July 27, 2021

Van der Zande on agonizing defeat: “We didn’t deserve this”

The Dutch star who won the last two Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in a Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac was pressing WTR’s Acura for the lead in the dying laps of this weekend’s race when he suffered a right-rear puncture.

This came on top of other misfortunes for the Ganassi car on the legendary team’s return to sportscar racing with fulltimers van der Zande and Kevin Magnussen, and endurance race “third man” Scott Dixon.

The six-time IndyCar champion had also suffered a right-rear deflation in the final three hours yet had relentlessly fought back into the top three when he handed over to van der Zande, who continued Dixon’s good work to get onto the tail – and briefly alongside – the leading car, driven by Filipe Albuquerque.

However, with eight minutes to go, the Cadillac twitched onto the banking with a flat right-rear Michelin, and van der Zande had to drive slowly to the pits, rejoining the race to finish fifth.

“I am super proud of this Chip Ganassi Racing team,” said the sorrowful driver afterward. “What they have done in a month is incredible. They are so professional and great to work with.

“I feel we didn’t deserve this. We gave it a great try as a first-time team together. We drove from seventh up to the leader and then the flat tire.

“It didn’t work out. We will move onto the next one.”

Albuquerque went on to win in the Acura ARX-05, marking the first defeat for the Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Rolex 24 since it made its debut in 2017.

The Ally Action Express Racing Cadillac #48 of drivers Jimmie Johnson, Simon Pagenaud, Mike Rockenfeller, and Kamui Kobayashi finished second, after the Japanese driver – who had shared the previous two WTR wins with van der Zande – made a pass on Harry Tincknell’s Mazda in the closing five minutes.

“It was an absolutely amazing performance by everyone at Action Express Racing,” said 2016 IndyCar champion Pagenaud. “The Cadillac was a dream all race long.

“It’s just racing at the end. We finished 4.7-seconds behind the Wayne Taylor team. Congratulations to them.

“It was a blast this weekend. I really enjoyed it – the partnership with Ally, with Jimmie, my good friend Mike Rockenfeller, and I think Kamui is going to become a great friend.

“We had a great weekend. We need to come back and win it.”

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