Click above for a high-res gallery of the 2009 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona
It's no surprise when a drag race comes down to tenths of seconds. Endurance races, however, are more often than not decided by laps rather than seconds, with even slightly better lap times creating large gaps over a long period of time. Not so in the 47th running of the 24 Hours at Daytona. Not only did the first place car have the closest margin of victory, .167 seconds, but third place was a mere 5.504 seconds back and fourth place just 10.589 seconds behind. This year's race set records for the most finishers on the lead lap and had an incredible 53 lead changes among 22 drivers and nine cars. Sound like fun? Follow the jump to read more about the historic race this past weekend.
Photos courtesy Grand-Am
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 25, 2009) - David Donohue passed Juan Pablo Montoya with 39 minutes remaining and held on to win the 47th Rolex 24 At Daytona - on the 40th anniversary of his father, Mark Donohue's, victory in the 1969 event.
Donohue joined Darren Law, Buddy Rice and Antonio Garcia to give Brumos Racing its first Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 victory since 2003, denying TELMEX/Target Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates its fourth consecutive victory in America's premier sports car event by .167 seconds.
"These guys have put a lot of effort into this," Donohue said. "I'm glad to be able to carry the flag. The Brumos team is just a tenacious bunch of guys, they never give up and today proves the point. We came here ready to run and we ran hard the whole time."
Montoya pressured Donohue throughout the final 39 minutes, but the No. 01 Lexus Riley could not overcome the strong of the Brumos Porsche on the Daytona banking.
"Every corner it was 110 percent everywhere," said Montoya, who drove for Ganassi in the team's 2007 and 2008 victories. ""And it was fun, because we drove like that the last two hours. And we didn't make any mistakes. I gave it 110 percent, and I know I couldn't go any faster if I had done anything different."
Joao Barbosa finished third in the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley shared by JC France, Hurley Haywood and Terry Borcheller - 5.504 seconds back -- while Max Angelelli took fourth in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara co-driven by Wayne Taylor, Pedro Lamy and Brian Frisselle, 10.589 seconds behind.
Scott Dixon, the 2006 event winner, took fifth in the No. 02 Target/TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley shared by Dario Franchitti and Alex Lloyd.
The record-breaking event had the closest margin of victory, most finishers on the lead lap and most cautions, 25 for 117 laps. The top four finishers covered 735 laps - most in the Daytona Prototype era. The previous record for the closest Rolex 24 finish was 2000, 30.879 seconds. The 53 lead changes among 22 drivers and nine cars were the second-highest total in event history.
The final hour was run under green flag conditions, with the top four running nose to tail part of the way.
The GT race came down to a one-two finish for TRG Porsche, with Andy Lally and Justin Marks joined by Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Long and RJ Valentine in the winning No. 67 Porsche GT3. Second, one lap behind, was the TRG No. 66 of Spencer Pumpelly, Tim George Jr., Richard Leitz and Emmanuel Collard.
The opening two hours and 45 minutes of the race were run under green flag conditions, with Penske Racing joining the Brumos and Penske teams in setting a torrid pace.
Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Ryan Briscoe combined to lead 191 laps in the debut of the Penske Racing Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Porsche Riley before the team lost 15 laps in the early morning hours to replace the rear-end assembly, dropping out of contention. The team went on to finish sixth, 18 laps down.
The GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty - joined by three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and Jimmy Vasser - rebounded from early mechanical problems to take seventh. Another team coming back after a slow start was the No. 2 Childress-Howard Motorsports Gentlemen Jack Pontiac Crawford of three-time Rolex 24 winner Andy Wallace, Rob Finlay, Casey Mears and Danica Patrick, which finished eighth.
The No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Racing/Boy Scouts of America Porsche Coyote of motorcycle standouts Scott Russell, Jeff Ward and Jason Pridmore - joined by Guy Cosmo - rebounded from two spins and a pit fire to take 11th in the Daytona Prototype class.
Heavy attrition struck the Ford-powered teams, with a mechanical problem - traced to a wheel on the crankshaft - sidelining six of the seven teams. This included the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Riley, which suddenly slowed with AJ Allmendinger at the wheel near the five-hour mark. Only 10 minutes later, Darren Turner coasted to a stop while running third in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley. Similar problems would sideline the contending No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Westfield Insurance Riley, the No. 61 AIM Autosport Riley and the No. 77 Doran Racing McDonald's Dallara, which led four laps with Brad Jaeger at the wheel.
Also failing to finish was the new No. 45 Victory Junction - Orbit Racing BMW Riley of Kyle Petty, Bill Lester, Darren Manning and Leo Hendry, which exited after 216 laps with engine problems.
Brumos Porsche fielded winning entries in the Rolex 24 in 1973, 1975 (as Peter Gregg Racing), 1976 and 1978, and also sponsored the winning Joest Porsche in 1991. The team also won its class in 1962, 1968 and 1972. Porsche's last overall victory in the Rolex 24 was in 2003, when TRG put a GT entry in victory lane.
The Donohues became the third father-son combination to win overall in the history of the event, three days after the pair joined Dan and Alex Gurney as the race's lone father-son pole winners. Mark Donohue won the 1969 race in a Lola-Chevrolet T70, joined by Chuck Parsons. Al Unser and Al Unser Jr., and John Paul and John Paul Jr. also were overall winners of the Rolex 24.
The next action for the Grand-Am Rolex Series will be the Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway.