Daytona International Speedway, Sunday 28 January 2018 – At 14:40 local time, the chequered flag waved the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi across the finish line, confirming Filipe Albuquerque, João Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi as winners of the 2018 Rolex 24 At DAYTONA. The No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing took victory in GT Le Mans (GTLM) and the No. 11 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 triumphed in GT Daytona (GTD). This year’s contest embodied the intense and demanding nature of modern-day endurance racing, with drivers pushing their cars to the limit lap after lap. The competitive line-up, endless traffic and a record-breaking 808 laps made the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA even tougher mentally and physically than previous races – justifying the Rolex 24s’ status as the ultimate test of endurance.
Motor sport champions competed for every inch of tarmac around the 3.56 mile Daytona International Speedway, attracting one of the largest in-field crowds in recent years to this twice-around-the-clock epic. It was an adrenaline-filled start, during which the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing and No. 7 Acura Team Penske Prototype (P) cars shared the lead. When darkness fell, a surprise downpour of rain brought a flurry of pit stops as the majority of cars changed to wet weather tyres. The ability of the drivers and teams to adapt to the testing conditions further emphasized the depth and quality of this world-class field. As the track dried and the race reached the halfway mark, only 20 seconds separated the top four cars. In the early hours of Sunday morning, the No. 6 Acura Team Penske suffered a mechanical failure and the No. 7 had contact with the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi, forcing both Acuras into the garage, putting them more than 15 laps off the lead and ending their hopes of victory. From here, it was a controlled drive to the end for the No. 5 car, finishing 1:10.544 ahead of the No. 31 to be crowned champion.
The GTLM category witnessed an historic 200th win and a one-two finish for Chip Ganassi Racing, making it an unforgettable weekend for team owner and this year’s Rolex 24 At DAYTONA Grand Marshal, Chip Ganassi. The triumphant car, driven by Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon, took the lead with three hours remaining from sister car, No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing. The dominant Ford duo eventually finished two laps ahead of third placed No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette Racing C7.R. The GTD class saw a number of lead changes but finally the No. 11 pulled out a healthy advantage to reach the 24-hour mark fastest.
Crossing the finish line first at the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA immortalizes the team and drivers’ performance, while underlining their commitment to motor sport. Following the race, this extraordinary quest for excellence is honoured with a specially engraved Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona, the ultimate racing driver’s watch. After the prize-giving presentation in Victory Lane, winning driver Filipe Albuquerque said: “It was overwhelming to receive the trophy and a Rolex Daytona after such a challenging drive – that final lap felt like one of the longest of my life! The race was unbelievable, with constant traffic demanding the utmost concentration. It truly was one of the most competitive and relentless 24 hours both inside and outside the car, which makes this win all the more special.”
Friend of Rolex, Scott Pruett, finished ninth in the GTD class in his symbolic 24th and final Rolex 24 At DAYTONA. With five overall victories, the American driver is tied with Hurley Haywood for the most wins at the Rolex 24 and, following the race, Scott Pruett reflected on his sports car success: “I have had an incredible journey to this point and it is very fitting to end my career at Daytona, which has become my second home. I am incredibly proud to have won five Rolex 24s and to have been rewarded each time with a Rolex – my Daytona watches will always bring back many fond memories. I still maintain, ‘it’s all about the watch’ but it’s also about the teams, cars and fans whose dedication and passion for motor sport is unparalleled. From the bottom of my heart, thank you all for your continued support.”