July 24, 2021

Rolex 24: Wayne Taylor Acura wins, heartbreak for Ganassi

The Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 won by just 4.7sec, beating Action Express Racing’s #48 Cadillac which passed Harry Tincknell’s Mazda with four minutes to go.

That said, Mazda performed a miracle to come from three laps down to score a podium finish, but Chip Ganassi Racing was on the flipside of fortune, suffering heartbreak as it picked up a right-rear puncture while Renger van der Zande had the leader in his sights.

In LMP2, Era Motorsport beat Tower Motorsport by Starworks, Corvette Racing scored a 1-2 in GT Le Mans – its first Rolex 24 win since 2016 – while Riley Motorsports took LMP3 honors by three laps, and HTP Winward Racing and SunEnergy1 scored a GT Daytona 1-2 for Mercedes.

The final 3 hours

The 22nd hour started dramatically for the #48 Action Express Racing Ally-sponsored Cadillac DPi-V.R which had been running second in Mike Rockenfeller’s hands. Just before he was due for a scheduled pitstop, Rocky suffered a puncture, enforcing a slow in-lap. He handed off to Kamui Kobayashi, but the Japanese driver now had only a nine second margin over the charging Scott Dixon in the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac.

Ricky Taylor, meanwhile took over the leading Wayne Taylor Racing Acura from Filipe Albuquerque and kept a dozen second lead at first. In fourth, Dane Cameron had fallen 10sec behind Dixon at the start of the stint.

Then with 2hr25min to go, with Taylor’s lead over Kobayashi down to 8sec and Dixon less than seven seconds behind that, the Ganassi Cadillac suffered a right-rear puncture. Dixon, being a master of self restraint, cruised gently back to the pits without causing the flapping tire to wreck the rear bodywork or fall off the rim. He emerged from the pits down in fifth, and then stopped again under the yellow – along with all the other Prototypes – to fit the other three fresh tires and to be replaced in the cockpit by Renger van der Zande.

Meyer Shank Racing did the best job in pitlane, boosting Dane Cameron to the front ahead of the other Acura of Taylor, while Mazda Motorsports had jumped Jarvis ahead of Kobayashi’s Cadillac.

At the restart with 2hr08mins to go, Taylor dived down the inside of Cameron at the Bus Stop chicane, and Jarvis and Kobayashi followed him through half a lap later. The Acura, Mazda and Cadillac kept pulling away from Cameron – and covered only by 1.5sec – when the 12th caution flew for debris on the track.

The next restart saw the first three maintain position but van der Zande moved the Ganassi Cadillac past Cameron’s MSR Acura into fourth. By the next stops, Taylor had pulled 3.8sec over Jarvis. They were replaced by their teammates, Filipe Albuquerque and Harry Tincknell respectively.

Ganassi did a fantastic job to get van der Zande out ahead of both Tincknell and Kobayashi, and put him onto the tail of Albuquerque, although the WTR Acura started pulling away, and a charging Tincknell started applying the pressure to the Ganassi Cadillac, while dropping the Ally AXR Cadillac. With 80mins to go, Tincknell duly snagged second and started trying to close the 3sec deficit to Albuquerque.

With an hour to go, the WTR Acura’s lead remained intact and they pitted together with 55mins to go. They emerged with 5sec between them, but both had been jumped by the earlier stopping Cadillacs of van der Zande and Kobayashi. The Japanese driver was filling the mirrors of the Ganassi driver with 40mins to go, the pair of them 4.5sec ahead of Albuquerque who was just about maintaining his 5sec margin over Tincknell.

Van der Zande and Kobayashi made their final stops with 33mins to go, taking on four new tires etc, but Albuquerque only took on two new tires when he and Tincknell made their final stops next time by.

The extra heat in his one-lap-old tires allowed van der Zande to dive past Tincknell for second but he was still five seconds behind leader Albuquerque. However, with 15mins to go, he had shaved the WTR Acura’s lead down to near-nothing, and Albuquerque was having to take some defensive lines into the tighter corners. Then with six minutes to go, another right-rear puncture sent van der Zande limping to the pits, eventually to emerge in fifth.

Kobayashi had gained a second wind in the final stint and passed Tincknell for second place, and while the Mazda driver fought back, he came up 1.8sec short. Nonetheless, from three laps down, it had been a remarkable performance by the RT24-P drivers. Meyer Shank Racing’s Juan Pablo Montoya came home 50sec further adrift.

LMP2 suddenly became very interesting with 2.5 hours to go, Ryan Dalziel’s Era Motorsport entry holding just a 5sec margin over Matthieu Vaxiviere in the Tower Motorsport car. This pair ran three laps ahead of DragonSpeed’s Eric Lux.

