"With Banner Racing, Speedsource and Blackforest Racing having a lot of factory support, we realise all the Porsche teams will have our work cut out. But Daytona could bring a surprise winner in GT..." said Alegra Motorsports operations manager Theo Papadopoulos before the Rolex 24. Little did he know.
Papdopoulos' Miami-based team wasn't really a contender in the early stages of the Grand-Am season-opener, but found itself ideally placed to pick up the pieces when the front-running Tafel and Farnbacher-Loles squads ran into trouble late on.
The #85 Farnbacher Loles Porsche 911 GT3 Cup led the GT class for 397 laps - or more than 15 hours - before an oil leak and an overheating engine ended its race with only an hour and 15 minutes to go. The #74 Tafel Racing car, which had taken the lead at the start, had already fallen back in the seventh hour, when a flat tyre came apart and broke a radiator and suspension pieces, ending its chances, allowing the Alegra entry of Carlos de Quesada, Scooter Gabel, Marc Basseng and Jean-Francois Dumoulin to inherit the advantage.
The #22 crew did not have it easy in the closing stages, however, as the #07 Banner Racing Pontiac closed inexorably on the lead. With 30 minutes to go, both Porsche and Pontiac headed in the pits at the same time, but the Alegra crew serviced its car and got it back on the track before the competition, sealing the win.
"The car was running hot near the end of the race, and the second-place Pontiac closed to within seven seconds, but we short-shifted the engine, were easy on the brakes, and stayed away from traffic to stay in front," Dumoulin revealed after the win had been sealed by a scant seven seconds.
The team openly admitted that it was an underdog, not only against the well-supported rival marques, but also among larger Porsche outfits with professional drivers, but
worked hard to prepare the car for the event.
"We struggled through winter test days and most of practice without getting the set-up right and, then, right before qualifying on Thursday, we finally got it," team owner de Quesada smiled.
Alegra's success made up for disappointment in the Porsche-powered Daytona Prototype ranks, where Brumos Racing's #59 recorded its best finish in fourth place. The #58 sister car had been a contender until contact - ironically with a 911 GT3 - during the night cracked the bell housing, causing the team to change the rear end and lose almost an hour in the garage. Mechanical problems and/or incidents also slowed the other Porsche-powered prototypes run by TruSpeed, Ruby Tuesday Alex Job Racing, Cheever Racing and Howard Motorsports.