A pair of Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs turned in a dominant performance to claim the GT Le Mans class victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the opening round of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Despite competition from Porsche, Ferrari, BMW, and arch-rival Chevrolet Corvette teams in the factory dominated GTLM class, Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon took the No. 67 Ford GT to an 11.166-second victory over teammates Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais.
The pair of CGR Fords led all but nine of the 783 GTLM class laps of the 3.56-mile circuit. The total distance covered in 783 laps is 2,787.48 miles, 2,755.44 of which they led.
By doing so, they beat the past overall lap record of 762 laps, set in 1992 by a Nissan R91 CP, and the old distance record of 2,760.96 miles set in 1982 on a longer 3.84-mile circuit configuration.
Combined with previous victories at the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans and 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona, the victory marked the third 24-hour race class win for the Ford GT in its first five international 24-hour races.
The win was also the 200th race victory for Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR), including IndyCar, NASCAR, IMSA, WEC and Global Rallycross events. This also completed a perfect weekend for Ganassi, who was honored as the Grand Marshal for the event.
Fast, clean, deep, quality field
“Twenty-four-hour races always present a wide range of challenges, both known and unexpected and this race was no exception,” said Chris Baker, director of Motorsport, Michelin North America.
“The depth and quality of the field here at Daytona was incredibly high.”
“There were 13 manufacturers or marques entered in the 50-car field, and the fact that the GTLM class winners broke the old race distance record end is a clear indication of the race pace.
“Of the 50 cars that started, 42 of them finished, which reflected the quality and preparation of the manufacturers, teams and drivers on a day that featured only four caution periods and consistently strong race pace.”
Detroit auto makers shine at Daytona
The signs say Daytona International Speedway, but the GTLM class podium had an all-Detroit feel as the Ford CGR winning trio of Briscoe, Westbrook and Dixon were joined by their Ford GT teammates Hand, Mueller and Bourdais, the 2017 Daytona winners. The win is Dixon’s third (two overall), Briscoe’s second (one class) and Westbrook’s first at the Rolex 24.
“It was just an amazing 24-hour race for us. Racing with your teammates, they’re your friends,” Westbrook said.
“Racing that hard for 24 hours, there was nothing in it. It felt like ages we were one second apart. I thought we put on a really good show. To come away with the 200th win for Chip, and with (the late) Dan Gurney on our car made this ever so sweet.”
Corvette Racing then placed its two Corvette C7.Rs in third and fourth place to kick off its 20th year of competition. Polesitter Jan Magnussen shared his No. 3 car with Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller to finish third, ahead of the No. 4 car of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fassler.
Magnussen and Garcia (2017) and Gavin and Milner (2016) have won the WeatherTech Championship GTLM titles the last two years, and past Rolex 24 winners Rockenfeller and Fassler are added as third drivers for endurance races.
The Risi Competizione Ferrari of Toni Vilander, James Calado, Davide Rigon, and Alessandro Pier Guidi rounded out the top five, followed by the first cars from BMW Team RLL and the Porsche GT Team. Both BMW M8 GTEs finished their debut race.