Mazda Motorsports have taken a one-two victory in the Weathertech 240 at Daytona in a race that was delayed due to weather, while Corvette took its 100th victory in American soil as well as the maiden win for the Corvette C8.R.
Jonathan Bomarito and Harry Tincknell took the race win in the #55 Mazda RT24-P, finishing ten seconds clear of team-mates Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez in the #77 sister car. In GTLM Antonio Garcia held onto victory by holding a charging Earl Bamber at bay as AIM Vasser Sullivan took a dominant one-two win in GTD.
Delayed start and strategy intrigue
The start of the second round of the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship was delayed by nearly an hour due to thunderstorms in the area. Once the race did get underway, the track was still wet but rapidly drying out, presenting teams with the dilemma of starting on wet tyres or slicks.
Initially, it seemed like those starting on wet tyres had made the right decision as those on slicks struggled and quicky dropped back. This included the two front row-starting Corvettes, which dropped to the back of the GTLM field rapidly while the #911 Porsche 911 RSR-19 of Nick Tandy disappeared off into the distance.
As the track dried, however, it became clear that those on slick tyres actually appeared to have made the right call as they rose up the order while the wet tyre runners pitted for slick tyres. The #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-VR, which had started on slicks in the hands of Gabby Chaves, quickly made its way up to the front, while the two Corvettes also made their way back towards the front of the field.
The advantage for the Cadillacs did not last, however, and the #31 Cadillac was soon passed by the pair of Mazdas, which had displayed strong pace all weekend and moved into a one-two position, where they would remain unchallenged for most of the race. Bomarito and Tincknell took the chequered flag, while Jarvis and Nunez finished in second place. Third place went to the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-VR of Joao Barbosa and Sebastien Bourdais, which took the final podium spot thanks to a strong drive from the Frenchman.
Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya finished just off the podium in the #6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05, while the strong early pace for Chaves and Pipo Derani did not lead to a result and they finished fifth. Renger van der Zande and Ryan Briscoe finished sixth in the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-VR and the #85 JDC-Miller Cadillac of Tristan Vautier and Chris Miller brought up the rear in class.
The race’s only retirement came courtesy of the polesitting #7 Acura Team Penske entry of Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves, which retired with a spectacular engine failure in the second hour of the race. With Taylor behind the wheel, the ARX-05 had begun shooting increasingly large flames out of its exhausts on downshifts while also noticably dropping pace compared to its rivals. This came to a head on lap 45 when Taylor brought the car onto pit road with flames and smoke pouring out the exhausts. The car was subsequently retired.
Win number 100 for Corvette
Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor gave Corvette Racing an extra celebration on Independance Day by coming out on top in a tight strategy battle. Both Corvettes dropped back in the early running as they started on slicks in the wet conditions but made their way up the order and became locked into a strategy battle with the pair of Porsche 911 RSR-19s.
While the #912 car of Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor was on roughly the same strategy as Garcia and Taylor, the #911 of Nick Tandy and Fred Makowiecki was on an alternative pitstop cycle after an early stop to switch from wets to slicks put them out of sync with the rest of the field.
This additional stop would ultimately take the #911 car out of contention for victory, but it did finish in third place after passing the #4 Corvette C8.R of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin in the closing stages of the race.
Garcia, meanwhile, held off a charging Bamber to record Corvettes 100th win on American soil and their first IMSA win in over two years, as well as the maiden win for the Corvette C8.R.
BMW lacked the pace to fight for victory, although they did hold the lead in the early stages when strategies varied. In the end, the #25 BMW M8 GTE of Connor de Philippi and Bruno Spengler did manage to get past the #4 Corvette for fourth, as Tommy Milner was focused on saving fuel to make it to the end of the race, compromising his race pace. The #24 BMW of John Edwards and Jesse Krohn brought up the rear in class.
Lexus dominates GTD
AIM Vasser Sullivan took a dominant one-two victory in the GT Daytona category. The pair of Lexus RC F GT3s took the class lead in the early stages and never looked back, with the #14 of Aaron Telitz and Jack Hawksworth taking the victory ahead of the #12 of Townsend Bell and Frankie Montecalvo.
Bell, who had rushed over from Indianapolis where he provided commentary for Indycar’s GMR Grand Prix, brought the car across the line.
Behind the pair of dominant AIM Vasser Sullivan cars, third place was decided in a thrilling inter-team battle between the #86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo of Mario Farnbacher and Matt McMurry and the #57 sister car of Alvaro Parente and Misha Goikhberg.
The two cars extensively battled around Daytona International Speedway as darkness fell, with Farnbacher and McMurry ultimately coming out on top. Parente and Goikhberg finished fourth, while the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 of Toni Vilander and Cooper MacNeil completed the top five.