After the four Cadillac DPi cars finished 1-2-3-4 in qualifying at the Roar before the 24 in early January, two of them managed to finish 1 and 2 in the Prototype class in the farthest-traveled 24 hours at Daytona in history, an incredible 808 laps and 2,876 miles. Despite repeated mechanical and tire failures from a number of cars throughout the day and night, the race featured just four full-course caution periods for a total of 20 laps, contributing greatly to the record distances. Even unexpected rain showers on Saturday evening didn’t seem to slow the field down.
The No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi car (Christian Fittipaldi, Felipe Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa) managed to overcome overheating issues and hold off the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi car (Stuart Middleton, Eric Curran, Mike Conway, Felipe Nasr) to take the win by nearly a lap. The No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA LMP2 car (Colin Braun, Jonathan Bennett, Romain Dumas, Loic Duval) finished third.
The win was especially sweet for Fittipaldi’s team (Action Express Racing), as an agonizing spin-out with just minutes to go in the 2017 Rolex 24 cost them the victory. Despite having engine problems for nearly six hours, they were able to build up such a large lead that they could avoid pushing the car too hard down the stretch, even reportedly killing the engine on straights to cool the car down faster with minutes to go.
“It was the longest five hours of my life,” said Joao Barbosa. “I don’t have enough words for the Action Express guys. We knew we had an issue, luckily we had quite a good lead with 3 laps and we managed that just perfectly. The guys in the stands, all the crew did a tremendous job. The Mustang Sampling Cadillac held on to the end.”
The other two Cadillac DPi cars, the new-for-2018 No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing car and the 2017 Rolex 24 Champion No. 10 Konica Minolta car, were not able to finish due to mechanical issues. The No. 90 had an engine misfire that could not be diagnosed and the No. 10 car was having repeated tire failures and decided not to continue due to driver safety concerns.
In the GTLM class, it was the Ford GT show, as the No. 67 car (Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, Scott Dixon) and the No. 66 car (Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller, Sebastien Bourdais) took turns leading the race and finished 2 laps ahead of the 3rd place finisher, the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R car (Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen, Mike Rockenfeller). The Chip Ganassi Racing team celebrated the organization’s 200th victory with the dominant Fords.
“It's been a great weekend,” Ganassi said. "For me, it was one of the most nerve-wracking wins. After a certain amount of hours go around the clock, it's your race to lose – and those are the worst races, because everything's out of my control."
Finally, the GTD class offered the most drama overall, where several teams took turns in the lead before the Grasser Racing Team secured victory with its No. 11 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 (Mirko Bortolotti, Rolf Ineichen, Franck Perera, Rik Breukers). Finishing second was the No. 86 Michael Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 (Alvaro Parente, Trent Hindman, Katherine Legge, AJ Allmendinger) followed by the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 (Andrea Caldarelli, Bryan Sellers, Bryce Miller, Madison Snow).
“I’m speechless,” said Mirko Bortolotti. “It’s a big day, it’s a big win, one of those races everyone wants to win. We came from the last position to win this race – just super proud, super happy. We did an amazing job, the whole team – Lamborghini – first 24 hour race win for us. I hope there’s some more coming but for now I’m really happy and enjoying this one. I want to say thanks to everyone, also to the fans for coming down here and supporting us this weekend, it’s such a beautiful atmosphere here in Daytona and to take the win from the back of the field is just unreal.”
Speaking of the fans and the atmosphere, the YouRulz team was present and spreading the word about the upcoming inaugural season of Fantasy IMSA, a message that was met with great interest from both the racing teams and fans alike. I couldn’t imagine a more exciting start to the 2018 racing season, which could end up one of the most memorable ever.
The YouRulz team will see you at the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring in March!