For Southard Motorsports, half the battle was getting their #3 Riley-Lexus to the starting line of the Rolex 24 Hours after a serious crash in testing but while they won that battle they lost the war when an engine failure put them out of the race itself.
Driving squad Shane Lewis, Randy Ruhlman, Graham Rahal and the evergreen Elliott-Forbes Robinson had managed to get the #3 entry into the top 15 of the 28 strong Daytona Prototype field after the first quarter of the twice round the clock marathon but disaster struck shortly after Lewis got behind the wheel early in the seventh hour.
Making it as far as turn five on his out lap of the 3.56-mile Daytona circuit, the engine suddenly cried enough and while Lewis was able to coax the car back to the pits, the Southard crew confirmed that the problem was terminal.
With Grand Am rules prohibiting engine changes during a race, the Southard team had the dubious honour of being the first DP to officially retire from the 45th running of the Rolex 24 and despite completing more than 200 laps, the team were classified a dejected 62nd out of the 70 starters.
"With our experience as a team, I had complete faith that not much could stop us from finishing the Rolex 24," said team owner Steve Southard. "The crew worked incredibly hard to get the new car here and ready to race, and it was running really well. Unfortunately, we just aren't allowed to change an engine, otherwise, we certainly would have.
“It is such a shame; we had great drivers, good pit strategy, and a fantastic crew and were looking forward to another successful 24-hour race. It's just bad luck today. But we won't let it get us down, we will definitely be ready to show what we have in a few weeks at our next race in Mexico City."