The number 2 Tequila Patrón ESM Ligier-Honda JSP2, driven in the premier Prototype class by Pipo Derani, Johannes van Overbeek, Scott Sharp and Tequila Patrón CEO Ed Brown, was the winning car at this past weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, the opening race of the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
It was the first overall victory for not only a Honda-powered car at Daytona but also the Ligier prototype built by France’s Onroak Automotive. It was also the first for most of the drivers, though a second for Sharp who won with rival car owner Wayne Taylor back in 1996.
It was certainly no walk in the park. The team finished just 26 seconds ahead of the number 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Dallara Corvette DP driven by Jordan and Ricky Taylor, Max Angelelli and former Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello, also in the Prototype class. It was a constant battle for the lead throughout between these top teams.
Unfortunately for another top contender, Michael Shank Racing with its own Ligier-Honda JSP2, mechanical failure meant an early end to its run. Also suffering from a bad day was the oddly-shaped car of Panoz DeltaWing Racing, which crashed out in the early stages. Both teams were leading multiple times during the race.
2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona
The number 2 ESM moved back into the lead for the final time with slightly more than two hours remaining, when Derani took over from co-driver van Overbeek, then caught and passed the Wayne Taylor Corvette DP. Earlier in the race, Derani set fastest race lap, and he again exhibited both speed and control in the final hour to build a convincing, 26-second lead that he maintained to the checkers—not bad for a 22-year-old.
Over the 24 hours, the number 2 ESM completed 736 laps on the 3.56-mile circuit. Third place in Prototype class went to Visit Florida Racing and its number 90 Corvette DP driven by Ryan Dalziel, Marc Goossens and Ryan Hunter-Reay, close to 1:30 behind the leader.
In the Prototype Challenge class, JDC-Miller Motorsports dominated the class with its number 85 Hi-Tide Boat Lifts/Red Line Oil Oreca FLM09 driven by Chris Miller, Misha Goikhberg, Stephen Simpson and Kenton Koch, despite a crash that cost them 10 laps for repairs.
Second place went to the number 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09 driven by Tom Kimber-Smith, Robert Alon, Jose Gutierrez and Nicholas Boulle. Third place, meanwhile, went to No. 20 BAR1 Motorsports car driven by Brendan Gaughan, Johnny Mowlem, Tomy Drissi, Marc Drumwright and Ricardo Vera.
Corvette Racing C7.R at the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona
In the GT Le Mans class, it was a one-two finish for Corvette Racing competing with the Corvette C7.R. Crossing the line first was the number 4 car of Marcel Fassler, Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner, just 0.034 seconds—the closest class finish in the history of the Rolex 24 at Daytona—ahead of the number 3 car driven by Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller. Third place went to the number 912 Porsche 911 RSR driven by Earl Bamber, Frédéric Makowiecki and Michael Christensen. Sadly, they lost the lead just 36 minutes before the end of the race.
Finally, in the GT Daytona class, victory went to the number 44 Audi Tire Center Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 driven by John Potter, Andy Lally, Marco Seefried and Rene Rast. Menwhile, second went to the number 540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Patrick Long, Timothy Pappas, Andy Pilgrim and Nicky Catsburg and at third was the number 93 ViperExchange.com Dodge Viper GT3-R of Ben Keating, Jeff Mosing, Damien Faulkner, Gar Robinson and Eric Foss.
2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona
Sadly, there were no miracles for two cars making their debut in international racing. The number 28 Konrad Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 looked set to win the GT Daytona class but ran out of fuel with only three minutes remaining. And the new Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F] GT race cars failed to shine. Both cars suffered gearbox issues that quickly set them too far behind to catch up. The number 66 car finished seventh in class (GT Le Mans) while the number 67 car finished ninth, with both well back on many lesser GT Daytona cars.
The next race in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, taking place March 19.