DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — One by one the top contenders in the Rolex 24 at Daytona fell victim to the bumps and breaks of a twice-around-the-clock endurance race.
Defending champion Chip Ganassi Racing had a brake issue that took the “star car” out of contention before the halfway mark. Michael Shank Racing blew an engine while leading the race. Then Action Express Racing headed to the garage while leading because of a broken axel with just under four hours remaining.
It left only two cars on the lead lap Sunday and Scott Sharp and his Tequila Patron Extreme Speed Motorsports had Wayne Taylor Racing covered.
Luis Felipe Derani, a Brazilian in his first career sports car race in the United States, closed out the win for ESM with a 26-second victory over Taylor’s battered crew. Although the Taylor entry has completed every lap since 2013, the Corvette on Sunday lacked the speed that ESM had in its Honda-powered Ligier.
Plus, Jordan Taylor’s driving duties were limited because of two infections he’s been battling for two weeks. Older brother, Ricky, was sick to his stomach at the end of his final stint and Max Angelelli was taken to a local hospital after the race for treatment. No details were given about Angelelli’s issue, but the Taylors had thought fumes were seeping into the car in the waning hours of the race.
It led to Scott’s second victory in the prestigious event, 20 years after he won it — driving for Wayne Taylor. This win was the first for Honda at Daytona.
“You know, that was a great win early in my career, no doubt. A lot of people have recounted it this week,” Sharp said. “Wayne takes his stuff very seriously and puts forth an incredible effort, has great drivers. It’s rewarding certainly beat them, but I think most importantly for us as a team going forward, the big thing is the win.”
Sharp and Derani were joined on the winning team by Ed Brown and Johannes van Overbeek. It was the 22-year-old Derani who did the bulk of the work for ESM, driving to the lead almost every time he got behind the wheel.
Jordan Taylor wondered if the Honda package wasn’t the real reason Derani shined. He noted that Shank’s Honda was leading when it had an engine failure.
“When I was following (Derani), he missed quite a few apexes,” Taylor said. “I think the car is strong. It was a strong package this weekend.”
With so little action in the Prototype class, the real race came down to the GT Le Mans class and a duel between the pair of Corvette Racing entries.
Corvette gave drivers Oliver Gavin and Antonio Garcia the go-ahead to race each other hard over the final 30 minutes. The two yellow Corvettes battled several times side-by-side before Gavin nipped Garcia at the finish by .034 seconds.
“It was crazy. Antonio was coming so quickly,” Gavin said. “I knew I was going to have a battle on my hands. Then when he caught me, he tried to pass me around the outside in Turn 1 and he was almost sideways. I was still trying to get the spot back. It was as close as it possibly could get to us touching. He’s a fantastic teammate and an amazing guy. I wouldn’t want to race anybody else. He kept it super clean.”
Chevrolet executive Jim Campbell lauded the 1-2 effort of the Corvettes.
“We decided to let the No. 3 and No. 4 C7.R teams race it to the end, and we are glad we did,” he said. “It was an exciting finish.”
The GT Daytona class was won by Magnus Racing and the lineup of Andy Lally, John Potter, Marco Seefried and Rene Rast in an Audi R8. It’s Lally’s fifth class victory, and he vowed to give the commemorative Rolex watch to his little sister.
The Prototype Challenge class was won by JDC-Miller Motorsports, which finished 18th overall. The team was comprised of Chris Miller, Stephen Simpson, Misha Goikhberg and Kenton Koch in an Oreca FLM09 Chevrolet.