Heavy rains that began in the early morning hours on Sunday and continued throughout the day made the 57th Rolex 24 At Daytona a battle for survival, and the team that wound up to be the fittest was the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R squad of Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande, Kamui Kobayashi and Fernando Alonso.
With two hours and seven minutes remaining in the race, Alonso took the lead when 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype champion Felipe Nasr spun off course in Turn 1 in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R. Ten minutes later, and with rains intensifying, the race was red flagged for the second time due to track conditions. It was the first Rolex 24 in history to have two red flags.
It was not restarted, giving the No. 10 Cadillac fielded by Wayne Taylor Racing its second Rolex 24 At Daytona victory in three years. Cadillac won its third consecutive Rolex 24 since launching its DPi program at the start of the 2017 WeatherTech Championship season.
Jordan Taylor was the lone member of the driving lineup in both victories and now is a two-time overall Rolex 24 winner. His 2017 victory came alongside his brother, Ricky, as well as four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon and longtime Wayne Taylor Racing driver Max Angelelli.
That victory helped to propel the Taylor brothers to five consecutive WeatherTech Championship victories and the 2017 Prototype title. Wayne Taylor Racing also won the Rolex 24 in 2005.
“I think it was an interesting race with the conditions changing, very tough, but I think, like everyone else says, everyone did their job,” said Jordan Taylor. “All four drivers led in their own right and drove to the lead, different parts of the race, and it was all about survival. You saw a lot of guys taking a lot of risk early in the race, but we waited with the game plan of running our own race and not getting caught up in anyone else’s battles.
“I think it was the right game plan. We stayed out of trouble, no car damage, no one went off the track. That’s the way you win these 24‑hour races, and we kind of came into the grid thinking almost every single car can win the race, and you see guys making little mistakes here and there, and this team has now done six out of seven years finishing on the podium without issues. I think it’s a huge testament to Wayne Taylor Racing.”
Alonso, the two-time Formula 1 World Champion, took his first victory in his second Rolex 24 appearance. He became the third Formula 1 World Champion to win the Rolex 24, joining Phil Hill and Mario Andretti. Hill was the 1961 Formula 1 champion and 1964 Rolex 24 champion. Andretti was the 1978 Formula 1 champion and the 1972 Rolex 24 champion. Alonso won his two world championships in 2005 and 2006.
Alonso’s victory comes on the heels of an overall win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans last June and comes in advance of a scheduled appearance in May’s Indianapolis 500.
“I’m very, very proud of the job that we achieved today, but it was not a one‑day job, it was a one‑month job,” Alonso said. “For me in December we started preparing the race and receiving all the documents, how the Cadillac works and how Wayne Taylor Racing, some procedures that maybe are different compared with other teams. We tried to have a quick integration, Kamui and myself, trying to learn as much as we could from the team in the Roar, and then on the race itself, it was very, very difficult. Conditions were changing all the time.”
It was the first Rolex 24 victory for both van der Zande and Kobayashi. Van der Zande was the 2016 WeatherTech Championship Prototype Challenge (PC) champion. It was the second consecutive victory for van der Zande, Jordan Taylor and the No. 10 team, as it also won the 2018 season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
“I’m super happy,” van der Zande said. “Fantastic. I think I said before the weekend, I think to the team, Wayne and Max (Angelelli), fantastic that they put such little pieces together. It’s a big puzzle, and it comes together in this victory here right now. Thanks a lot to my teammates, the whole team, and I’m very happy to bring home a watch and a lot of victory feelings. What more to say?”
The victory for Kobayashi comes in his first Rolex 24 and his first WeatherTech Championship start. The Japanese ex-Formula 1 driver is a full-time driver of the No. 7 Toyota LMP1 car in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
“I’m so happy to be here, and obviously I think like the 24‑hour race, it’s never easy even when you have a good car or whatever because you have so many issues, problems,” Kobayashi said. “I think today we had really extremely difficult conditions. I think all the team guys; the drivers did a great job. I think the team did a really, really good job, and obviously the car was really good.”
Despite the spin, Nasr was able to continue in the No. 31 Cadillac DPi and rejoined the race in second place, where he would finish with co-drivers Pipo Derani and Eric Curran. It was the second straight runner-up result in the Rolex 24 for Nasr and Curran, who went on to win both the WeatherTech Championship and IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup Prototype titles in 2018.
Derani, the 2016 Rolex 24 overall winner, joined the No. 31 team as Nasr’s full-time teammate for the 2019 season. Curran has moved to a Michelin Endurance Cup-only role with the team.
Completing the DPi class podium was the No. 7 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi squad of Ricky Taylor, Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi. The trio combined to lead a total of 78 laps during the race, but Rossi, who was driving the car at the time of the red flag, could get no closer than third place.
The Nos. 10, 31 and 7 cars were the only ones to finish on the lead lap. Finishing fourth, four laps down, was the No. 54 CORE autosport Nissan DPi quartet of Jon Bennett, Colin Braun, Romain Dumas and Loic Duval. The No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi team of Misha Goikhberg, Tristan Vautier, Devlin DeFrancesco and Rubens Barrichello completed the top five.
Next up for the WeatherTech Championship and Michelin Endurance Cup is the 67th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts on Saturday, March 16 at Sebring International Raceway. Tickets are available now at SebringRaceway.com.
No. 18 DragonSpeed ORECA Wins LMP2 at Daytona
Just prior to the red flag, Sebastian Saavedra crashed the No. 18 DragonSpeed ORECA into the tire barrier, significantly damaging the car’s bodywork. However, the Colombian eventually managed to get the car running and the well-timed red flag gave the No. 18 team its first Rolex 24 victory in the LMP2 class.
Saavedra joined co-drivers Roberto Gonzalez, Ryan Cullen and Pastor Maldonado in winning by three laps over the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports LMP2. It was the first Rolex 24 win for all four drivers.
“It’s absolutely crazy, to be honest,” Saavedra said. “On my side more than anything, a month ago I didn’t even have a ride, so of course thank you to Roberto and DragonSpeed for giving me the opportunity to be part of this amazing group.
“Overall it was a crazy race since the beginning. We were expecting it to be like last year with a few yellows, and that was not the case, and we knew it was going to be more of a survival type of event than most.”
I was the one who started the race,” Gonzalez added. “It was push from the start, it was fighting from the start. We did a couple of mistakes, but the crew did an amazing job to keep us in the front, keep us in the lead, losing the least amount of laps, and we kept fighting.
“Obviously a big thanks to them. I think they won the race for us today, and these guys, they drove perfect. Pastor didn’t put a foot wrong today, and Sebastian, Ryan and I, we were just hanging on and pushing for the win since the start.”
Cameron Cassels, Kris Wright and the father and son combination of Kyle and Robert Masson finished second in LMP2 in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA. Henrik Hedman, Ben Hanley, Nicolas Lapierre and James Allen completed the LMP2 podium with a third-place run in the No. 81 DragonSpeed ORECA.