DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Sebastien Bourdais’ spotter sent him a message as Bourdais’ Chip Ganassi Racing and Ford GT teammate Dirk Mueller crossed the line to win the GT Le Mans class in Sunday’s conclusion of the 55th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“Dirk … I think my spotter just sent me a message that he is a stud,” Bourdais laughed.
And Mueller certainly was over the final 35 minutes of the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic.
Piloting the pole-winning and race-dominating No. 66 Ford GT, Mueller, Bourdais and co-driver Joey Hand controlled much of the 24 hour race at Daytona Int’l Speedway, but it was Mueller who muscled his way to the inside of James Calado’s No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE entering turn one of the infield road course and seized the event by the throat just prior to the final half-hour of competition.
Slamming doors as they wrestled with their cars, Mueller came away with the lead, while Calado fell back to third behind the Porsche of Patrick Pilet just before the final caution of the event flew for Andy Lally’s stranded No. 93 Acura NSX GT3.
The incident created a frenetic 20-minute dash for manufacturer glory, with Mueller out in front while the top four GTLM runners were nose to tail: Ford leading Porsche, Ferrari and Corvette.
On the race’s last restart, Pilet took a shot to the outside of Mueller entering turn one, but couldn’t find any traction and was forced to settle back in behind the German. The same move five minutes later, with a quarter-hour remaining on the clock, yielded the same results.
Pilet took one final high side shot with just under 10 minutes to go as Mueller ran wide entering turn one, also peeking high at the International Horseshoe, but Mueller’s car control was enough that he was able to collect the car, stay in front of Pilet and start to edge away.
From there, Pilet fell back into the clutches of a charging Calado in the final laps, while Mueller went on to victory — Ganassi’s first in GTLM competition at Daytona but his seventh total class win at the Rolex 24.
“I just couldn’t be any more proud of these guys and Ford and Chip Ganassi Racing,” said Bourdais. “That’s about it. Just unbelievable the job (Dirk) did at the end there to make it stick.”
“This is a stressful race … but Dirk, he was the man at the end. He got it done,” added Hand. “He was in a tough situation and he made it happen. Thanks to my German brother from another mother. He pulled through and we’ve got another one here.”
Mueller, Bourdais and Hand made up the same team that drove the Ford GT to the win in last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“We all look to win races,” Hand explained. “You want to win the big ones, and this is a big one. Chip always says, #ILikeWinners … and I think everyone here likes to win. We’ve got a great group of people … we all like working together, and I think as we get better and better we’re going to win more and more.”
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