The Rolex 24 at Daytona proved to be something of an emotional rollercoaster for the Tafel Racing team, which had to be content with sixth in the GT class after its two more fancied cars lost time to technical problems.
In the end, it was the #73 Red Bull/One and Only Resorts Porsche crewed by Dieter Quester, Philipp Peter, Lars Eric Nielsen and Brent Martini that carried Tafel honours to the flag, the #72 and #74 cars, which had started so brightly, being consigned to the role of also-rans. Not that the #73 got away unscathed, however. Starting eighth, the car suffered early contact with a DP entry which resulted in enough bodywork damage that it required additional pit-stops to correct.
“It's been a long 24 hours since our exhaust got hit in hour two as well as our left rear wheel," Martini admitted, "However, with all of the elements that were thrown at us, the guys in the pits did an amazing job of figuring out all of the right things to do and made all of the right choices. We were always on the right tyres at the right time, and we were in the pits at the right time. They were masterful.”
The #74 Rembrandt Charms car made a very strong start to event, with Wolf Henzler and Dominik Farnbacher maintaining the class lead through both of their marathon stints. Late in the evening, however, the car ran into mechanical problems when a shock absorber broke and caused subsequent suspension problems, requiring a lengthy stop and dropping the car down the order. The time and ground lost made it more difficult to improve position through the remainder of the race, despite strong lap times featuring throughout the spirited fightback.
“We had a problem after about seven hours, which lost us one hour," Henzler confirmed, "That was difficult, but we did not stop fighting and all the drivers - Dominik, Jim [Tafel], Eric [Lux] and me - fought all the way. It was not an easy race with the rain and then drying track, which happened several times, but we all tried very hard and never gave up. The guys did a very good job on the pit-stops, so it was a shame about the problems we had during the race.”
Things did not work out for the #72 North-South entry either. Although Scotsman Robin Liddell qualified 13th and went on to drive a powerful first stint which had the car as high as second at one point, mechanical issues again got in the way. The car went behind the wall near midnight with a gearbox problem, which caused the team to lose considerable track time and, although the car ran well after the repair was made, the remainder of the race was spent fighting to make up the lost laps.
“I'd like to hope we could chalk this one down as a dress rehearsal for further endurance races in the year," Liddell sighed, "You could say we did a great job and were just unlucky, but I prefer to look at it a bit more critically and think about where you could have been better, or done things differently.”