The annual IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship kick-off saw the team show strength through the variable weather, after leading 92 laps. The race featured periods of powerful rain which made for a chaotic finish to the 57th running of the endurance event as the team pursued another victory in the fabled race.
With a combined total of 29 Rolex 24s under their belts ahead of the race weekend, Trent Hindman, Mario Farnbacher, Justin Marks and AJ Allmendinger paired in an attempt to snatch the highly sought-after Rolex Daytona Chronograph watch that goes to the winners.
Getting a strong start to the race, the No. 86 LaSalle Solutions Acura led 92 laps within the first 20 hours of the race with Hindman, Marks and Allmendinger all leading at various points. Allmendinger’s takeover of the lead on lap 521 officially continued the MSR veteran’s streak of leading every Rolex 24 (13) that he competed in with MSR.
As the race approached the 15 hour mark, the dark skies opened up as forecasted and the rain poured all the way through to the conclusion of the race. Marks was the first driver to put the new Michelin rain tires to the test after taking over from Farnbacher on lap 321, entering the fray 11th upon returning to the track. Marks made an incredible drive in treacherous wet conditions that saw him move up the order to claim second by lap 349.
The final nine hours of the race generated just 38-minutes of green flag racing with extended yellow flag running as well as two separate red flag periods – the first time in race history. Despite the short period of green flag activity, the conditions demanded full focus from closing driver, Hindman who relied on team spotter Mike Sweeney to maneuver through the on-track melee.
Also on hand, Ben Waddell served as a second set of eyes in the spotter box during the dramatic run to the finish as cars skated off track in nearly every corner.
Unfortunately, at the 23 hour and 50-minute mark, the 57th running of the Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona was called off due to increasing bad weather conditions. The No. 86 LaSalle Solutions / MSR Acura NSX GT3 Evo finished with a fifth place result.
Meyer Shank Racing will look ahead to the next IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Sebring International for the 12 Hour Endurance classic on March 16th but will first kick off the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series at the Streets of St. Petersburg on March 10th.
MSR Team Quotes:
“This was a really tough one for us. I don’t think I have experienced a race like I did in the last 24 hours. Trent, Mario, Justin and AJ all impressed me. The four of those guys are able to get in the car and drive the wheels off of it. Trent has continued to impress me with his abilities and paired with Mario, Justin and AJ they were a great team. We were in contention for the win, but with the weather our cards didn’t fall right. A top five is still good points to start off the season.”
Trent Hindman, No. 86 LaSalle Solutions Acura NSX GT3 Evo:
“The most important thought I had out there was to just keep the car on the track. I had no idea where we were on speed or track position – completely blind. I wanted to keep the car in one piece, on track, and pointed straight. In order to move up more positions, it would have required a lot more risk in a situation that wasn’t great to begin with considering the weather. A big thanks to Meyer Shank Racing, LaSalle Solutions, and all my teammates for all the work they have put in. We did the best we could with the car that we had and the rain did not help our strategy any. Mike Sweeney, our spotter, was completely on point and amazing during the craziness of this race so a big shout out to him. Now to get back out there and shoot for a better result at Sebring.”
Mario Farnbacher, No. 86 LaSalle Solutions Acura NSX GT3 Evo:
“We had a good start into the race. Trent (Hindman) had a great double stint in the beginning which put the car in a good position for me to take over. Unfortunately, we ran low on fuel going into a caution causing us to have to pit to take emergency fuel. After that, I had to work to put the car back in a good position while maintaining the lead lap. My second stint, late in the night, was also very good. The total chaos started with the rain. It’s unfortunate that we were not able to finish the race after running for so long. Trent and AJ did a great job at the end and this LaSalle Solutions Acura was set up great for us. We will take the top five and aim for a better result at Sebring.”
Justin Marks, No. 86 LaSalle Solutions Acura NSX GT3 Evo:
“This has been an incredibly difficult race due to the environmental elements. I wasn’t entirely happy with my pace in the dry, but when it rains – I have a lot of confidence. The car was performing well in the rain which helped me get it up to second place. These were tough conditions and we have been trying to make the most of it. Additionally, getting caught out of pit sequence compared to everyone else has made it important for us to get back to the front on track. The team has done a fantastic job. The effort put in this weekend, at the Roar, and all winter to get these cars ready is amazing. I am proud to be with this team.”
AJ Allmendinger, No. 86 LaSalle Solutions Acura NSX GT3 Evo:
“It was nasty out there, on the border of ridiculous, but I get it – it’s the Rolex 24, not the Rolex 19. Conditions are nasty, probably the worst conditions I’ve driven in. I got in a good rhythm, though it wasn’t easy. But I need to say a lot of thanks to Honda/HPD – their tuning on the motor makes it a lot easier to drive. You kind of place the car and hold onto it but what they do with the motor makes life a lot easier in these conditions. We were here to win a watch and I’m bummed that we weren’t able to do that for the team. I am so proud of these guys, they are my family. They worked hard all race long, great pit stops, great work on the car and I am so lucky to get to race for Mike (Shank) once again. Even though it wasn’t a win, we kept it clean and finished in the top five which will be good points for Mario and Trent heading into the rest of the season.”
