After 24 hours and nearly 800 laps of close quarter, tight knight racing with storylines aplenty, it was Meyer Shank Racing headed up by British driver Tom Blomqvist and 4-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves that came out on top as the overall winners of this year's edition of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, denying Wayne Taylor Racing their 5th Rolex 24 in the last 7 years. With the win, Helio Castroneves becomes just the third driver to win 3 straight Rolex 24s in the overall.
"I knew we had a fantastic car...I just have to say a massive well done to everyone who worked on this project," Blomqvist said after the victory in an interview with NBC Sports. "These guys are...big props to everyone!" added Castroneves.
Blomqvist started on pole and led the opening hours before Scott Dixon took over the race lead at the 6 hour mark, allowing his teammates in the 10 to lead overnight before late night trouble pushed the WTR team 2 laps back and near out of contention. But Wayne Taylor Racing, as they will do, battled back and got back on the lead lap with under 2 hours left and a daring move on a late restart put Felipe Albuquerque in position to take the win away from the 60, but just didn't have enough at the end, settling for a 2nd place finish. Renger Van Der Zande finished 3rd, Earl Bamber 4th and Alex Sims finished 5th.
One of the stories to watch was the 57 team - taking the pole in GT3, wrecked in practice, got forced to the rear, lost one of their drivers to injury and having to call in a backup driver. They looked to be on pace for a class win before late race issues brought their dreams to a halt.
Outside of the new GTP class and the overall, we saw James Allen win for Proton in LMP2 in an exciting finish over Ben Hanley, Wayne Boyd took home the LMP3 class win, Maro Engel and WeatherTech Racing got the checkers in GTD Pro and Marco Sorenson took the flag in GT Daytona.
We're closing in on quarter distance of the 2023 running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway and with darkness having fallen, the race to Sunday morning is well underway. We now take a look at some of the storylines to follow as we race towards sunrise over Daytona Beach.
Meyer Shank Dominance
The 24 began with the 60 Meyer Shank team on the overall pole and right away, they pulled away to as much as a 40 second lead before the first round of stops. However, entering hour 5, the Wayne Taylor Racing team hit their stride as they closed the gap to under a second before finally taking the lead early into the fifth hour of racing. We'll see if the Wayne Taylor team can replicate Meyer Shank's early dominance or if the 60 Meyer Shank team can retake the lead as the hours tick away.
Early on, we were to be expecting troubles with these new hybrid cars and among the notables was one of the BMW factory entries - the 25. That car fell out early with Connor De Phillippi behind the wheel. Gar Robinson and John Farano's entries would also fall out early with various issues as attrition starts to set in and will only heighten before Sunday morning dawns, revealing the battle scars of the night.
In practice Thursday, the 57 Winward Motorsport entry piloted by Lucas Auer suffered a brutal head-on collision with the wall, injuring Auer and leaving him out of the 24. The team quickly brought in team principal Russell Ward to drive in his place. So far, through 6 hours, the 57 is top of the board in GT3. This inspiring story is one to watch intently as the night goes on.
Rest assured there will be many more stories and many more drivers to watch as the clock ticks on to the checkers shortly after 1:30 Sunday afternoon.
With the long winter about to end and baseball's pitchers and catchers about to report to spring training, it's about time to get back to the track for the first major race of the year - the Rolex 24! Before the green flag drops on Saturday afternoon for the iconic 24 hour showdown, here are some storylines to follow.
This year's Rolex 24 field is as diverse as past editions, featuring more than 200 drivers in 61 cars across five classes. The drivers represent all disciplines of motorsports from IMSA to IndyCar to NASCAR and beyond. As for country representation - over 30 countries and all 6 inhabitable continents are well-represented in the field this year.
The IndyCar contingent is led by New Zealander and 6-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, partnering with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande in the 01 Cadillac factory entry while Colton Herta will be pulling the double, alternating between driving the 24 and 25 BMW factory cars. Also among the IndyCar delegation are Simon Pagenaud and Rinus VeeKay.
Meyer Shank Attempts To Defend
Meyer Shank Racing is back with last year's championship team, led by 4-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who himself is looking for his third straight Rolex win having won in 2021 with Wayne Taylor Racing as well as last year with Meyer Shank. Of course, looking to stop Castroneves and the Meyer Shank team is the old standby of Wayne Taylor Racing. The 10 Konica Minolta team let by Wayne's son Ricky and Portuguese driver Felipe Albuquerque. Joining them is Swiss driver Louis Deletraz and New Zealander Brendon Hartley from the World Endurance Cup.
With the checkers falling at last year's Petit Le Mans in October also came the end of the half-decade era of the Daytona Prototype International - DPI - class. In its place comes the all-new Grand Touring Prototype class. Expect speeds comparable to the old Daytona Prototypes and DPIs, but more competition, more action and an all-around better on-track product. It will be a learning curve at first for driver and team, but once we get to Long Beach in April or the Six Hours of the Glen in June, working on and racing these cars may just end up being second nature to those involved.
The first test comes Saturday afternoon in the 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.