Wayne Taylor Racing has stormed to a second straight Rolex 24 At Daytona victory with its No. 10 Cadillac DPi, handing the marque four straight wins, and a clean sweep since the inception of the DPi era.
Kamui Kobayashi and Renger van der Zande — who have two wins in a row now with the team — along with Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon were masterful here, and overcame a power steering issue and penalty in the second half of the race to take a rather dominant-looking victory of a minute over the competition.
“This is, as everybody knows, a difficult event to win, (and) this was more difficult than any other year,” said Wayne Taylor. “We had a low car count which meant there weren’t going to be many yellows, so we worked so hard.
“The yellows change the entire race. The team was outstanding, the drivers around me I can’t say enough about; they are superstars without egos. This event is all about the people and everybody focusing on the big picture, and what it is to win.
“I’m ecstatic. It’s our third win as a team, and, for me, five wins including as a driver. I can’t say enough about (Kamui) Kobayashi and (Ryan) Briscoe. Renger did a five hour stint in the night and was really impressive, too. And Dixon …
“What that should mean is that Cadillac pays us a lot of money and says, “You guys are the factory team,” he added when asked about Cadillac’s four straight DPi wins at the Rolex 24. “The good thing is I’m 63 years old and can get away with saying what I want! But I can’t think of anything more exciting than going on to win the Le Mans 24 Hours with Cadillac. We need to figure that out with GM. It would be good to take this group to (France).”
With perfect weather, and a low car count, fans were treated to a ton of green flag running. There were just six cautions (for 1 hour 45 minutes) in this race, which saw the previous distance record of 808 laps (from 2018) destroyed once again, with 833 completed. It wasn’t an all-time classic, but this was a high-speed chess game which in all four classes kept us guessing until the final hours.
Mazda, in by far its best performance at Daytona in many years, finished second with its No. 77 RT24-P. While this is a huge turnaround for the brand, which hasn’t had a car finish this race since 2012, the team will leave disappointed to come so close after such a strong run in the build-up and during this race.
One of the more pleasant surprises in this race was the No. 5 JDC Miller Mustang Sampling Cadillac, which finished third and led for various periods of this race. The squad, which hasn’t got the resources of the other Cadillac teams, but has world class drivers, can be proud of this run to third.
Off the podium was the No. 6 Acura. It was a hugely disappointing race for the Penske team, which had high hopes of challenging for the win all the way to the flag this year with its ARX-05. But the No. 7 suffered heavy damage from being hit by the No. 55 Mazda early on, and the No. 6 sister car suffered porpoising issues that cost the team time throughout, resulting in its car finishing five laps down.
Two other contenders which suffered here were the No. 55 Mazda, which had multiple mechanical niggles en route to finishing sixth, and the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac that had the pace but spent an extended period behind the wall after a puncture and never recovered. It finished seventh.
It must be noted, though, that while many cars in DPi hit trouble, all of them made the finish. The three chassis are all clearly mature now and capable of surviving plenty of punishment.
LMP2 was won in dominant fashion by DragonSpeed, its No. 81 ORECA of Ben Hanley, Henrik Hedman, Colin Braun and Harrison Newey delivering the team its second win in a row at Daytona after a near faultless run. Aside from a puncture, the No. 81 ran like clockwork and that was enough to fend off the No. 52 PR1 ORECA which often had a pace advantage when the amateur drivers in the class went head to head.
PR1 finished second, two laps back, with the No. 18 Era Motorsports ORECA a distance third, 11 laps adrift.
“What he (Ben Keating) did in this race in LMP2, was just amazing,” said DragonSpeed’s Hedman of his PR1 team rival. “He is a Bronze driver but his performance was on par with Gold drivers — unbelievable. All kudos to him. They were unlucky, but at the end of the day we had the crew to do this. I’ve been here for five years and there is no better place to be,” Hedman explained after the post-race conference, noting rival Keating’s performance in the race, particularly the start where he gapped the entire LMP2 field, consistently running multiple seconds quicker than the other drivers.
Only one LMP2 didn’t finish, the No. 38 Performance Tech ORECA, which underwent a significant amount of repair work before the race event started after its heavy off in the final practice. It was the first LMP2 to suffer a blow in the race, Cameron Cassels going head on into the barriers at the International Horseshoe triggering a caution. From there it was a tough race all the way until the car was retired.
The only other car which really looked capable of challenging here was the No. 8 Starworks ORECA. Peter Baron’s crew looked certain for a podium, but a water system malfunction cost the team dearly, dropping them to fourth.