The first endurance race of the 2019 US season is in the books. Endurance racing is unique in the pantheon of motorsports. Everyone has their particular flavor (Rally-Oval track-Endurance-Sprint) which is natural, but the reasons I love endurance racing are simple: it’s not simply a sprint completed in a few hours, but a torture test of both man/woman and machine twelve times (there are a few exceptions) the duration of most auto races. It becomes a true test of driver and machine as both are subjected to day and night conditions (sunrise-dusk being especially tricky in traffic), variable weather to conquer, and multiple classes which can complicate the picture all while keeping that mental fortitude handling a vehicle capable of traveling over 200 mph.
There were several plot lines to sink your teeth into; a revamped Mazda DPi program headed by Team Joest, who finally made their return after what seemed a long time away when Audi shuttered its WEC program, BMW returning to IMSA if only for one endurance race this season, Corvette-Porsche dominance early before having issues of their own due to mechanical or weather related hinderances, the #67 GT40 car running out of fuel in pit lane as the pit services were closed due to a full course caution and thereby requiring emergency service to get it running again, 18 full course cautions, and speaking of the elephant in the room had there been two red flags issued during this race?
The answer is no, never before during a 24 Hours of Daytona has there ever been two red flags issued until this year. And for those of you who watched the race, I’m surprised it got to the 2nd red flag.
It started off benign enough, but early Sunday morning it turned treacherous, and the rooster tails were so thick coming off the DPi cars that anyone behind them had to contend with zero visibility. It’s funny that the banked section of the track were the safest sectors during the multiple downpours, and only when the cars came down to the bottom of the apron to begin the road course did the loss of control begin, especially at the Bus Stop. It seemed like each consecutive lap there were multiple cars of various classes spinning. The race turned into a clinic watching these top flight drivers lose and then quickly regain control of their cars. And while we’re at it, the GTD cars with their quasi-factory systems (read ABS) probably allowed them to better cope with the wet conditions than the other classes in what seemed an ever present deluge from 5am onwards.
The Konica Minolta Cadillac took top honors in DPi class and overall win. Mazda showed promise, but reliability hampered their challenge to Cadillac.
By The Numbers:
- 57th running
- Circuit: 3.56 miles
- Composition: High speed banked turns and road circuit elements.
- Banking on the oval: 31 degrees
- 593 laps completed
- Fastest lap: 1:33.68 @ 136.792
- Stoppage: twice (first time ever)
- 47 entries spread over 4 classes