At 1530 Joao Barbosa crossed the line in his Riley Porsche to win the 2010 24-hours of Daytona for the Action Express Racing team. Many congratulations to them, but also to Robin Liddell, Andrew Davis and Jan Magnussen for climbing back up to fourth in the GT class, despite that lengthy gearbox change. Superb effort all round.
As you’ve probably seen over the past 24 hours I’ve been amazed at this event. I expected a lot, but it’s exceeded my expectations. Don’t take my word it try it yourself next year. The only blot was the failure of Dario’s car when they were looking so strong. But that’s racing, and I’m off for a beer and a lie down.
Just three hours to go and you can see tiredness and exhaustion everywhere, from the hardcore fans who stayed up all night, to the mechanics in pitlane. Some fall asleep in front of data screens, others use wheels for pillows. When they’re nothing physical to do sleep is impossible to resist. I was in the Stevenson pit just now, as they prepared for a pitstop and watched them don balaclavas, helmets and gloves in slow motion. Adrenaline is an incredible thing. As soon as the car arrives they’re over the wall swapping wheels and refuelling with not a single mistake or second lost. Once the car has gone the slumber returns.
The 57 is up to eighth in GTs now, the 01 leads the race by a minute and a half.
No it’s not – It’s gone behind the wall the moment I wrote that. Ryan Dalziel is here in the media and has just watched himself take the lead. Weird.
Sunday – 1100
In 24 hour racing there’s usually a little lull by mid-morning on Sunday. For the teams who have survived the night, they are usually consolidating before the final push to finish. That doesn’t happen here, regular full course yellows keeps the field bunched and the fight for the lead goes on and on. There have now been 51 lead changes in this race, shared between no fewer than 26 drivers – and that doesn’t include the GT class. Pruett and Dalzeil are going hard at it for the lead, never more than a couple of seconds apart. Robin’s in the Camaro right now and despite being tenth in GTs, he’s doing what comes natural and running flat out.
I’ve posted a couple of youtube clips from the early part of the race in the community video section – it seems like a long time ago now.
Sunday – 0830
Seven hours to go and it’s gone smelly for Robin and the Stevenson Motorsport crew of car 57. The Camaro’s debut was running perfectly until half an hour ago when the gearbox failed. A new one’s been fitted, but it’s cost them 22 laps and the race. It must be massively disappointing to have run so well for so long, see the daylight finally arrive and then not get the result they deserve.
Sunday – 0620
Turns out it was a piston failure in the BMW that did it for Montoya, and there was a fear that this might happen. A problem was found with the race engine, so the test engine was put back in and the workload eventually told. We’re under yellow again (for the twelfth time) and the sister Chip Ganassi car of Max Papis (01), is just behind Barbosa’a Riley Porsche. Andrew Davis is in the Camaro at the moment and the boys are leading GTs by a lap again.
Stat fans might like to know that at the 14-hour mark 432 laps and 1537.97 miles had been completed, and there have been 41 lead changes involving 25 drivers and 13 cars.
Sunday – 0430
Got my head down for a few hours, but was woken by the cold. At midnight the air was still warm enough to walk about in shirt-sleeves and now it feels barely above freezing. That’s’ probably great for the engines, but it wasn’t able to help the 02 car, which was retired after its smoky expiration. That was a massive shame, the team had dominated on Saturday, leading 132 of the 247 laps, with all four drivers enjoying stints at the front. As soon as Sat became Sun however, it was all over.
We’ve passed the halfway point now and the good news is that the 57 Camaro still leads the way. This is an extraordinary performance. Robin exploited the tricky conditions in the early laps, but now that the track has dried most expected the phalanx of 911s to overhaul them. It has to be said they’re coming, the two TRG cars are not far behind. C’mon lads, keep ‘em chasing!
Sunday – 0010
Spoke too soon. Just a couple of minutes after my last report JPM came in to garages with smoke pouring out of the back the car. Looks like the 02 car could be out.
