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Chip Ganassi Racing wins the 24 Hours of Daytona with BMW Power.

The number 01 BMW Riley run by Chip Ganassi Racing won the 24-hour classic in Daytona (US). At the end of 709 laps of thrilling racing, Juan Pablo Montoya (CO) crossed the finish line with a 21.921 second lead over the second-placed Corvette. Over the course of the 24 hours, Montoya had alternated behind the wheel of the Daytona prototype, which was powered by a BMW engine, with Scott Pruett (US), Memo Rojas (MX) and Charlie Kimball (US). Victory for Pruett saw him draw level with the previous record winner Hurley Haywood (US) on five wins. This was the second overall victory in Daytona for Chip Ganassi Racing and BMW, following their triumph in 2011. Two years ago, the victorious team included BMW works driver Joey Hand (US). Hand was back behind the wheel for the team owned by US motor racing legend Chip Ganassi (US) again this year. However, the number 02 BMW Riley failed to finish the race. Before retiring, Hand and his fellow drivers Scott Dixon (AU), Dario Franchitti (GB) and Jamie McMurray (US) had also held the lead.

Tough luck for Turner Motorsport in the GT class.

BMW was also represented in the GT class at this year’s 24 Hours of Daytona. However, the race weekend did not run entirely to plan for the Turner Motorsport team and its two BMW M3s. When a technical fault resulted in Andy Priaulx (GB) crashing in the final practice session, the number 93 car was so badly damaged that it was unable to start the race. As a result, Team Principal Will Turner (US) lined up at the 24-hour marathon with just one BMW M3 (number 94). Bill Auberlen (US), Paul Dalla Lana (CA), Billy Johnson (US), Boris Said (US) and Maxime Martin (BE) alternated behind the wheel. Turner Motorsport ultimately had to settle for 18th in the GT class. Prior to the start of the race, Priaulx had presented the Alzheimer’s charity “Highway to Help” with a cheque for 1000 dollars on behalf of Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts. The cheque was received by Brian Johnson, the lead singer in the band AC/DC.

Michael Shank Racing

After an early-race setback cost the team seven laps to the race leader, Michael Shank Racing staged a huge comeback at the Daytona International Speedway to score a third place finish in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Drivers Ozz Negri, John Pew, AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, and Justin Wilson rallied behind the huge effort of the defending champion crew to take the group’s second consecutive Rolex 24 podium finish, and the fourth podium result for team owner Mike Shank in the huge endurance race.

“I’m happy on the one hand that the 60 car came from essentially nine total laps down,” said Mike Shank. “We led the thing after being super aggressive. Everybody worked their butt off. I couldn’t be more happy about it. Thank you to Ford Racing—Jamie Allison here, Mr. Raj Nair (Ford Vice President for Global Product Development) here today. It was great. Looking forward to next year and still want to win. I’m literally more proud of the group today [than last year] because this was incredibly stressful and incredibly hard, so I’m grateful that they all hung in.”

Running just one lap behind the lead late in the race, the sister Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley of Gustavo Yacaman, Chris Cumming, Michael Valiante, and Jorge Goncalvez, was also well-placed for a strong finish, but contact with a GT machine spelled an early end to the effort of the foursome, which was poised for a return to the Rolex Podium thanks to its strong and steady pace.

Allmendinger opened the race from sixth on the grid. Having led every Rolex 24 he has ever entered, the 31-year-old was looking to extend that streak once again. But less than half an hour after the drop of the green flag, the No. 60 Ford-Riley was in the pits with a nose full of dirt and a deranged front left wheel. A quick diagnosis from the crew determined that the left front toe link needed to be replaced. While the setback was significant, everyone on the team was thankful that the mechanical failure occurred when the NASCAR pilot was in the Kink corner, rather than flat out on the high banks of the Daytona oval. Despite quick pit work, the car returned to the field some seven laps down.

But the race wasn’t done trying to knock the team down. After getting back to within four laps of the leader, the alert engineering staff monitoring the telemetry saw a fuel pressure issue. Again with a quick diagnostic decision, the team brought the car into the garage—where podium dreams traditionally go to die—but quick work brought the car back on track only two laps behind its previous position, before the unscheduled stop.

The die was cast with the team some six laps down from the leader with 12 hours yet to run. Using the most of shrewd pit strategy, strong driving, and a car that was quick and reliable, the team was once again a common utterance on the lips of the SPEED broadcast team as Allmendinger, Pew, Ambrose, Negri, and Wilson all teamed up to claw their way back onto the lead lap. Ultimately, the effort saw Allmendinger move into the overall lead on lap 665.

A dream return to the top step of the podium was not in the cards, however. Allmendinger had to finally cede his position to the race-winning car’s unparalleled topline speed, despite lap after lap of valiant defense. A second blow came on an ensuing restart, when Allmendinger was muscled off course while fighting for second place. With some breath taking strategy and smart, strong driving, the three-time Rolex 24 podium finisher came home third after a roller coaster of a 24 hour race.

