DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In another nail-biting twice-around-the-clock finish, Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 01 BMW Riley and co-drivers Scott Pruett, Juan Pablo Montoya, Memo Rojas and Charlie Kimball captured the 51st anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.
The victory was Pruett’s fifth overall in the Rolex 24 and puts him alongside sports car great Hurley Haywood on the top of the Rolex 24 all-time wins list. In addition, Pruett increases his all-time Rolex 24 class victory mark to 10.
Pruett received his winning Rolex watch from Haywood, who served as the race’s Grand Marshal.
“It’s just an incredible day all the way around,” Pruett said. “Winning with these guys and winning with Chip and then at the end of it, I’ve gotten to know Hurley real well over the years by racing with him and as a friend. Having him there at the end is pretty special.”
“I can’t say enough about Hurley Haywood being there in Victory Lane,” said Chip Ganassi. “We were at the Rolex dinner the other night, and when you look at Hurley’s career and the cars he’s driven and the co-drivers he’s been with, to have a name like Scott Pruett up there tying his record is quite a feat.”
For Rojas and Montoya, it was their third overall Rolex 24 victory while it was the first for IZOD IndyCar Series driver Charlie Kimball.
“We won the championship last year and the expectations are high,” Rojas said. “We set ourselves a high goal (in the offseason) and we were going to try to win the 24 hours first, and hopefully we can go for another championship.”
Owner Chip Ganassi is now batting 50 percent in the Rolex 24 by capturing his fifth Rolex 24 triumph in 10 attempts.
The No. 01 team was labeled as the car to beat entering this weekend’s Rolex 24. The team lived up to those expectations by leading a race-high 421 of 709 laps to capture North America’s most prestigious sports car race.
In the final hours, Montoya was locked in a tight four-car battle with defending champion No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley, the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Chevrolet Corvette and the No. 9 Action Express Chevrolet Corvette.
Montoya slipped past AJ Allmendinger’s No. 60 entry in the final hour and completed a late gas-and-go pit stop to secure a 21.922-second victory.
The winning No. 01 car had an average speed of 105.22 mph during its 709 laps and 2,524 miles, nearly equivalent of a one-way trip from Daytona Beach, Fla., to downtown Los Angeles.
There were 77 car lead changes during the race, a new record for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
As far as which victory will rank as his favorite, Pruett said that’s too difficult to answer.
“Every event that I’ve come here is significantly different,” Pruett said. “Sometimes you are faced with rain, sometimes you are faced with incredibly hot temperatures and sometimes you are faced with a car that is down from where you hoped it would be. They are all very special.”
GT: Audi swept the top two spots in the GT class with the No. 24 Audi Sport Customer Racing/Alex Job Racing team (Filipe Albuquergue, Oliver Jarvis, Edoardo Mortara, Dion von Moltke) taking home the class victory by 1.476 seconds over the No. 52 Audi Sport Customer Racing/APR Motorsport Ltd.UK.
Albuquergue, competing in his first race at Daytona, was struggling to get the No. 24 car to the finish line as the car was having gear box problems.
“I started to have gear problems,” Albuquergue said. “I had to use the clutch, upshifting, downshifting, but I was just getting slow and took some risks.”
Another notable from the GT class: The eighth-place finish (16th overall) by AF-Waltrip Ferrari 458, which was co-driven by NASCAR drivers Michael Waltrip and Clint Bowyer as well as Rob Kauffman and Rui Aguas.
GX: In the inaugural race for the newly formed GX class, three GX cars battled a few laps apart, but as the clock ticked down to zero, the No. 16 Napleton Racing Porsche Cayman (Jim Norman, Shane Lewis, David Donohue and Nelson Canache) took top honors.
Said Donohue: “For us, it was a race of preparation, and our guys did a superior job when this program was conceived in early November of building a car and making it reliable and keeping the stock parts where they needed to be and the proof is in the pudding.”
Bullet Racing in the No. 22 Porsche Cayman GX.R took second, while the No. 38 Ormond Beach-based BGB Motorsports Porsche Cayman GX.R team finished third.
Tickets for Budweiser Speedweeks 2013 and the 55th annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 24 are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Fans can follow sports cars on Twitter at GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series (@RolexSeries) and the Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge (@SUNOCO_UK). Fans can also stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest for the latest news all season long.
Release from Daytona International Speedway // Photos Courtesy Grand-Am