Saturday – Midnight
Fireworks. That’s what you get when JPM’s on track, and tonight Daytona launched their best rockets when Montoya was robustly defending the lead handed to him by our man, Dario. We caught up with Franchitti in his motorhome after his two hour stint, and found him reading the latest edition of Evo. Top man! Turns out he’s as enthusiastic about roadcars as he is about racing and has a large garage full of exotic stuff. Most of them are red, but they’re not all Ferraris, my favourite is the 1973 911T fitted with a 993 engine. Apparently it weighs 950kg and is good for ‘well over 300bhp’. The only worry was he told us he’s thinking of getting a 550 Barchetta, but I think I’ve persuaded him to get a Carerra GT instead, so that’s ok. Left him to have a snooze as he’s got the graveyard shift and is due out next at 0230.
As I write JPM is 0.2 seconds down on the leader (this racing is seriously close), while down in the GT campRobin is still producing the magic. They now have a one lap lead. Get in!
And in the time it’s taken me to write that sentence JPM is now back in the lead. You can’t take you’re eyes of this. The racing is spectacular. We’ve just been for a walk around the outside of the track and the place looks amazing. Standing on the top of the banking as the cars pass below you at 190mph and it blows the drums out of your ears. If you’re into your sportscar racing you’ve got to come here, we’re having a blast.
Dario’s now in the car and leading. The drying track meant that Scott Dixon drove for the first three hours of the race, and despite the physical and mental strain looked remarkable fresh when he popped out. Watching a pitstop up close is an incredible sight, as with only six men allowed over the wall it’s fast and furious. It looks a little like uncoordinated chaos, but fuel, tyres and a driver change is over in unbelievably quickly. It’s dark out there now, but dry and warm, and the predictions say we’ve had all our rain.
Saturday - 1700
An hour and a half into the race and both our cars are leading their classes! Not far to go.
Saturday – 1615
Remember that light rain I spoke about? Well it turned into a heavy downpour just after my last report and didn’t give up until twenty minutes into the race. That meant that at 1530 the race began behind the pace car and ran that way for the first five laps. Scott Dixon took the start for Dario’s 02 machine and is still there now. Meanwhile, Robin Liddell is living up to his earlier claim that rain crates opportunity. He’s driving superbly and now lies third in the GT, having started twelfth. A UK racing background obviously has its advantages. Seventeen laps down and he’s chasing down the leading BMW M6. Twenty-three hours and fifteen minutes to go…
Stop press – First full course yellow. A 911 nerfs the barriers at turn one and ends up in a puddle the size of an Olympic swimming pool. I thought this was the sunshine state. A mad rush of pitstops follows and who pops out in the lead? Indycar star and 02 man Scott Dixon. Cool.
Saturday – 1330
Two hours to go before the 48th running of the 24 hours of Daytona, and there’s a real buzz in the air, and dampness too. It’s been overcast all day, but half an hour ago drizzle began to fall and it’s been steady ever since. Looks like the early stages are going to be wet and racing in the rain on the banking is something rarely seen in American racing, it brings with it some unique problems. Robin Liddell explained that in the GT cars you can’t really go onto wet unless it’s raining hard. The infield section puddles up quickly, but because of steepness of the banking the water runs off it and you can very quickly ruin a set of wets. He says it best to wait a lap or two even if gets really bad, as it’s likely that someone will go off and bring out the yellows. ‘It’s a great opportunity to make up places’, he said, ‘but on the flip side it’s easy to go off.’
We left him relaxing with a light lunch, as he has to ready himself for the opening stint. Over at the Ganassi truck Dario’s as chilled as ever, and as he’s second in the car there’s no need to start his preparations just yet. Instead I found him munching on some Scottish tablet, a delicacy that contains just two ingredients – condensed milk and sugar. Not sure Schumacher has the same dietry regime.
Saturday – 1100
Raceday! The Daytona people have been taking us for a ride this morning.
