DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Corvette Racing completed its domination of the GT Le Mans class at the 59th Rolex 24 At Daytona Sunday afternoon with a sweep of the top two positions at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
However, its winning car was a bit of a surprise.
The No. 3 C8.R made a furious rally from a drive-through pit penalty incurred with two hours and five minutes remaining, ultimately defeating the sister No. 4 C8.R by 3.519 seconds after 770 laps of competition in the manufacturer-driven class.
Much of that charge came on the back of Jordan Taylor’s determined efforts down the homestretch of the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic.
Taylor took over the car from Nicky Catsburg during the penultimate pit stop, after Catsburg stalled the car earlier and fell to fourth in class due to a subsequent penalty for passing cars in the pit commitment zone. From that point, the charge was on.
Taylor snagged the class lead for good with 20 minutes to go, 14 laps from the finish, after the off-sequence Risi Competizione Ferrari of Alessandro Pier Guidi made its final pit stop.
After that, Taylor held off Tommy Milner in the sister Corvette for his third Rolex 24 class win, adding GT Le Mans honors to overall victories in the event from 2017 and ’19.
Co-driving with Taylor to Sunday’s victory were Catsburg, who celebrated a Rolex 24 class win for the first time, and Antonio Garcia, a three-time Rolex 24 class winner who previously won with Corvette Racing in 2015 and overall with Brumos Racing in 2009.
Garcia was unable to join the post-race festivities because of a positive COVID-19 test that was relayed during the event, ruling him out from roughly 9 a.m. ET to the finish.
The win was particularly special for the 29-year-old Taylor, in part due to the fact that his older brother, Ricky, was part of the overall winning team from Wayne Taylor Racing.
“It was pretty wild that it came down the way it did, with a one-two (finish) for Corvette Racing, but Tommy (Milner) raced me super clean and that was awesome,” Taylor said. “Nicky and Antonio (Garcia) did an amazing job. This is just a great event for Corvette Racing. It’s the first endurance win for the C8.R after our championship last year.
“Great way to start the season, and I’m happy we got Nicky his first Rolex watch, as well.”
Milner was aided in his runner-up finish by co-drivers Nick Tandy and Alexander Sims, with the No. 24 Team RLL BMW M8 of Augusto Farfus, John Edwards, Jesse Krohn and Marco Wittmann completing the GTLM podium after also playing a part in the battle for the win.
The GT Daytona class was ruled by the HTP Winward Motorsport No. 57 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Maro Engel, Russell Ward, Indy Dontje and Philip Ellis, which seized control of the class just before the 20-hour benchmark and commanded the proceedings from there.
The turning point came with four hours and 16 minutes to go, when the Winward Mercedes was battling the No. 21 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo when the two cars made contact, sending the Ferrari — then second with Matteo Cressoni driving — spinning in the first turn.
After making several charges at the class lead, AF Corse was never a factor after that.
Engel drove the No. 57 in the closing stages and bested the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Raffaele Marciello, Mikael Grenier, Luca Stolz and Kenny Habul by 16.329 seconds in the end.
It marked a victory in the Rolex 24 for the Winward Motorsport team in its event debut. In addition, three of its four co-drivers had never competed in a Rolex 24 before the weekend.
“I could never have pictured this,” said Ward, who helped assemble the four-man Winward squad together for its run in the Rolex 24. “We came here with just an expectation to drive clean, finish the race without any marks in the car and see where that put us. We did both those things, but we also got the whole cake as well. Hats off to this team.
“As a team, I think we just wanted it more than the rest,” Ward added. “We worked hard at the shop for a couple of months, getting everything ready, and it really paid off. The car was amazing and this is an amazing feeling.”
Finishing third in the GT Daytona class was the No. 1 Paul Miller Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo co-driven by Bryan Sellers, Corey Lewis, Madison Snow and Andrea Caldarelli.