Seventeen year-old sports car racer Parker Chase completed his first 24 hour endurance race on Sunday, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Challenge Rolex 24 At Daytona, the youngest driver to compete in this year’s running of the event. The 2018 Pirelli World Challenge SprintX champion put forth an impressive debut performance with Starworks Motorsport, racing an Audi R8 LMS GT3 in an event plagued by torrential rain, high winds, and multiple caution periods. By the conclusion of the event, only 57% of the race had been conducted under green flag conditions.
Starworks Motorsport approached the IMSA WeatherTech season opening event with high hopes, but a lack of straight line speed and power compared to the rest of the GTD class competition kept the No. 8 Audi R8 LMS low on the position charts in practice and qualifying. With each practice, the team continued to adjust the car’s set up, determined to find every possible advantage in preparation for Saturday’s race. Ezequiel Companc qualified the car in 17th, and after the drop of the green flag, immediately reported to the team the speed disparity between the Audi and the rest of the field. He brought the car to 14th place by the end of his stint, and Parker Chase took over at the one hour mark. Chase showed a strong opening stint, bringing the car up to eighth place before handing the driving duties over to Ryan Dalziel. The car made its way up to sixth as the first few of what would be many caution periods interrupted the on track battles. Dalziel and Christopher Haase raced into the late night running strong stints to methodically gain positions.
Knowing the strength of the Audi R8 LMS in the rain, the team eagerly anticipated an approaching storm cell, hoping to gain significant ground in wet conditions. By the halfway point, the strategy calls in pit lane, adjustments to the car in the pit stops, and the expert driving by the four pilots brought the No. 8 Audi R8 LMS up to fifth at the halfway point, with Parker Chase running just eight seconds behind the class leader.
Bad luck struck in the early morning with eleven hours remaining on the race clock. Chase had just completed a pit stop and on cold tires had contact with the pit wall exit, resulting in the team taking the car back to the garage to repair the damage. Chase returned to the competition 11 laps later, eager for more caution periods in which the team could take advantage of the pass-around procedure and regain lost laps to the leaders.
In the next caution period to follow, the team gained a lap back just in time for the clouds to open over the circuit. Heavy rain poured and puddles started to form, resulting in a series of caution periods over the next few hours. The skies remained overcast as daylight finally graced the track after a long, cold night of racing. Rain continued to pour down as the race stewards tried to keep the event going. Standing water all over Daytona International Speedway resulted in various cars hydroplaning off course, and incident after incident forced the sanctioning body to bring out 18 caution periods during the 24 hour event.
With seven hours remaining, the race was temporarily halted for over an hour, prohibiting the team from taking advantage of the strength of their car in the wet conditions. The race resumed, but the calamity and caution periods followed. Officials red flagged the race for a second time at 12:49PM, parking all the cars in pit lane with hopes that the storm cell would pass and racing could resume. Unfortunately, the torrential downpour continued and the standing water continued to cover more of the circuit as the hours passed. IMSA officials ended the race 10 minutes early, resulting in the Starworks Motorsport Audi R8 LMS to finish in 15th place.
“My first Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in the books,” said Chase. “It was just as brutal as I expected. I learned a lot myself and I think we learned a lot as a team. I’ll make sure to not make the same mistake in the future. On to the roughest track in the world, Sebring International Raceway.”
Parker Chase will next compete at the legendary Twelve Hours of Sebring, March 13-16.
Source. KBru Communications