finish. After spending over 10 laps in the pits, the No. 2 Corvette crew salvaged enough fortitude to finish the race, and hold onto the final podium position. No. 77 Seikel Motorsports finished fourth and No. 49 Freisinger Motorsport finished fifth.

The GT3 race was highlighted by a dominating drive from the Alex Job Racing Team of Cort Wagner, Anthony Lazarro, Darryl Havens and Kelly Collins. After feeling heat early from the strong PTG BMW teams, the No. 23 AJR/Aerofab/Yokoahma/Team Seattle Porsche 911 RSR checked-out and never looked back, scoring the team's first win at the Rolex 24.

"Cort and I have been doing this for five years nearly winning several times," said Collins. "This year was serious, we never cracked a smile or let up. We kept our heads down for 24 hours."

Chasing the Alex Job team the entire race was the No. 02 Metamor/Birel/Castrol/ Lions/Yokohama/Elf/Porsche 911 of John Mowlem, David Murry, John Reiser and Grady Willingham, who also choreographed a very consistent drive, never losing much ground in wet or dry conditions. Challenging the No. 02 Porsche during the final hours of the race was the No. 07 The Jennifer Fund/Perelli Porsche 911, which nearly caught it on several occasions, and earning the final podium position.

The No. 18 Yokohama/E.P.E./JRZ/Warren Fastenings Porsche 911 RSR finished fourth followed by the No. 17 Aspen Knolls Racing BMW M3 in fifth.

In the newly-formed GTT class (tube-framed cars), the No. 19 GK Group Motorsports Ford Mustang Cobra of Les Delano, Kyle McIntyre, Andy Petery, Gary Stewart ran away from a field of Chevrolet Camaros for the class win. The team overcame transmission and header problems in the middle of the night for the victory. Finishing second in GTT was the pole-sitting Rankin Racing team of Toto Lasally, Richard McDill, C. Peter Pope, David Rankin and Hank Scott in the No. 40 Colonial Bank/P.I.E. Electronics Chevrolet Camaro.

"This was a nostalgic victory because we have so much fun with the American metal," said Andy Petery. "I was happy to be here at this race with these cars."

The No. 79 Maugeri Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro finished third, followed by the No. 53 Powermaster/CATZ/Diablo Racing Chevrolet Camaro in fourth and the No. 96 Entropy Racing Chevrolet Camaro.

In all, 78 cars started the event, with 44 running at the finish. Can-Am (21) and GT2 (19) set class records for starters.

Source: SCCA/SCCA Pro Racing/USRRC

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About this article
Series GT
Drivers Andy Wallace , Allan McNish , Butch Leitzinger , Ron Fellows , Wayne Taylor , David Murry , Rob Dyson , Kelly Collins , David Warnock , Grady Willingham , John Paul , Les Delano , Alex Job , André Ahrlé , David Rankin , Cort Wagner
Teams Corvette Racing , Dyson Racing , Alex Job Racing