This past weekend the 2010 North American motorsports season kicked off with the 48th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The race started under caution after a two hours of torrential rain before the green flag, but the field of prototypes and GTs weathered the storm to make their way around the 3.56-mile, 12-turn course.
Although the rain eventually let up, track conditions remained treacherous and unpredictable for most of the night. The race featured a record 53 lead changes by 29 drivers, and all but two prototypes led at some time. Even after 24 hours the competition remained close, and the eventual winner took the checkered flag by just over 52 seconds. Unless you're set to watch the race on DVR and don't want to know the results, follow the jump for a race summary and two videos with highlights.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - David took on the Goliaths and won Sunday's 48th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. In a race marked by unusual weather, heavy attrition and a record number of lead changes, Joao Barbosa held off Scott Pruett by 52.303 seconds to win the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 race in the No. 9 Action Express Racing Porsche Riley.
It was the second consecutive runner-up finish in the race for Pruett, a three-time Rolex 24 winner who teamed with Memo Rojas, Max Papis and Justin Wilson in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates' No. 01 TELMEX/Target BMW Riley, a team that won three of the last five Rolex 24 races.
Scott Tucker, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Richard Westbrook and Lucas Luhr finished third, four laps behind in the No. 95 Crown Royal/NPN BMW Riley. A jammed seat belt early Sunday morning - resulting from a piece of tape - cost the team two laps, taking them out of the fight.
Ricardo Zonta, Tracy Krohn, Nic Jönsson and Colin Braun finished fourth in the No. 75 Krohn Racing Ford Proto-Auto Lola, followed by Ozz Negri, John Pew, Burt Frisselle and Mark Wilkins in the No. 60 Crown Royal XR Ford Riley.
Sylvain Tremblay, Jonathan Bomarito, Nick Ham and David Haskell won the GT race by four laps in SpeedSource's No. 70 Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8.
The race started under caution Saturday due to a deluge that soaked the track during the two hours prior to the start. While the rain quickly let up, conditions remained treacherous for several hours due to damp conditions, particularly off the racing line. Sunday's portion was run under dry but very chilly and windy conditions.
It was Barbosa's second consecutive victory in Rolex Series Daytona Prototype competition; he and Hurley Haywood won the 2009 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway for Brumos Porsche. Barbosa led a race-high 129 laps; the four Action Express Racing drivers combined to lead 316 of the 755 circuits.
"It's just unbelievable," Barbosa said. "For the team to perform under really difficult circumstances like 24 hours, they did an amazing job."
For Borcheller, it was his third class victory in the Rolex 24 and first overall.
"It's really special," Borcheller said. "'04 was amazing, just because the way the race ended up in the last 15 minutes with us winning when Tony Stewart driving the Crawford broke. But that was also the first year I believe that a Daytona Prototype won overall. So the competition was - it's always there, but it was nothing like it is now."
It also marked the second consecutive and 22nd overall victory for Porsche in the event. David Donohue, Darren Law, Buddy Rice and Antonio Garcia won in 2009 in a Brumos Porsche Riley, using a flat-six Porsche engine. A Cayenne-based V-8 engine - built in Germany but highly modified in America by Lozano Brothers - powered Sunday's winning entry.
It was an emotional day for the defending race winners. Moments after five-time Rolex 24 winner Haywood turned a sizzling time of 1:42.2 in his final lap in professional competition, Raphael Matos went to the garage and retired the car they shared with Donohue, Law and three-time Rolex 24 winner Butch Leitzinger with two-and-a-half hours remaining.
Ironically, a false alarm gave the Action Express team some breathing room when Justin Wilson, driving the No. 01 BMW Riley, drove to the paddock as a precaution.
"We just had one hiccup," Wilson said. "I came out of the bus stop and heard a large clunk. I thought I'd blown a tire and I dove into the pits, but they told me it was all okay. Maybe it was just some debris on the track."
The race featured a record 53 lead changes among 29 drivers. All but two of the Daytona Prototypes led in the event, and all but two of them experienced heart-breaking problems that dropped them out of contention.
Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray combined to lead 139 laps in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates' No. 02 TELMEX/Target BMW Riley. Montoya was leading the race at midnight when his car began smoking. Moments later, he went to the garage and the car was retired with engine failure.
The defending Daytona Prototype champion No. 99 GAINSCO Chevrolet Riley was retired while running fifth. An oil pump failure led to a variety of complications that eventually forced four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson to take the car he shared with Jon Fogarty, Alex Gurney and Jimmy Vasser to the garage.
Michael Shank Racing had both of its cars running at or near the front for most of the race before both broke in the closing hours. Burt Frisselle went out in the team's No. 60 Crown Royal XR Ford Riley co-driven by Ozz Negri, John Pew and Mark Wilkins, while NASCAR regular A.J. Allmendinger's day in the No. 6 Ford Riley co-driven by Michael Valiante, John Pew and Mark Patterson went up in smoke with 75 minutes remaining.
The No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara started from the pole by Max Angelelli, but had to recover from an incident early in the race to finish sixth. The car was also driven by team owner Wayne Taylor, his 20-year-old son Ricky Taylor and Pedro Lamy.
A team that experienced problems with cold tires at the pit exit was the new No. 7 Starworks BMW Riley driven by Ian James, Mike Forest, Bill Lester and Dion von Moltke.
Derek Johnston, the 2008-2009 British Radical UK Cup champion, drove in the event after winning the inaugural Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge, and finished 10th in class, sharing the No. 77 McDonald's Ford Dallara with Memo Gidley, Brad Jaeger and Fabrizio Gollin.
Defending race winners Rice and Garcia, sharing the No. 90 Menards Porsche Coyote with Paul Menard and Darren Manning, finished 13th in Daytona Prototypes.
Action Express Racing was formed during the offseason when Brumos cut back to a one-car team. Longtime team associate Bob Johnson leased a Riley chassis and mated it with a Porsche Cayenne-based V-8 engine.
The dawn hours saw terrific racing between Barbosa and Papis, who battled nose to tail for several laps.
"That's why Chip hired me," Papis said. "He hired me to run fast and take chances. I leave my friends at home."
The winners' average speed was 111.930 mph. The race was slowed 16 times by caution for 74 laps.