Spirit Of Daytona Corvette Leads Rolex24 At Six-Hour Mark

Daytona Beach, Fla. – Sixty-one cars took the green flag at 3:30 p.m. and since the drop of the green flag, the competition has been intense with side-by-side and nose-to-tail racing the order of the day, thrilling one of the largest crowds seen at this event in years.

Picture-perfect weather and warm temperatures helped draw fans to the 50th anniversary edition of the Rolex24 at Daytona. The race marks the opening of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series season and like its companion event, the Daytona 500, the two historic races have become Super Bowls in themselves.

Leading up to the start, an enormous crowd jammed pit lane for the fan walk and the fanfare leading up to the race start. A. J. Foyt was to have been the grand marshal, but after he was hospitalized from complications from knee surgery, Sir Jackie Stewart flew in to take Foyt’s place and give the command to start engines.

Fast qualifier Ryan Dalziel blazed into the lead at the drop of the green and quickly pulled to a commanding lead. His first challenger was Max Angelelli but his charge was short-lived when his SunTrust Racing Corvette began to experience motor problems.

Angelelli brought the car in for an in-depth analysis and co-driver Ryan Briscoe tweeted “I think we’re done. Unbelievable.” Less than three hours into the race, the car was withdrawn from competition.

While the Starworks entry seemed to be the strongest one as the race went into the 13 hours of darkness, one of the Michael Shank entries, both of the Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates BMW Rileys and a handful of others served notice they could take and hold the lead.

Six hours into the fray, the Spirit of Daytona Corvette of Oliver Gavin, Antonio Garcia, Richard Westbrook and Jan Magnussen held a narrow lead over the GAINSCO Corvette of Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and Memo Gidley.

In the GT class, the Stevenson Motorsports Camaro had the lead. It is being driven by Robin Liddell, John Edwards and Ronnie Bremer.

In a surprise occurrence, Marco Andretti arrived in the early evening after a full-day of IndyCar testing at West Palm Beach and without one lap of Daytona Prototype experience or competition at Daytona, he came prepared to drive a second Starworks car to co-drive with his Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay. Entering the seventh hour, he climbed aboard the car.

During the pre-race festivities, 27 former Rolex24 winning cars were rolled on to the track and the cars were joined by current and former drivers that had connections with the car. After a colorful ceremony, the cars were fired up and took a number of laps to the delight of the crowd.

Dario Franchitti got a surprise gift when he was offered the opportunity to drive a historic Porsche 917. Said the IZOD IndyCar champion, “In the past, I had sat in one but never have driven the 917. I was just looking forward to watching the cars parade around when the owner offered to let me drive it. It was a fantastic experience. When you gave it a little power on the banking, it really went. It was a stunning thing to drive. It was a typical Porsche. The temperature perfect was perfect, the gear box lovely and it had lots of power. Overall, it was a fantastic experience.”

Share Button