DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – official release — Jerry Markland/Getty Images North America photo —
After 24 hours, 740 laps and 2,634.4 miles, the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona came down to an eight minute, 30-second dash to the checkered flag that saw the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford EcoBoost-powered Riley DP squeeze out a 1.333-second victory over the defending Rolex 24 champion No. 5 Action Express Corvette DP.
IndyCar star Scott Dixon drove the closing stint in the Ganassi car, carrying his three teammates – fellow IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan and NASCAR racers Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson – to the Prototype class and overall win.
Dixon has won the race before in a Ganassi car, but it’s the first win for Kanaan, McMurray and Larson. The victory makes Ganassi the winningest team owner in the history of the race — this is his sixth win in 12 starts.
“It’s such a team effort here,” Dixon said. “We kept the car clean, tried to look after it as much as possible. It’s great to get back here for Team Target and Ford EcoBoost. I’m just stoked for the whole team.”
Sebastien Bourdais drove the closing stint in the Action Express car, taking a solid, but still disappointing, second with teammates Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa. The good news for the team: They are running for the season championship, but the No. 02 Ganassi car isn’t, so the Action Express car has a good jump on another season championship in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Third was the Corvette DP of Wayne Taylor Racing, with brothers Ricky and Jordon Taylor sharing the car with veteran Max Angelelli. A late-race driver change put the car behind, and it ended up one minute and seven seconds back.
The fourth-place Prototype was six laps back, so it was a battle between the top three finishers.
The eight minute, 30-second dash to the end was created by a crash, and then a fire, in the class-leading Prototype Challenge No. 54 CORE autosport Chevrolet-powered ORECA FLM09, which was being driven by Colin Braun.
That left the door open for a Prototype Challenge win by the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports car, driven by Tom Kimber-Smith, Andrew Palmer, Andrew Novich and Mike Guasch.
The GT Le Mans class race was another close one, with the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R taking the win and a surprising fifth overall, just 0.478 seconds ahead of the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE. Antonio Garcia drove the winning Corvette home, sharing the ride with Jan Magnussen and Ryan Briscoe.
In GT Daytona, the No. 93 Dodge Viper SRT finished first in class, 13th overall, 7.6 seconds ahead of the No. 22 Alex Job Racing/WeatherTech Porsche 911 GT America. Dominik Farnbacher co-drove the Viper with Al Carter, Kuno Wittmer, Cameron Lawrence and team owner and Viper dealer Ben Keating.
Since the factory-backed Dodge Viper team ended its racing program after the 2014 season, Keating said it was important to bring the car back to the Rolex 24.
“This one is for the Viper nation!” Keating said.
Fifty-three cars started the race, which ran under clear, cool skies after a heavy rain ended Saturday morning prior to the start. Race pace was faster than 2014, the first year for the TUDOR Championship, when the winning car completed 695 laps, compared to 740 this year.
Next up for the series is the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida on March 21.
CREDIT: IMSA Wire Service