DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Cadillac DPi-V.R dominated the proceedings during the 58th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona, earning the overall victory Sunday at Daytona Int’l Speedway in the season opener for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Carried down the stretch by Japanese standout Kamui Kobayashi, the WTR Cadillac led 493 of a race-record 833 laps en route to the team’s fourth overall Rolex 24 win and third in the last four years.
Alongside Kobayashi, the Taylor team’s all-star cast included full-time co-drivers Renger van der Zande and Ryan Briscoe, as well as five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon.
Though there were a few nervous moments – such as the 8 a.m. hour, when Briscoe blew the red lights at the end of pit road and earned a stop-and-hold plus 60-second penalty following the fourth full-course yellow – the team as a whole never faltered down the stretch.
Briscoe used a stellar triple stint to not only run his team back onto the lead lap, but ultimately to take the lead from the JDC-Miller Motorsports/Mustang Sampling No. 5 on the 690th lap around Daytona’s 3.56-mile infield road course – just inside of four hours to go in the twice-around-the-clock grind.
From there, the WTR entry led all but one of the final 144 laps on its way to victory lane, ceding the top spot for a brief moment with 36 minutes to go when Kobayashi came down pit road for the last time.
Aside from that, it was one of the more-dominant performances in Rolex 24 history, a run that also kept Kobayashi perfect through two appearances in the North American endurance classic.
“I’ve been to Le Mans several times and never won, but here, I’ve come twice (and gotten) two wins,” Kobayashi noted in victory lane. “I think this was the best car I’ve ever driven. It was fantastic and a fantastic feeling to win here again.”
“Kamui was the guy that all our drivers realized could finish this race and be the star (at the end),” said team owner Wayne Taylor. “Add to that we’re representing a Japanese company (in Konica Minolta), and it was just the right thing (to do).”
Though Dixon was suited up to potentially go in for a final sprint to the finish, that opportunity never materialized.
It didn’t matter, however, as the Kiwi celebrated his third overall win at the Rolex 24, putting him into an exclusive club of drivers to have won the event three or more times.
“I’ve been in these situations before, and you don’t want to add any complications,” Dixon explained. “The driver lineup was so strong. We just wanted to eliminate any process where we might mess up somehow. … I had a lot of fun; I want to thank Chip (Ganassi) for allowing me to do this race, and I can’t thank Wayne and Max (Angelelli) and Konica Minolta enough.
“This is big, man. It’s so crazy to have to sit there and watch the race for the majority of it!”
After claiming his first Rolex 24 win last year, van der Zande’s victory marked his second-consecutive Daytona score with Wayne Taylor Racing, as he and Briscoe chase the season championship this year.
“I didn’t know the car was going to be this good. It’s amazing,” said van der Zande. “I’ve never had such a good car here from start to finish. It was like a dream. It was so nice to be in a fast car. I’m over the moon.”
“This car was just phenomenal,” added Briscoe, whose triumph marked his third class victory but first overall win in Rolex 24 competition. “We had the pace all race long. This is three out of four years for Wayne, and I just feel lucky to be a part of it. It was a bit of a roller-coaster ride, especially the early morning, but once we got on the straight and narrow, man … the car was fast.”
Mazda Team Joest completed its most-successful Rolex 24 to-date on Sunday, making it to the checkered flag for the first time and finishing second with the No. 77 co-driven by Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez and Olivier Pla.
Jarvis brought the car home to the finish, crossing the line 65.426 seconds back of Kobayashi.
Completing the overall and DPi podiums was the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R fielded by JDC-Miller Motorsports, coming in as the last car on the lead lap at the hands of Loic Duval, Joao Barbosa and Sebastien Bourdais.
In LMP2 action, the No. 81 DragonSpeed ORECA 07 co-driven by Ben Hanley, Henrik Hedman, Colin Braun and Harrison Newey – the son of legendary Formula One car designer Adrian Newey – dominated the class and finished two laps ahead of the rival No. 52 ORECA 07 from PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports.
It was the second-straight Rolex 24 class win for DragonSpeed, but this time came with a completely-different driver lineup.
“Those last 18 laps were long laps,” said Hanley, who drove the final stint for the team. “The team was counting me down, and I almost told them to be quiet, because they just seemed to be taking forever at the end. Everyone did a faultless job, though. I don’t think we made any contact at all through the race.”
Ben Keating, Gabriel Aubry, Simon Trummer and Nick Boulle brought the PR1/Mathiasen No. 52 home in the runner-up spot, after mechanical issues at the end of the 18th hour dropped them from contention to collect the class honors.
On the final step of the LMP2 podium was the Era Motorsport No. 18 team of Kyle Tilley, Dwight Merriman, Ryan Lewis and Nic Minassian, 11 laps behind the class-winning DragonSpeed entry.
BMW Team RLL and Paul Miller Racing won in the two GT classes Sunday at Daytona. For more on those results, click here.