Last year, Meyer Shank Racing won the 24 Hours of Daytona and the IMSA championship in an Acura ARX-05. This year was a reset, the first ever race for the hybrid GTP class. MSR has made a change to its full-time pilot lineup and upgraded to Acura’s new LMDh-spec ARX-06, but they start this reset exactly as they finished the previous era.
Although the race was competitive overnight, the No. 60 and driver Tom Blomqvist in particular were the dominant force for most of the 24-hour race. Blomqvist qualified the car on pole, retained the lead as starting driver and pulled away to build huge leads over multiple late restarts. He secures a victory alongside new co-driver Colin Braun and the team’s IndyCar drivers, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud. It is the first overall victory at Daytona for Braun, but the second consecutive for Blomqvist, Castroneves and Pagenaud.
The N. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing ARX-06 completed a 1-2 debut for new Acura driver, which uses a new turbocharged 2.4-liter V-6. Cadillac’s new V-LMDh, which uses a naturally aspirated V-8 that’s more than double the displacement of Acura, completes the lead lap in third and fourth places. Entry No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing, the full-time entry for that group, takes third; the number 02 who will race the full season in the FIA World Endurance Championship finishes fourth.
Both Acuras overcame an issue that required pit lane fluid flushes every four hours or so and track contacts. Cadillac No. 01 returned from an initial hit to the rear bodywork which required repairs.
Both Porsche and BMW also debuted GTP cars in competition, but their days were marred by reliability issues. The Porsches run by Penske were particularly quick overnight, but the No. 963 The team’s No. 7 required an early battery change and car No. 6 suffered a transmission problem late. Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s BMW M Hybrid V8s struggled on overall pace throughout the day, but their day 25 was scuppered early by a problem within the hybrid system. Both BMWs and Porsche no. 6 eventually arrived, albeit with many laps behind.
In LMP2, Proton Competition’s James Allen beat car no. 04 Crowdstrike Racing crossed the finish line by just 0.016 seconds to take the class win. Allen was joined by co-drivers Fred Poordad, Francesco Pizzi and Gianmaria Bruni in that car. The class podium was completed by AF Corse car number 88.
LMP3 was decided by attrition early, leaving the No. 17 AWA entry of Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nicholas Varrone and Thomas Merrill alone in the lead lap with nearly six hours remaining. The team won the class by 12 laps.
In GTD Pro, Nürburgring road lap record holder Maro Engel led Cooper MacNeil, Daniel Juncadella and Jules Gounon to class victory for the WeatherTech Racing-branded Proton Competition Mercedes AMG GT3. Engel held off both the No. 4 C8.R Corvette. 3 that the Lexus RC-F no. 14 on final reboot.
Daniel Juncadella, Marco Sorenson, Roman de Angelis and Ian James won the GTD pro-am class for Aston Martin and Heart of Racing, beating not just the other GTD cars but every single GTD Pro entry. Magnus Racing and the No. 70 Inception Racing McLaren rounded out the podium.
The LMDh era is well underway. IMSA returns for the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 18th. Cadillac and Porsche will also race their LMDh-spec cars in the FIA World Endurance Championship season opener the day before at the same track.
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