“At five o’clock yesterday afternoon, I wouldn’t have dreamed to be on my way to the podium right now,” said Pew. “But I know the Shank guys, I know they don’t give up, and I’m not surprised. Nobody gave up, nobody put their heads down, everybody worked as hard as they could. You never know how it’s going to happen in the end, and I’m really happy with the podium. I’m just so fortunate to have met all these guys in the Shank team, and Ozz, and AJ, Justin, and Marcos. I’m very fortunate for how this all came together.”

The weekend was full of comebacks, as longtime Michael Shank Racing pilot Ozz Negri saw his first official race laps after suffering an accident in off-season testing that resulted in a broken ankle.

“To me it was just amazing to be able to be here,” said Negri. “A week ago, I didn’t know if I’d even be able to race. I had a broken foot, and I got my stint in and to find myself on the podium—it just tells you what this team is built with. Ford, Justin Wilson, Ambrose, AJ, John Pew, Mike Shank Racing crew, Continental Tires. I’m very proud. We never give up.

“It’s just a good momentum. You know, Daytona’s been good to us. This is the third time I’ve been on the podium with AJ and Justin racing together. Now having Marcos, and the second time with John, it’s a blast. Those guys are awesome. I’m just very thankful.”

“The biggest thing is MSR is just a world class operation,” said former Australian V8 Supercar Champion and six-time NASCAR winner, Ambrose. “It’s been a privilege to drive for them and be a part of this team. I’ve had a blast. I was nervous getting in for my first stint; I didn’t think I had done enough in practice to be ready, but the team’s so organized I got confident pretty quickly behind the wheel, and the car was working well. It was a great experience, it really was.”

“It’s really those guys over there—it’s those guys who bust their butt,” said Allmendinger as he motioned to the crew. “They had so much work to do, and they did it in so little time and all my teammates—John, Ozz, Justin and then Marcos put a great stint in right before I got in, Justin, as always, is spot on, so it’s always a pleasure to race with these guys, and race with this team, and we’ll come back and do it again and win this thing next year.

“It starts with Mike Shank—the attitude that he has, the effort he puts into this race team. He takes care of his guys. I think this is my eighth year racing it with him and I saw it from the first year. They don’t quit whether it’s a small problem or it looks like the engine blows up and they’re trying to put a new one in. Just pleased to go out there and to be able to take this car and get it on the podium. Just hopefully it kicks off for Ozz and John to try and win a championship.”

The sister No. 6 car, which had scored a run to the podium in 2013, was unable to play a role in the race on Sunday afternoon, despite having been well positioned by strong drives from all four in the line up.

“Last year it was very good,” said Yacaman. “We kept our nose clean, did what we were supposed to do, and got the job done at the end. This year, we weren’t so lucky. The GT traffic—and basically everyone—was more aggressive. In between both my stints, I think I got hit six times. Jorge just made a mistake—everyone makes mistakes. It was hard. I was a little bit tired. But we live and learn. The crew was perfect. The car did not have a mechanical issue at all, and like I said, we got hit a couple of times, and I’m pretty sure that Michael, and Jorge, and Chris had their moments as well in the car and their heart skipped a beat. The Ford engine ran great, shifting right on the limiter with no issues whatsoever. I think our strong points were the engine and the team really. The guys did an amazing job, the team did an amazing job.”

Scuderia Corsa

The one -year old Scuderia Corsa racing team came to Daytona to prove that two Ferrari 458 Italia could challenge the decades long Daytona supremacy of the legendary 911 Porsches.  And for much of the grueling 24 hour race, it seemed the #63 Ferrari was the car to beat.  Having led for the GT class for over 107 laps and staying in the top 8 for the entire 24 hours while finishing fourth was a significant achievement for this young team.  As team principal Giacomo Mattioli said, “we were competitive throughout the afternoon and night.  We had our issues but the Gods of racing must like us.  We finished the race and not only that, one position better than our first effort last year. I’m very proud of our team.  Just finishing the Rolex 24 At Daytona is an accomplishment.”

Mattioli was also counting on the skills of four extremely talented drivers – legendary GT racer and 2000 Daytona winner, Olivier Beretta and team drivers Alessandro Balzan, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Marco Frezza.  Three of the drivers held the GT lead at one point during the race. But many things can happen over 24 hours, and chronic brake pad issues, and a costly one-minute penalty forced the team to recover lost ground to competitors not willing to give it. On hand was Scuderia Corsa’s other team principal, Art Zafiropoulo who added, “we had our highs and lows but this team worked their butts off and we improved on last year’s result.”

Also watching closely was Ferrari North America president, Marco Mattiacci who watched most of the 24 hour race from the pits.  He said simply of Scuderia Corsa and the race he had just observed, “great team, great people, great experience.”

