Action Express’ No. 5 team took advantage of mechanical issues by other Prototypes and survived overheating issues of its own to win the Rolex 24 by almost a lap over the second-place finisher.
The car, driven by Filipe Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa, and Christian Fittipaldi, wasn’t running at top speed for much of the final hours of the 24-hour endurance race at Daytona International Speedway. But it also didn’t have to. The team had such a cushion over the rest of the field that Alburquerque could afford not to push hard over the final stint. While also hoping like hell the car’s engine didn’t start boiling over.
Overheating issues also struck the team’s No. 31 car, which finished second. The No. 31’s issues were worse than those on the No. 5, and the car had to be pulled into the garage on Sunday morning. When it returned to the track, the No. 5 was three laps ahead.
Chip Ganassi’s No. 67 car beat its No. 66 teammate for the win in GT Le Mans. The No. 11 GRT Grasser Lamborghini team won in GT Daytona.
The Rolex 24 was the first IMSA race for Team Penske’s Acura team. The two-car Penske team had serious speed but ran into problems overnight. So did Wayne Taylor Racing, the defending champions of the race. Numerous teams were plagued with tire issues throughout the 24 hours, but none moreso than WTR. The team retired after seven tire issues. According to Continental Tire on the Fox Sports broadcast, at least two of the problems were because of punctures.
Action Express’ No. 5 finished second to WTR by 0.671 seconds a year ago. The team previously won the Rolex 24 in 2014 with Barbosa, Fittipaldi, Sebastien Bourdais and Burt Frisselle.
It was the first Rolex 24 for Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso, who competed in his first Indianapolis 500 in May. Alonso’s United Autosport team was, as you might have surmised, plagued with problems too. Alonso drove a third of the race and the No. 23 car finished 13th in Prototypes, 90 laps behind the No. 5.
Alonso is running full-time for McLaren in Formula 1 again in 2018 and will not be returning for a second Indianapolis 500 this year.
The race set a Rolex 24 record for most laps (808) and miles (2,876) completed. It was slowed just four times for yellow flags. Last year’s race had over 20 cautions.
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