Despite getting word from Daytona's Halifax Hospital about the positive condition of driver Gaston Mazzacane, VICI Racing could not disguise the disappointment of not making it to the end of its first Rolex 24.
Although never a frontrunner in the Grand-Am season-opener, the #18 XM Satellite Fabcar-Porsche was holding its own in the Daytona Prototype class until its race came to an abrupt end in the gathering darkness. With just eight hours of tough racing under its belt, the #18 sustained heavy accident damage when Mazzacane found the barriers, enough to force the car into retirement.
It was a bitter blow for the Miami-based team, which had put a lot of work into the Daytona event, with the Fabcar project progressing all week. The #18 had run perfectly in the opening hours of the event, allowing the team to keep to its pre-determined race strategy, and all five drivers - Mazzacane, Terry Borcheller, Uwe Alzen, Robert Renauer and Nicky Pastorelli - ran consistent lap times, despite the Argentine, German and Dutchman making their 24-hour debut. However, after 240 laps and eight hours, twelve minutes and 14 seconds of racing, and with rain threatening, Mazzacane slid off the road, hitting the barriers on the inside of turn five.
The former F1 driver was immediately taken to the medical centre for a precautionary check-up, which he passed, but was flown on to the local hospital for further checks, casting a pall over an already disappointed VICI team.
“We are very relieved that Gaston was okay, but it was a very disappointing end to the race,” admitted team president Ron C Meixner, "We put a lot of effort into this week, when the whole-hearted support of XM Satellite Radio has been instrumental in the project taking shape.
"I have been delighted with the way we have progressed, the package is very promising, the car is improving quickly, the Porsche engine is superb and the team and crew have showed resolution and desire. That's motor racing unfortunately, but we will bounce straight back from this result.”
Technical director and chief engineer Roland Wall echoed Meixner's sentiments about Mazzacane, and was quick to pay tribute to the efforts of the entire team in the build-up to the race, as well as the short time the #18 was on track.
“Firstly, we are all delighted that Gastón is safe and sound; that is always our primary concern when the car goes off the track," he said, "Up to that point, the race was progressing very well. The car was running very consistently, and we were able to lap well within our target times. The technical programme that we implemented during the week was really starting to pay off, with an excellent set-up in place. We were climbing the leaderboard lap by lap and adhering to our race strategy, so I can have no complaints - everyone was pulling together just great. The team crew and the drivers have all worked so hard this week that I'm disappointed for them.”