For a team that merely wanted to get to the end of the Rolex 24 at Daytona for experience, AIM Autosport's debut performance in the blue riband Grand-Am event certainly belied its rookie status.
Lead driver Mark Wilkins combined with David Empringham, Brian and Burt Frisselle to take the #61 Riley-Lexus to a remarkable fifth-place finish, after escaping most of the problems that afflicted its more experienced rivals. Although the gold-and-black car started the race from 27th on the grid after a starter problem negated its 17th-place qualifying position, the drivers steadily worked through the field to feature in the top ten for more than 23 hours., leaving team owner Ian Willis admitting that he was 'speechless'.
"It's amazing!" Wilkins agreed, "AIM Autosport did a great job - [I've raced for] seven years with these guys, and it feels great to come out to a first 24 in a DP car and be in the top five.
"We stayed out of the garage, a testament to the hard work that the guys put in at the shop. It's really been a huge team effort and this just goes to show it. Hopefully, we can build on this great result and have a successful year."
Empringham is a Daytona Prototype, dating back to the category's first outing at Daytona, when he won the class alongside David Brabham and Scott Maxwell.
"I think we can be pretty proud of fifth place," he admitted, "For a first time here as a team, the car ran just unbelievably. The guys did a great job and we had a lot of good luck. In the 24th hour, the car felt the best it did all race - that's a good testament to the team."
The Brothers Frisselle will share driving duties alongside Wilkins this season, and Burt's reaction underlined just how excited both were to be part of the AIM operation.
"I can't say enough about how special this is for me," he said, echoing his brothers' sentiments, "AIM Autosport, the work they've done, the job they put into this car to get it ready, not having a programme last year in DP and being a start-up team in the series... coming in and claiming a top five proves that they know the business they're in.
"This is my best memory here at Daytona yet, and I hope there are many more in the future. I look forward to coming back next year so we can try to run for the Rolexes."
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