Constant rain throughout the night did nothing to dampen the heat of competition as the 2017 Daytona Rolex 24 hour race came to a close in suitably dramatic fashion.
In the prototype class, the fastest cars on the track, the almighty scrap for the overall lead between the two fabulous-sounding, dramatic-looking Cadillac DPi cars came to a fiery conclusion when Ricky Taylor in the 10 car, stuffed his car up the inside of Filipe Albuquerque’s (number 5) at turn one and promptly nerfed him off.
You could almost see the steam coming out of the Caddy’s cockpit as Albuquerque fought back, but Taylor held on to take the overall lead and win by under 0.7 seconds.
The NASCAR-style tactics used by Taylor to get the win meant that Stock Car legend Jeff Gordon, who did a gentlemanly two-hour stint in the same car, now becomes one of just four drivers to have won the Rolex 24 hours and the Daytona 500. The other three? Jamie McMurray, AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti.
In the GTLM class, The Chip Ganassi Ford team avenged its defeat from last year by hanging on to win by three seconds – after 24 hours and eleventy six driver changes – when Dirk Muller brought the 66 car home at the front of the pack. This was the same three-man team which won the GT class at Le Mans last year: Muller, Joey Hand and Indy star Sebastien Bourdais.
The all new Porsche RSR – with its brand new mid-engined layout, thanks to the company swapping the positions of the engine and gearbox – started poorly with the first of the two cars having to come in after the first lap. But then, in true Porsche fashion, they found their clockwork groove and started working their way back to the front. As they always seem to do.
Patrick Pilet was putting Muller under serious pressure, but ultimately had to back off when his tyres started to go off. So he settled for a hard-fought, and still worrying for all the other teams, second place. The Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, with Giancarlo Fisichella among its drivers, was third. And the Corvette C7-R came in fourth.
With the new GT3 specs allowing those cars to run in the GTD class, there were a couple of new cars on the grid in this class. Notably the Mercedes AMG GT3, the Acura (Honda) NSX GT3, and the Lexus RCF GT3. None of them had the legs to beat the omnipotent Porsche 911 of the eventual winner, but Ben Keating’s Mercedes made it into third spot on his first go.
BMW’s latest art car – an M6 GTLM – finished 12th overall, and eighth in class. Further down the grid, meanwhile, Mazda’s spectacular looking prototypes finished 40th and 46th, after a raft of issues. Doesn’t stop them being perhaps the prettiest cars on the whole grid, mind.
Get clicking to see some of our choice shots from the 2017 Rolex 24, including some from the historic 24 Minutes of Daytona contenders, from a Lancia Beta Monte Carlo to a Triumph TR8. Yes, really…
Images: Nathan Deremer, Deremer Studios