The 55th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the opening race of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, threw an endless array of challenges at the stellar field, but Michelin and its technical partner teams met every challenge.
After starting from positions 18-28 in the 55 car field, the Michelin-fitted GT Le Mans (GTLM) class entries from BMW Team RLL, Corvette Racing, Risi Competizione Ferrari, Porsche GT Team, and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing dispatched all but four of the lighter, faster, more aerodynamic Prototypes to claim eight of the first twelve overall race positions in the 24-hour race.
The GTLM class victory for the CGR Ford GT comes just 12 months after the car’s competition debut here in 2016 – a season highlighted by its historic class victory at the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hour race.
There was a familiar feel to the opening hours here at Daytona, as Ford’s Le Mans-winning trio of Dirk Mueller, Joey Hand, and Sebastien Bourdais frequently swapped the lead with its arch-rival, the Le Mans runners-up and 2016 season-ending Petit Le Mans-winning Risi Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander and James Calado.
Saturday’s nightfall brought rain and the exciting new Porsche 911 RSR of the Porsche GT Team (with drivers Patrick Pilet, Dirk Werner and Frederic Makowiecki) moved forward along with Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller and BMW joined the fray at the front.
As the track gradually dried for the final hours on Sunday, it appeared that a Ford–Ferrari rematch was in store, but Corvette Racing took advantage of great pit stops to claim the lead twice.
On a late restart with 48 minutes remaining it was Porsche’s Patrick Pilet who emerged to pass both Antonio Garcia’s Corvette and Calado’s Ferrari and take the fight to Mueller’s Ford.
In the final hour the Porsche drew alongside on several occasions to set up a dramatic Ford, Porsche, Ferrari, Corvette finish in a brilliant match of speed and driving skills.