Acura ended Cadillac’s reign at the Daytona 24 Hours on Sunday as Wayne Taylor Racing delivered Honda’s US brand a maiden Daytona 24 Hours victory, but only after an enthralling climax to the endurance sports car classic in Florida.
The result marks a hat-trick of wins for WTR, which has switched to Acura from Cadillac this season. But the team was saved from a possible defeat at the hands of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Caddy, which suffered a heart-breaking puncture as it closed in for the lead with little more than six minutes to go.
Portuguese Felipe Albuquerque headed Renger van der Zande after the final stops, but the Dutchman – who won the Rolex-sponsored 24 Hours last year for WTR – almost spoiled the day for his former team. Van der Zande’s plain white Cadillac, shared with ex-Formula 1 ace Kevin Magnussen and six-time Indycar champion Scott Dixon, briefly drew alongside Albuquerque’s black and blue Acura and looked all set to inspire one of the most exciting finishes in sports car racing history, only to suddenly dive into the pit road with a right-rear puncture – much to the all too obvious relief of his former team owner Wayne Taylor.
Albuquerque shared his victory with Ricky Taylor, son of Wayne, and former Indianapolis 500 winners Alexander Rossi and Helio Castroneves. Along with securing its hat-trick, the win marks a fourth win in five years for WTR and ends Cadillac’s four-year winning streak at America’s biggest endurance race.
There was further nail-biting drama for second place. Mazda looked set to claim a second consecutive runner-up finish at Daytona, despite losing three laps on Saturday when its car was forced to start from the pitlane when first gear refused to select. British drivers Oliver Jarvis, Harry Tincknell and American Jonathan Bomarito put in a gritty comeback to threaten for the lead and looked set to inherit second place following van der Zande’s puncture. But ex-F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi snatched the place with just four minutes on the clock in the Ally Cadillac Racing entry he shared with seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, Indycar ace Simon Pagenaud and German Mike Rockenfeller.
In the GTLM class (known as GTE at Le Mans and in the World Endurance Championship), there was further joy for the Taylor family as Ricky’s brother Jordan delivered Corvette a class win in the C8.R he shared with Antonio Garcia and Nicky Catsburg. The yellow mid-engined Corvette headed its sister car driven by Briton Nick Tandy in his first race for the American manufacturer following his switch from Porsche, and his co-drivers Alexander Sims and Tommy Milner. The two Corvettes saw off a valiant challenge from BMW Team RLL’s M8 GTE headed by Brazilian Augusto Farfus, in the final year for the class which only attracted six entries this year.