Kamui Kobayashi, driving the #10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DP1-V.R he shared with Renger van der Zande, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon, won the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the first round of the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Kobayashi took the chequered flag 62.071 seconds ahead of the #77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPi, Oliver Jarvis at the wheel of the car he drove with teammates Tristan Nunez and Olivier Pla.
Completing the overall podium positions was the #5 Mustang Sampling Racing / JDC – Miller Motorsports Cadillac piloted by Sébastien Bourdais, Loïc Duval and João Barbosa, Duval bringing the car home for the final stint.
The LMP2 class saw victory go to the #81 DragonSpeed USA ORECA LMP2 07 crewed by Ben Hanley, Henrik Hedman, Colin Braun and Harrison Newey with Hanley driving the final stint.
Over 90 seconds back and second in the LMP2 category was the #52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA piloted by Ben Keating, Simon Trummer, Nick Boulle and Gabriel Aubry, the Frenchman driving the final stint. The final podium position in the LMP2 class went to the #18 Era Motorsports ORECA of Kyle Tilley, Dwight Merriman, Ryan Lewis and Nicolas Minassian.
Class honours in the closely contested GTLM class went to BMW with the #24 BMW Team RLL M8 GTE taking the win. Jess Krohn brought the #24 BMW home 14.010 seconds ahead of Earl Bamber in the #912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR-19.
Finishing third in the GTLM category was the sister Porsche GT Team entry, the #911, in which Nick Tandy crossed the line 4.180 seconds behind the #912 Porsche.
The GTD category saw the victory go to the #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 crewed by Madison Snow, Bryan Sellers, Corey Lewis and Andrea Caldarelli. The Rolex 24 at Daytona marks a remarkable run for Andrea Caldarelli, Team Principal of FFF Racing Team by ACM. The team took a clean sweep of titles in the 2019 Blancpain GT Series.
Second in the GTD category was the #44 GRT Magnus Lamborghini in which Marco Mapelli drove the final stint in he car he shared with John Potter, Andy Lally and Spencer Pumpelly.
As the Rolex 24 at Daytona entered its final six hours the #10 Cadillac held a lead of over 50 seconds ahead of the #5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac. There was a surprise in store, however, for the race leaders when it was announced that Ryan Briscoe had been served with a 60 second stop-and-hold penalty for running a red light in the pit-lane.
The class-leading LMP2 entry, the #52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA, whose lead looked unassailable as the race entered the final quarter, was held at its driver change to investigate a mechanical issue at the rear. As a result of the delay, the #81 DragonSpeed USA took the lead, which it held to the end of the contest.
The class lead in the GTLM category, which had been taken by the #24 BMW team RLL M8 GTE after ten hours, remained close, and as the race approached the final two hours, was just under 11 seconds ahead of the #911 Porsche.
With two hours to run, Kamui Kobayashi in the #10 Cadillac held a lead of over 28 seconds from Tristan Nunez in the #77 Mazda. Duval, in the #5 Cadillac, was 15.6 seconds further back in third.
The closest battle on-track, however, was in the GTLM category where Jesse Krohn in the #24 BMW held the narrowest of leads over Earl Bamber in the #912 Porsche. Bamber found a way past on Lap 720 to pass Krohn and immediately set about pulling a gap to the BMW.
In the GTD class it was a Lamborghini 1 – 2 with less than two hours remaining, Marco Mapelli in the #44 Lamborghini holding a slim lead over Andrea Caldarelli in the #48 entry. Mirko Bortolotti in the #88 Audi was nearly 18 seconds behind the leading pair.
With 82 minutes remaining, there was drama for the #62 Ferrari when a blown tire saw James Calado carefully recover the stricken Ferrari back to the pits with a the right rear corner scraping along the tarmac. After checking the right rear corner, the car was retired, Calado commenting that there was no point ‘just going round’.
As the 2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona entered the final 60 minutes, Kamui Kobayashi had extended the #10 Cadillac’s lead marginally and was now over 35 seconds ahead of Oliver Jarvis in the #77 car.
In the GTD class, the battle for the lead continued with Andrea Caldarelli enjoying a lead of over 12 seconds over Marco Mapelli in the #44 car. Both cars, however, would need to stop again before the chequered flag.
The lead in the GTLM class was still being hotly contested. Jesse Krohn in the #24 BMW passed Nick Tandy in the #911 for the lead on lap 760 and set about pulling out a gap to Tandy’s Porsche. Tandy immediately pitted as the Porsche GT Team planned the final stint for both 911 RSR-19s. Following the stop, Bamber in the #912 Porsche appeared to have the pace on Tandy’s #911 and passed the British driver for second place with less than 40 minutes remaining.
As the race drew to a close, Kamui Kobayashi, having been informed by the team that fuel was not an issue, increased his lead over Oliver Jarvis in the #77 Mazda and came home to win by a margin of over a minute.
Kobayashi’s teammate, Ryan Briscoe, was delighted and relieved that the team held on for the win.
“(The key to our victory) was just keeping it on the track,” said Brisco as the #10 car headed to victory lane. “Kamui did a fantastic job the last two and a half hours. We knew the car was fast and we were just relieved that there were no Yellows at the end and we could just maintain the lead. I’m just so proud of all these guys. Wayne (Taylor) just puts together this programme and it’s always a car that can win the Daytona 24 hours – I think it’s three out of the last four years now. To be a part of it, I’m just so happy for everyone on board and we did it!”
Jon Edwards, part of the winning crew of the #24 BMW Team RLL M8 GTE GTLM entry was equally as relieved to see his car take the chequered flag as class winner.
“I mean, I’ve never even finished on the podium here. Daytona has treated me so badly! I think this might be my tenth year here. The very first year we finished fourth and we had another couple of times finishing fourth. That’s so bittersweet. I think today we were looking pretty sure that it was going to be a podium and even if it had been second or third it would have been so bittersweet. It was hard to watch at the end!”
The next round of the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship takes place at Sebring on March 21.