Not any old ride, but a seat alongside Hurley Haywood, the man who has more Daytona wins than any other, in the car that took him to his third win of the five, the 911 Carerra RSR of 1977. The old boy and the old machine were working in perfect harmony, and despite the fact I had nothing more than a lap belt to hold me in, Hurley wasn’t holding back. The banking is steep enough to feel your stomach being squashed, and bumpy enough to move the car around. No question, driving these things for a double stint requires a high level of nerve and fitness. Big respect.
Friday – 1700
Why don’t we have circuits like this? The track looks amazing, particularly when there are 77 cars racing on it together, as they were in the support race today. The banking rises to an angle that looks impossible to drive on, and its contained nature means you can see the action all the way around.
Dario Franchitti is just about the coolest driver on the planet and has a pair of shades to match. I don’t think I’ve met a more laid back driver. Ever. He told me that he’s left-foot braking for the first time in a DP car and it’s proving a little tricky. He has always braked with his left foot on the ovals in Indy cars, but single-seaters only require a light touch. With the long distance hard pads fitted to a DP, you have to stand on the middle pedal with all you’ve got to get them to stop, and his muscles are aching from the effort.
It’s always a culture shock to watch American racing, the fans can go anywhere they want. The garages are open, they can chat to the drivers and touch the cars, it’s like they’re the most important people in the place. It’ll never catch on.
Juan Pablo Montoya was receiving more attention than most, particularly in the press scrum after the driver photoshoot, but he didn’t seem to mind. And Robin Liddell was equally happy chatting to anyone and everyone who wanted some of his time. He had a less than perfect time in qualifying and is a little disappointed to be starting in 12th place on the GT grid. He began the qualifying session with new brake pads, which caused an early lock-up, so he spent most of the driving on tyres that closely resembled a fifty pence piece.
He also had a 150mph blow-out on the banking in a night time test session, but managed to save the car. Hopefully they’ve got all their bad luck out the way because he reckons the race will come to them as it gets dark. It should be a great race tomorrow.
Friday - 0700
Hello from Daytona! Dawn may only just be breaking above here at the hotel on Daytona Beach, but a combination of jet lag and excitement means I’m already up ready for the day ahead. It’s going to be a meet and greet kind of day, but not in the normal way, as the guys I’m meeting are Dario Franchitti and Robin Lidell, as I’ll be following their progress through the race weekend.
Dario is a superstar in a team full of them, driving alongside Scott Dixon (who, just like Dario is an Indycar champion), Jamie McMurray (NASCAR) and Juan Pablo Montoya in the Chip Ganassi Riley BMW DP car. With a line up as strong as that, and a team that won the race three years straight between 2006 and 2008, another win can be the only aim.
Newbury’s Robin Liddell has an equally strong chance of taking the GT in his Camaro GT.R, and it should make some sight as it battles against a field full of 911s (there are no fewer than 13 of them) and a sprinkling of Mazda RX8s. I spoke to Robin a couple of days ago and he reckons that due to the extra weight of the Camaro they not be able to match the best of the 911s over one lap, but they do have a strong chance over 24 hours. There are no weak links in their fully professional driver line up (Jan Magnussen, and Andrew Davis are his cohorts) and the team, Stevenson Motorsports knows a thing or two about racing here.
Final qualifying takes place later today, so I’ll report back then on the cars and the track. Thirty one degrees of banking is not something I’ve seen sportscars tackle before, it should be quite a sight.
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It’s America’s biggest 24-hour race, the cars reach speeds close to 200mph around a banked, floodlight course, and yet in the UK we know little about the 24 hours of Daytona That’s all about to change as Roger Green pops his Daytona cherry and flies out to Florida for this weekend’s race. He’ll be bringing us all the action as it unfolds from the pitlane with a an updated blog feed, images and video, but just what is this race all about and why should we all be watching? We get the answers on video from Andy Wallace, a man who has competed there since 1989 when the Group C monsters ruled, and has won the race three times. Watch the video here and see his first win on YouTube. Keep up-to-date by tuning into the Radio Le Mans podcast And keep in touch with all the official Daytona news here