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Corvettes Express Selves By Winning Rolex 24

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, January 26 2014

The No. 555 Level 5 Ferrari was awarded the GTD class victory Sunday after a review of a final-lap incident in the Rolex 24.

Corvettes proved to be the class of the Prototype field in the 2014 Rolex 24-hour race at Daytona International Speedway, and the cars of Action Express proved to be the class of the Corvette-fielding teams.

The Action Express No. 5 car, with Sebastien Bourdais driving, took the lead from the Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Corvette with just under two and a half hours to go at DIS and from there held on to get the overall victory in the debut event for the Tudor United SportsCar Championship.

Joao Barbosa was at the wheel in the final race-clinching stint. Max Angelelli was in the Wayne Taylor ‘Vette at the end.

Finishing third in Prototype was the No. 9 Action Express Corvette, with Brian Frisselle driving.

Claiming other class victories Sunday were:

– GT Le Mans; The No. 911 factory Porsche 911 RSR. Patrick Pilet was behind wheel at finish. Finishing second was the No. 55 BMW Z4 GTE of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

– In Prototype Challenge; The No. 54 Core Autosport car took the checkered flag. Driving the final stint was Colin Braun.

– In GT Daytona; Allessandro Pier Guiti in the No. 555 Level 5 Ferrari 458 Italia took the checkers but was issued an “avoidable contact” penalty when it diced, but did not appear to hit, the second-place Audi R8 LMS driven by Markus Winklehock. The penalty handed the victory to the Flying Lizards Audi.

But several hours after the end of the race, the IMSA sanctioning body reversed the ruling and declared the Level 5 team the winners.

“A full post-race review of the incident on the last lap of the 52nd Rolex 24 At Daytona was completed by IMSA Supervisory Officials,” a series statement read. “The decision has been made to reverse the decision by the race director, rescind the penalty against the No. 555 Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia team, and reinstate drivers Scott Tucker, Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell, Jeff Segal and Alessandro Pier Giuidi as the GT Daytona class winners. We regret the confusion following the race, and appreciate the patience by our fans, drivers, teams and the media so we could properly review and subsequently report this decision.”

It was during the Saturday daytime portion of the race that the Corvette DP cars started to show their strength.

The No. 5 and No. 9 Action Express Corvettes, that of the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona and that of Wayne Taylor Racing appeared to be the best cars on the track, but the Ford-powered Rileys of Chip Ganassi Racing and the Nissan-powered P2 Oreca of Muscle Milk Pickett Racing also showed good speed.

In GT Le Mans, the battle for the lead was between Porsche and Viper as they stayed nose-to-tail during the daylight hours.

The early going of the race featured a horrific crash in which the pole-sitting No. 99 Corvette DP car of GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing slammed into the rear of the No. 62 GTLM Ferrari 458 driven by Matteo Malucelli, which had lost power.

Both cars were destroyed. It took about an hour to cut Memo Gidley out of the demolished 99 Corvette. The race was red flagged and both drivers were taken to nearby Halifax Medical Center. Both were reported to be conscious at the hospital.

Gidley underwent surgical procedures on both his left arm and left leg. Gidley also has an unstable fracture in his back which will require additional surgery before he can be released from the hospital. He continues to be evaluated.

Malucelli, driver of the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari, remained at Halifax Health overnight for further evaluation. He continues to rest comfortably. An update on his condition will be provided later today.

As the sun began to set, attrition was relatively light among the field of 67 cars spanning the four classes of Prototype, Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona.

The biggest overnight casualty was the No. 01 Chip Ganassi car – a multi-time Grand-Am Series champion.

It went to the garage for repairs shortly after midnight after hitting the outside wall of the chicane called the “Bus Stop”.

Driver Scott Pruett said the car was running fine, then “snapped” on him unexpectedly. The 01 Telcel/Target Ford spent the first half of the race near the front of the pack, leading a significant amount of laps.

The wreck cost Pruett a chance to win a record sixth Daytona 24.

Also not seeing the dawn was the No. 0 DeltaWing Car. The revolutionary sports car prototype went its longest distance to date, logging 288 laps and 1,035 miles in 16 hours before transmission failure ended the day.

As the sun was coming up, a stalled car brought out a caution. When the race restarted – with 6 hours, 39 minute to go – the No. 10 Corvette DP of Wayne Taylor Racing had the Prototype lead. Jordan Taylor was at the wheel.

Right behind was the No. 5 Corvette DP of Action Express with Joao Barbosa driving. However, the car was quickly called to the pits to serve a penalty for avoidable contact. That put the No. 02 Chip Ganassi car into second place.

Also at dawn:

– In GTLM, the factory 911 RSR Porsches were first and second at the restart.

– In GTD, the No. 555 Ferrari 458 of Level 5 had the lead.

– In PC, the No 54 car with Mark Wilkins driving had the lead.

The 02 Ganassi car had a tire go down 20 minutes into the stint and Scott Dixon had to take it to the pits. That put the No. 9 Action Express, with Burt Frisselle  into second place – but barely hanging onto the lead lap.