Staying competitive throughout the race was due in part to the reliability of the 458 Italia but also the drivers who kept the car on the track and out of trouble.  Driver Marco Frezza noted “the mechanics did a great job.  Working very long hours.  All the stops and driver changes are hard on them.  This course is fast and very different to the European tracks we are used to.”  Fellow driver Alessandro Pier Guidi added, “it was like a 24 hour sprint. You need luck to win here.”


Filipe Albuquerque

„It’s been crazy, this race. We did a perfect race. We got penalized during the race – I don’t know why. That took away a little bit our hope. We didn’t believe we actually had a chance. The team decided that I had to do the last triple or perhaps quadruple stint. I just pushed like in qualifying, but for more than two hours. One hour before the end, I got gearshift problems. This was preventing me from going faster. But the team did a fantastic strategy. That was just perfect. It was all about bringing it home. It was so emotional, everything was so tight. It was just crazy.“

Oliver Jarvis

„What an amazing feeling. We came here with a job to do: to win the race. We kept the belief all weekend even when the Porsches looked quick. To come away as winners, that has been very special. A huge thanks to the team Alex Job Racing and to the Audi Sport customer racing team that put a huge effort into this, and of course thanks to my team mates. What a fantastic job they have done. Now it’s time to go celebrate and enjoy the win.“

Dion von Moltke

„It’s a really really special win. It’s only my fifth Daytona 24 hours. I’m speechless to win it. We had the support from a great manufacturer like Audi, a company like WeatherTech and a team like Alex Job Racing. The team-mates which I had were world-class. We had as good a chance as anyone else to pull off this victory. It has been so many great teams and drivers and combinations that haven’t been able to do it. Just to be on that list of winners is unbelievable. It’s definitely making me speechless. Just standing alongside these guys. I’m just so happy for them as well. It’s been really really nice. It’s been really good to have been part of the Audi family and to bring home this very special Rolex 24 win.“

Edoardo Mortara

„It’s difficult to describe what I’m feeling now. I had a particularly difficult race in my last stint when I made a mistake. I felt quite bad because I handed the car over to Filipe one lap down. He was able to stay in the same lap as the leaders. He took this victory. Incredible. Two hours before the end, I was not even thinking about victory. I was hoping for maybe a top five result. To win is absolutely incredible. Thanks to Filipe, to Olly and to Dion. They did a fantastic job, as did Alex Job Racing, all the number 24 crew and our sponsor Weather Tech. Wonderful!“

A word from … Markus Winkelhock

When thinking about the 2013 Daytona 24 Hours in the future, what will stick in your memory?
Looking at the finish straight, because that’s what was right in front of my eyes when I coasted with an empty fuel tank on the last lap. That was definitely bitter after such a hard battle for success for 24 hours.

On the whole, it was an emotional roller-coaster for you…
That’s right. After the time penalty at night, which cost us two laps, we battled to make up ground again and took the lead. Then, in the last hour, I had to make sparing use of my fuel. We knew that it would be incredibly tight. The others came up from behind, so I had to step on the gas pedal again and still save fuel. That really wasn’t easy but we almost made it – running out of fuel only 200 meters before the finish line was obviously painful. But it was still a great race and a cool experience for me. It was fun for me and the guys from the team anyway. I hope that next year we’ll be able to strike back and complete the 200 meters that were lacking today.

What was going on in your mind at that moment?
Well, I knew that it would be a tight situation. My display was already showing “fuel alarm” on the last two laps, so I was expecting it in a way. But when the first misses actually started on the last lap I couldn’t help but think: “This can’t be true now!”

After qualifying, would you have expected such a big success for Audi?
Honestly speaking: no. But it was like it had often been the case in the past: We thought that it would be hard. But across the distance the Audi R8 was very, very good again. The R8 has meanwhile become an almost unbeatable endurance car that has won all the major endurance races that exist. But it was also a superb performance by all the teams, mechanics, drivers and everyone who was involved in this project. The entire team performance was right on the mark.

In which areas did the R8 GRAND-AM have its strengths at Daytona?
Things went really well across the distance and there was relatively little tire degradation. The car was consistently fast everywhere. The speed deficit we had in qualifying wasn’t quite as large in the race. Still, we lost a tiny bit on the straight. That made overtaking difficult for us. With a little bit more power I wouldn’t have had to stay behind a Ferrari here and there quite as long in traffic. But the car felt fantastic nonetheless: at night in cooler conditions just like in the heat – it was really good fun.

Will it be possible now to battle for victories with the R8 in the GRAND-AM at other races too?
I think that at Daytona we proved that the R8 GRAND-AM is capable of winning. I’m sure this will not have been the last GRAND-AM victory this year.

Source. BMW Motorsport, Audi Motorsport, Scuderia Corsa, Michael Shank Racing

You can find me on Twitter @jocaracing



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