Action Express Racing Sweeps Historic Rolex 24; Ganassi Claims 200th Win

There’s a reason endurance races are named for time and not distance.

When the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R took the chequered flag to make Filipe Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa, and Christian Fittipaldi 2018 Rolex 24 overall champions, the three winners had driven a distance of 2,876.48 miles between them. That adds up to 808 trips around the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway. The feat broke the famed event’s all-time distance record of 2,760.960 miles, set in 1982.

The victory was particularly sweet for the Action Express Racing team, as their cars finished first and second with the winning car featuring the same lineup that finished second in the previous year’s race after contact with eventual winner Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. This year, the WTR entry piloted by Jordan Taylor, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Renger van der Zande retired in the early hours of Sunday morning with mechanical issues. The defending champions would place 15th in Prototypes, 45th overall.

With team owner Chip Ganassi serving as the event’s Grand Marshall, his Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team would do him proud - dominating the event to sweep the top two positions and give Ganassi Racing its 200th victory. As if the victory was not already sweet enough, it came over the two Corvette Racing entries that had dominated practice and qualifying sessions.

The winning car, piloted by Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, and Ganassi IndyCar driver Scott Dixon claimed the second consecutive Rolex 24 GTLM class victory for Ganassi - the team’s eighth overall.

Not to be left out of all the history being made in this year’s event, the GTD class ended with GRT Grasser Racing Team’s Lamborghini Huracan GT3 claiming the manufacturer’s first Rolex 24 victory. The team came to the line ahead of a Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 for the unprecedented feat to round out the event’s champions.

With the jubilation of victory must come the anguish of defeat. The highly anticipated endurance racing debut of Fernando Alonso marked a bittersweet performance. The two-time Formula 1 World Drivers’ Champion saw the front of the field for a period, but his team would eventually succumb to nagging mechanical issues to place 13th in Prototypes while United Autosport’s second car would place fourth overall, narrowly missing a podium finish.

Team Penske debuted their Acura ARX-05 DPi rides with the star-studded lineups of Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor, and Graham Rahal in one ride, while Dane Cameron, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Simon Pagenaud would pilot the second. Having qualified strong and run up front early on, issues heading into the latter portions of the race would see the team fall back and finish a respectable ninth and tenth overall. While the end result did not match the team’s potential, the strong showing from the new cars and team’s new entry bode well for the season ahead.

With the iconic Rolex 24 now in the books for 2018, the year of major motorsports has official gotten underway. The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will next take to Sebring International Raceway for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The green flag waves to roll the season onward Saturday, March 17th.