With 6:17 left, the No. 912 RSR headed to the paddock with an oil pressure problem. Moving to second place as a result was the No. 4 C7.R Corvette with Robin Liddell driving. Joey Hand, driving a Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing BMW Z4 took third place, but was a lap down and the car would soon be penalized for avoidable contact and fall another lap down and into fourth place in class.

In Prototype, the WTR Corvette remained the strongest car as it held the lead except during pit cycling. At 9:30 a.m., the No. 10 Vette, with Ricky Taylor driving, had about a 7-second lead over the Burt Frisselle in the No. 9 car. They were the only two P cars on the lead lap.

Also leading in class with four and a half hours left to go were:

– In GTLM. The No. 911 RSR (Pilet driving), followed by the No. 4 Corvette C7.R (Liddell). They were the only two on the same lap in the class. The BMW Z4s of RLL remained in contention, a lap back.

– In PC. The No. 54 (Braun) had a two lap lead over the No. 7 (Alex Popow).

– In GTD. The No. 555 Level 5 Ferrari (Bill Sweedler). Two others – the No. 59 Porsche GT America (Marco Seefried) and No. 45 Audi R8 LMS (Markus Winklehock) – were on the same lap as the leader.

With just under four hours to go, the No. 56 RLL Z4,with IndyCar’s Graham Rahal driving, headed to garage with wheel bearing problems.

With just over three and a half hours to go, Jordan Taylor lost the lead in the No. 10 P car when he had to hit the grass to avoid a spin. He then pitted to clean the air duct. That gave the lead to John Martin, who was driving the No. 9 Action Express Corvette, though Taylor remained on the lead lap.

Shortly there after, the yellow came out. Martin pitted and Taylor regained the lead.

When the race went green after an inexplicably long 30-plus-minute yellow, the leaders were Taylor in P, Richard Lietz in the No. 911 RSR in GTLM, John Bennett in the No. 54 PC car and the No. 555 Ferrari of Townsend Bell in GTD.

Taylor kept the lead on a dicey restart. On his rear bumper were the only other lead-lap cars  – those of Martin in the No. 5 and Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 9 Action Express Corvettes.

The safety car came out again a couple minutes later when a tire carcass came to rest on the track. When racing resumed, once again Taylor jumped to the lead.

With 2:40 to go, a lead change occurred in GTD as Spencer Pumpelly drove his No. 45 Flying Lizards Audi R8 passed Bell.

Four minutes later, the No. 4 Corvette C7.R began smoking as it battled Lietz’s RSR for the lead. Tommy Miller headed directly for the garage in the Vette, leaving Lietz’s factory Porsche as the only GTLM car on the lead lap. Moving up to second – one lap back – was Bill Auberlen in the No. 55 RLL Z4.

Out front, Boudais had moved to second place behind Taylor while teammate Martin dropped to third.

With 2:27 left, Taylor pitted for a scheduled stop and Bourdais picked up the lead. Ten minutes later, Martin pitted and fell to third behind Taylor. Shortly after that, Bourdais pitted and Taylor moved back to the lead.

With 2:14 left, the No. 7 Starworks Racing PC car of Kyle Marcelli, which was running second in class, caught fire and yellow waved again.

In GTD, leader Pumpelly had to pit for fuel with the pits closed. He stayed on the lead lap, however.

Pitting when the pits opened as leader Taylor, who took a quick load of fuel.

When the race resumed with 1:45 to go, Bourdais led, Taylor was second – but with a couple lap cars between him and the leader – and Martin was third.

Leaders in the other classes were Nick Tandy in the No. 911 RSR in GTLM; Colin Braun in the No. 54 PC car; and the Allessandro Pier Guidi in the No. 555 Ferari  in GTD, but with three other cars on the same lap.

After the restart, Taylor began losing distance to Bourdais. With 1:20 left, the lead was over 10 seconds and growing.

But with 1:09 to go, pitting began. As Bourdais headed in, he over cooked and locked up the brakes. The move didn’t affected the stop, however, as Barbosa, who took over for Bourdais, emerged ahead of the 10 car with the lead.

Taking over third place was the No. 9 Action Express Corvette, in which Brian Frisselle had replaced Martin.

The No. 10 car sank to third, with Angelelli in the driver’s seat for the final stints. But, Angelelli quickly passed Frisselle for second at the 1:00 mark. The bad news was that Angelelli was 17 seconds back.

With 50 minutes left, the No. 02 Ganassi car, which was running fourth and just one lap down, pitted and then headed to the garage.

With 40 minutes to go, the final pit stops were held. When they cycled through, Barbosa had a 30-second lead over Angelelli; Braun held the lead in PC; Pilet’s 911 led GTLM; and Pier Guidi had the lead in GTD.

With just over two minutes to go, a light crash resulted in a horrible call to bring out the caution. That closed up the field for a restart with eight minutes to go which saw Angelelli, who was down 15 seconds before the caution, with one lapped car between him and Barbosa.

Angelelli quickly disposed of the lapped car and took aim at Barbosa but could not close the gap.

The margin of victory was just over 1.4 seconds.

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, January 26 2014
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