in WeatherTech Championship GTLM Class
No. 48 Paul Miller Lamborghini Team Celebrates First Rolex 24 At Daytona Win
It took every hour of the Rolex 24 At Daytona to determine who would be declared the victor in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class at Daytona International Speedway.
From the start, the strongest contenders appeared to be the two Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR-19 entries – the car’s official IMSA debut – versus the two BMW M8 GTEs for BMW Team RLL. However, Corvette Racing and Risi Competizione took turns in the top three as well.
In the final hours of the race, a blanket could have been thrown over the Porsches and the No. 24 BMW of Jesse Krohn, John Edwards, Augusto Farfus and Chaz Mostert. Edwards handed the car over to Krohn in the lead with two hours remaining, but Nick Tandy in the No. 911 Porsche was able to pass the BMW fairly quickly after the stop.
Krohn lost ground but valiantly fought back to get bumper-to-bumper with Tandy with less than an hour remaining. The Finn pulled his BMW on the outside of the Porsche down the front stretch heading into Turn 1 but was initially unable to complete the “over-under” pass.
However, if you don’t succeed, try and try again.
Just a few minutes later, Krohn pulled the same move on the front stretch and, with momentum, swung from the outside to the inside of Tandy’s Porsche heading towards the International Horseshoe. He stuck the BMW to complete the pass and didn’t relinquish the lead for the remaining 45 minutes.
“It’s stressful,” said Krohn. “I had little sleep through the night. It was all on my shoulders in the end. I didn’t want to be the guy who finishes second and denies these guys the watches. I put my head down. I didn’t know how we did it. I’m out of words. No mistakes from anyone at BMW RLL. This is what it takes to win the race.”
Sunday’s victory marked back-to-back GTLM wins at the Rolex 24 for BMW Team RLL. Their 2019 victory being the most recent time the team stood on the top step of the podium.
Farfus is the only driver that was part of both winning lineups. For Krohn, Edwards and Mostert, this is their first Rolex watch. Additionally, IMSA entered the Rolex 24 weekend with 997 winners in the sanctioning body’s top-tier series. Mostert was one of five first-time WeatherTech Championship winners at the Rolex 24, sending that number over 1,000 to 1,002.
“We were back and forth with the Porsche, we’d get out ahead, fall back, get in front,” said Edwards. “It was a hard fight. I think running at the end of a Daytona 24 hour is a different race. I’d like to say it was a fun battle, but it took a lot out of me. This is by far the biggest victory of my life.”
After Krohn’s pass, the No. 24 BMW set sail, with the Nos. 911 and 912 Porsches dueling among themselves for the final two podium positions. With under 40 minutes remaining, Earl Bamber in the No. 912 passed his teammate Tandy in the No. 911. The finishing order remained the same, with Bamber co-driving with Laurens Vanthoor and Mathieu Jaminet, and Tandy alongside Frederick Makowiecki and Matt Campbell.
Corvette Racing is still in search of its 100th IMSA victory, with the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R of Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg finishing the highest of the team’s two entries in fourth.
The BMW Team RLL’s No. 25 of Connor De Phillippi, Philipp Eng, Bruno Spengler and Colton Herta rounded out the top five.
No. 48 Paul Miller Lamborghini Team Celebrates First Rolex 24 At Daytona Win
After one of the most intensely competitive battles in the Rolex 24 At Daytona field, the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini edged the No. 44 GRT Magnus Lamborghini by a mere 21 seconds to earn the GT Daytona (GTD) Class victory Sunday afternoon in the classic endurance twice-around-the-clock race on Daytona International Speedway’s infield road course.
From green flag to checkered flag the two Lamborghinis fought each other for the storied race victory. After taking the lead for the last time during a pit stop only 50 minutes before the checkered flag flew, Italian Andrea Caldarelli held off the field and brought the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 to the checkered flag - best in class.
Americans Madison Snow, Corey Lewis and Bryan Sellers rounded out the driving lineup. It’s the first win for all four drivers and for Miller the long-time team owner and former IMSA driver. The victory was the third consecutive GTD Rolex 24 At Daytona victory for the Italian manufacturer.
“A lot of years trying, a lot of years of pain and watching other people walk by you with the watch you want so bad,’’ said Sellers. “It feels so good to have it all finally come together.”
Calderelli credited the crew for playing a huge role in the victory. He passed his former teammate and fellow Italian Marco Mapelli in the pits.
“It was very tight,’’ Calderelli noted with a smile. “I used to race with Marco in the same car, so we never really fought one-on-one. I know him. It was a very fair fight and we both represent Lamborghini as well. So we didn’t do any stupid things, but outside it was fun to watch and also inside the cockpit.
“The last eight hours were like a sprint race.’’
The No. 44 GRT Magnus Lamborghini finished second with John Potter, Andy Lally, Spencer Pumpelly and Marco Mapelli driving the Huracan GT3. The No. 88 WRT Speedstar Audi Sport R8 LMS GT3 was third.
The next race on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts on Saturday, March 21. The race starts at 10:40 a.m. on CNBC. It can also be streamed on the NBC App with authentication and TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold. IMSA Radio will have coverage available at IMSARadio.com, RadioLeMans.com and Sirius XM.
Kyle Busch Finishes First Rolex 24 Appearance
The event ran under clear skies, comfortable temperatures and a star-studded entry list that also featured newly-crowned NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch in a GTD class AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3.
It was Busch’s Rolex 24 debut and although his car finished ninth in the 18-car class field, he was impressive behind the wheel – completing four driving stints for more than six hours total. He was fast enough to make up laps on track, and up until the last driver change, he had the fastest lap in the car moving up the field even after several mechanical challenges so typical in the grueling ‘round-the-clock race.
“There was a lot going on and a lot to learn and kind of pick up on and figure out,’’ Busch said of his first Rolex run. “Overall it was good. We had a lot of fun, I enjoyed it. Just being able to get back in a race car again, kind of my season warm-up if you will, and to be able to go out there and run a ton of laps and have a good go of it.
“Unfortunately, we just got a little behind with the brake change there, had some issues on the right-front caliper. I guess that got us a little bit further back than we wanted to be. We just didn’t have the long run pace.’’
His team owner this weekend, former IndyCar Series champion Jimmy Vasser, was all smiles on pit lane as Busch drove the team’s No. 14 Lexus across the finish line. Obviously disappointed to miss a podium finish, he remained optimistic about his team’s IMSA season and glad to have had Busch behind the wheel for this renowned race.
“A great team effort,’’ Vasser said. “With the troubles we had, nobody gave up, everybody pitched in. And speaking on Kyle, he impressed.
“I’m not sure why he impressed. He’s a NASCAR champion. He’s won more NASCAR races in the modern day than anybody but it takes a lot of confidence and guts to jump into a discipline that he’d never really done before and he did it with ease.
“He was really, really impressive. He was running times of the top sports car pros. It was a joy to have him. He’s a very serious guy, but he was a joy to have on the team and really added a lot for our people to see how a true professional works. Not that we don’t have them here, but he’s a great champion and a true champion.’’
Busch said he remains open to making a second Rolex start, but insisted he wanted to evaluate the weekend before making any firm plans.
“Too soon to say,’’ Busch said. “I think I will digest all of this and figure it all out. I enjoyed the experience and being able to get out there and do it.”