By IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Wayne Taylor was noticeably emotional atop the pit box as Kamui Kobayashi guided his No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R across the start/finish line to the overall win the Rolex 24 At Daytona – the second straight for Wayne Taylor Racing and the fourth total for the team.
And the first without one of Taylor’s sons in the driver rotation.
Kobayashi, Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon and Renger van der Zande filled out the Cadillac’s lineup with Ricky Taylor racing for class rival Acura Team Penske and Jordan Taylor making the move to the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class with Corvette Racing this season.
“I can’t explain it,” Wayne Taylor exclaimed when asked what the win meant to him.
The team became the first to repeat as overall Rolex 24 winners since Chip Ganassi Racing won three straight Rolex 24s between 2006 and 2008. Dixon was part of the winning lineup for that 2006 victory, which was his first in the twice-around-the-clock.
“When they come into this little team of ours, they are just so focused, and so passionate about winning,” Taylor added. “And unfortunately, we are really bad losers. So, when we win like this…I have got to talk about Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe, van der Zande. Kobayashi – I mean, the guy is a superstar.”
Only van der Zande and Kobayashi returned from the race-winning effort the year before, which also included two-time F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso and Jordan Taylor.
Kobayashi was as effusive as Taylor in his praise for the team.
“We worked together to build the car,” he said. “We focused in the race, we came back from the Roar, we found something good so we bring it back for race weekend. And once we rolled out, it was fast. This win is all about people helping each other, bringing the speed, bringing the car together. I think the team really felt like family.”
Following the mid-way point in the race, it appeared to be clear sailing for the reigning race winners as they led at the hour mark for the next six hours. But Briscoe’s final turn in the car proved to be a true test for the team.
“That was a roller coaster,” he said.
After taking over for van der Zande in the 18th hour, Briscoe faced mechanical issues that caused a loss in power steering as he navigated the bus stop. He was able to pull to the apron, recycle the electronics and avoid pitting to stay in the lead.
But while pitting from the lead under caution at just over 18 and a half hours into the race, Briscoe missed the red light on pit road upon exiting his pit box, landing the team a stop plus 60 seconds penalty.
That put the No. 10 a lap down when Loic Duval in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi overtook Briscoe as he was leaving pit road after serving the penalty. Briscoe was relegated fourth place overall with just over five hours remaining in the race.
Briscoe said the proximity of the team’s pit box to the red light on pit road contributed to the miscue.
“I actually left the pit box and we’re right down at the end there, so the red light is over to the left as soon as I pull out of my pit box,” he said after finishing his final stint. “And when I pulled out, I was actually checking my mirrors to see where the competition was.
“It’s my bad, I just didn’t see it.
“Thankfully, we had a couple yellows fall our way, we were able to get back on the lead lap and just go to work.”
It was Briscoe who regained the lead from Mustang Sampling, with Joao Barbosa behind the wheel, just minutes after the clock turned to 20 hours completed. And other than a brief trading of the lead during final pit stops, the team never looked back as they drove to a dominating win.
Although the pole-sitting team of Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez and Olivier Pla in the No. 77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPi held the lead after the opening two hours of the race, they didn’t lead at an hour mark after the eighth. And, ultimately, couldn’t break the streak of Rolex 24 wins by the Cadillacs since the start of the DPi era (2017) as they finished second.
Barbosa, Duval and Sebastian Bourdais were the other main challengers in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac, finishing third in the race.
The race was a record-breaker. The previous lap record of 808 (set in 2018) was bettered by 25 laps for a total of 833 laps and 2,965.48 miles.
A year ago, DragonSpeed held the prestigious watches aloft with the No. 18 driven by Roberto Gonzalez, Pastor Maldonado, Sebastian Saavedra and Ryan Cullen. Two of the drivers from this year’s winning team – Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman – joined them on the podium, but watched the celebration from a bit of a distance as they finished third in the race.
This time, it was their turn to shine.
The No. 81 ORECA LMP2 07 entry piloted by Hanley, Hedman, Colin Braun and Harrison Newey led the final 212 laps of the race to take the victory. It was the first IMSA victory of any kind for Hanley, Hedman and Newey and – alongside Chaz Mostert (GTLM) and Andrea Caldarelli (GTD) – helped IMSA reach the 1000-driver mark regarding number of drivers who have recorded at least one win in the highest level of racing sanctioned by the governing body.
Prior to the start of the Rolex 24, 997 different drivers had stood atop the podium in the top-tier series. The mark now stands at 1,002 drivers.
“I’m the only American racing rookie here, this is my first time to Daytona,” Newey said. “It looks like a simple track on paper, but there are a lot of nuances that could cost you a lot of time. All these guys really brought me up to speed and got me comfortable. There were no secrets, and I think that’s what put us on the top step.”
For Braun, it was his second Rolex timepiece, following a 2014 Prototype Challenge win with CORE autosport. And he held no reservations about it being a total team effort to get the victory.
“Ben drove the wheels off the thing,” Braun said. “The guys have great pit stops and great strategies all day. When you execute like that and make no mistakes, you’re usually rewarded with a victory.”
The battle was intense atop the LMP2 leaderboard for most of the race, and only two teams ever holding the lead – the race-winning DragonSpeed entry and the pole-sitting No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07 piloted by Ben Keating, Simon Trummer, Nick Boulle and Gabriel Aubry.
PR1 Mathiasen held onto the lead for the opening 104 laps of the race. After that initial stretch, the teams traded the top spot frequently until Braun passed Keating just after 7 a.m. on Sunday (17.5-hour mark) for the final time.
Shortly thereafter, PR1 Mathiasen fell four laps behind during an extended pit stop to repair damage and although they got back to just a lap down at the end, the car could never catch back up to DragonSpeed who led the final 212 laps.
The PR1 Mathiasen team finished second while Era Motorsport’s No. 18 car driven by Kyle Tilley, Dwight Merriman, Ryan Lewis and Nic Minassian finished 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.