Heinricher Racing Acura Fought Forward At Daytona
After overcoming several setbacks, the all-female No. 57 Heinricher Racing & Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo completed the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Sunday with a 13th place result.
The 57th running of the Rolex 24 was the first in history to end early after being called at the 23 hour and 50-minute mark for precarious weather conditions which left standing water on the track.
The Jackie Heinricher-led effort paired Katherine Legge, Christina Nielsen, Bia Figueiredo (Ana Beatriz) and Simona De Silvestro for the Rolex 24’s first all-female entry in 25 years. With 24 hours of racing ahead, Figueiredo made her first-ever Rolex 24 start, laying down clean laps prior to a lap 64 hand off to Neilsen. The two-time IMSA champion showed her strength with a strong run on the lead lap to best position the team for pit strategy.
One of several upswings of the race was highlighted by Legge’s ambitious drive to the front. After receiving the car in 11th, Legge charged to the front of the field and brought the No. 57 machine to third before handing the car off to De Silvestro.
The Rolex 24 can throw several obstacles at teams and drivers, but history was made as Sunday’s race finish was the first ever to end early due to weather. The early hours of the morning saw the rain start, with De Silvestro taking the first stab at the Acura’s rain set up. As conditions deteriorated, the first red flag was deployed, lasting for one hour and 45-minutes.
De Silvestro was positioned for the restart and managed to keep control in the varying conditions for a lap 550 handoff to Legge. With conditions that were near impossible to maneuver through, Legge suffered damage after an off course excursion saw the front of the car make contact with the wall. Bringing the No. 57 back to the garage, the crew quickly made repairs and had Legge back out on track for the finish.
The final red flag was thrown at 12:39pm on Sunday and unfortunately the field would not see the green flag again as the No. 57 team settled with 13th.
Although the result was not reflective of the team’s strength or pace, the teamwork and strength that was produced was exemplary.
The next round of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition will head to Sebring International for the 12 Hours of Sebring which will run in conjunction with the World Endurance Championship, ‘1000 Miles of Sebring.’
“We ran a respectable hard-fought race at Daytona,” said Heinricher. “We finished the race after watching many cars in the field wreck during incredibly difficult rain conditions. Ultimately ending the race with a red flag for only the second time in the race’s history. The Heinricher Racing No. 57 Acura ran an amazing race for the 57th running of Daytona. My teammates are extraordinary talented drivers, the entire effort from drivers and the entire MSR organization represents the true definition of teamwork and we look forward to our Heinricher Racing Caterpillar car continuing to run towards the IMSA championship with our next step at Sebring.”
“I am so proud of all of these women for what they have accomplished this weekend. And thank you to Jackie Heinricher who worked so hard to get this effort together. Results aside, these women raced for a greater cause, and that was a win in itself. The positive response from the fans to this effort has been overwhelming. This was probably one of the toughest races in my entire career but all of these women pushed and stayed out of trouble when they needed to. This is only the first race of the season for the Heinricher Racing / MSR team, and we have a lot more to show for the rest of the season.”
“I am extremely proud of the effort from the entire Heinricher Racing Caterpillar MSR squad,” said Legge. “It was not the result we had hoped for or deserved, but the rain made things a lottery. Huge thanks to the team, who performed flawlessly as always, and the other drivers who did a stellar job considering the treacherous conditions. Also big shout out to our spotters who were instrumental in helping us through the monsoon! Kudos to Jackie who not only put this amazing bunch of professionals together, but also for staying up with us the whole time and leading from the front!”
“It’s disappointing to have a situation like we had so close to the end of the race, but it’s super tricky conditions out there and it could happen to anyone. Here, if you make one mistake, there are high consequences. Props to the Heinricher Racing and Meyer Shank Racing guys for getting the car back out on track. We were able to collect points for the rest of the season and I know that one or two points can matter in the end – I’ve been there. I’m so thankful for Jackie and Mike for bringing me on board for this weekend. After competing against Mike’s cars I know that he runs a very professional team and I experienced that this weekend.”
“This has been an amazing experience. Being able to do this big endurance race with Meyer Shank Racing and Heinricher Racing with Caterpillar surprised me in many good ways. They are incredibly professional with the team’s focus and Mike’s (Shank) leadership. The team and crew are just amazing. They gave me the confidence to qualify the No. 57 car and start the race on Saturday. This rain has been crazy and something we could have never imagined. We got caught with this weather but it could have been any one of those cars out there because of the unpredictability but Katherine (Legge) is very experienced in the car. Now time to recoup and get to more races this year. I’m happy to be standing here today. I am thankful and happy to have been here and learn everything that I did.”
Simona De Silvestro:
“The rain was pretty crazy and it was really hard to see anything out there. As a racer, you always want it to go green, but it just became dangerous. There was more and more water coming, more rivers, and it was hard because the tires were really low on temperature. I putted around, following everyone but you can’t really do much. For my first Rolex 24 Hour it was pretty fun. The Heinricher Racing and Meyer Shank Racing team was great to work with. It was unfortunate to have that off at the end, but the guys worked so hard to get the car back out on track and they really gave it their all to keep us running to the finish.”
Source. Sunday Group