Vaxiviere was presented with an ideal chance to close on Dalziel with the Dixon-caused full-course caution. However, Dalziel kept his cool and pulled away to 5sec margin in the dozen minutes between the end of the 11th caution and start of the 12th.

However, at the next restart, Dalziel pitted, allowing Vaxiviere into the class lead – but Vaxiviere was handed a drive-through penalty for jumping the restart, which halved Era Motorsport’s deficit to 45sec.

Dalziel went back into the lead when Vaxiviere stopped with 1h24m to go and handed over to Gabriel Aubry, but then Aubry regained preeminence when Dalziel handed the Era car to Paul-Loup Chatin. Then a last gasp splash of fuel for Aubry allowed Chatin to move into the lead and win the class by 19.5sec.

Riley Motorsports dominated LMP3 in the end, Spencer Pigot driving to the checkered flag three laps ahead of Joao Barbosa in the Sean Creech Motorsport car, while Muehlner Motorsports collected third, a further four laps adrift.

Following the GT Le Mans pitstops with three hours to go, Nicky Catsburg’s lead over Corvette Racing C8.R teammate Alexander Sims had extended to 13sec, and Sims’ margin over Marco Wittmann’s #24 BMW M8 had reduced to 12sec. James Calado remained a minute off the class lead in the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488.

However, the pitstops under caution saw Catsburg struggling to get the #3 Corvette moving, handing the class lead to Sims, and dopping to fourth behind Alessandro Pier Guidi in the Risi 488 and Augusto Farfus who’d taken over the #24 BMW.

Catsburg’s day went from bad to worse as the car was assisted while outside its pitbox and thus he served a drive-through penalty, while Farfus passed Pier Guidi for second.

The 12th caution, caused by AF Corse’s Daniel Serra dragging debris onto the track, allowed Catsburg to close back up to the top three, but still not within striking distance of the Risi Ferrari.

At the restart, Farfus made his move and edged ahead of Sims and into the lead, but the Corvette driver wouldn’t let him go and slipped past into the lead at Turn 3, while Catsburg had also moved up to third ahead of Pier Guidi.

The penultimate pitstops saw Jordan Taylor and Tommy Milner replace Catsburg and Sims respectively, Taylor getting the #3 in front by stopping earlier and getting on fresh tires earlier. However, both of them emerged behind Farfus in the #24 BMW.

The C8.R drafted around the outside of the M8 along the pitstraight with 68mins to go and Taylor took the lead but Farfus remained within a second going into the final hour, the pair of them 6sec ahead of Milner who was 38sec up on the Risi Ferrari.

Milner had a far shorter final stop than Taylor and Farfus and moved the #4 car marginally ahead of its sister car, but the pair were battling for second – behind the off-sequence Ferrari – with less than 40mins to go. Taylor got ahead six minutes later but couldn’t escape.

With 20mins to go, Pier Guidi made his final stop and emerged in fourth, leaving Taylor with a 1.5sec lead over Milner who in turn had nine seconds over Farfus.

The GT Daytona battle with three hours to go had distilled into a Mercedes-AMG GT3 fight between Maro Engel of Winward Racing and Luca Stolz in the SunEnergy1 machine, with Engel edging away.

Behind them, the battle between Klaus Bachler in the Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R and Bryan Sellers in the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan was equally intriguing but 50sec adrift of the leaders.

Following the 11th caution with little more than two hours to go, Raffaele Marciello briefly jumped the SunEnergy1 Mercedes ahead of Engel, but the Winward Racing machine didn’t take long to reestablish itself in front, while behind them Bachler’s Wright Porsche and Andrea Caldarelli now in the PMR Lambo continued their battle for third.

The briefer 12th caution period gave Caldarelli a change to close up, and once he got ahead of Bachler, the Huracan pulled away rapidly.

The next round of stops saw Marciello emerge behind Caldarelli but the Mercedes got back in front although both had to survive trips through the grass at the Bus Stop, which allowed the Wright Porsche, now driven by Jan Heylen, to close in.

Going into the final hour, Engel’s margin over Marciello was 2.5sec, with Caldarelli six seconds back and Heylen another four seconds in arrears. Then Marciello and Heylen stopped with 52mins to go. Ross Gunn in the Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage also stopped at the same time, and having stopped far more recently off-sequence, he was stopped for a shorter amount of time and emerged within 10sec of the Wright Porsche.

However, Winward Racing got Engel out swiftly when he made his final stop, and he commenced the 48min run to the flag with a 10sec lead over the similar SunEnergy1 car of Marciello.

He in turn had 7sec over Caldarelli who now only had two seconds in hand over Heylen, but over the final stint these four separated again, and Engel won the class by 16.3sec over Marciello, with Caldarelli third, 10sec ahead of the Wright Porsche.

Race results:

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