Sylvain Tremblay finished what he started at Daytona on Thursday by taking the pole-winning SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 to the chequered flag to win the GT class at the Rolex 24.
Along with co-drivers Nick Ham, David Haskell and Raphael Matos, Tremblay led the #70 Castrol Syntec-backed car to ninth overall in the race after a frenetic 24 hours spent dicing with the best of the Porsche runners. With the exception of an off-track excursion and a few near misses, the team put together an almost flawless effort, combining to lead 323 of the 664 GT laps covered, including all of the race's final quarter. Each driver led at least 40 laps in Mazda's first victory in any Rolex 24 class since winning in SRP in 2001.
"Our biggest mechanical problem was my ears," Tremblay joked, "I had fluid in my ear yesterday and couldn't hear anything. We also lost the driver's side mirror, which is a problem, especially here, but our spotters did a great job. The car was flawless.”
The victory was the fourth for the SpeedSource operation in just over a year in the Rolex Series, and follows the team's victory in sprint at Daytona in July 2007. The win also broke a 14-year streak of Porsche success in the GT class.
"It is pretty special," Tremblay continued, "I've dreamt of this since I started racing. When I first talked of getting a Mazda running against the Porsches, it seemed like a joke back then. There was so much that had to happen, so many pieces we had to build. Then we had to convince other people to believe in our dream, and pull on from there.
"Today is really the culmination of a lot of work from a lot of different people who all had a dream – to come here and race against the best. I must say, in all the years I've been racing, this GT field was by far the stiffest, strongest field I've ever seen in any GT race anywhere in the world. I'm proud of the accomplishment of my team-mates. It's a dream come true."
Ham felt a win in the series' biggest race was not only rewarding, but would carry over in the season-long points chase.
"It was a reasonably uneventful race," he said, having led nine times for 93 laps, "We all had our moments, but the key thing was that everyone on the team did their job, and did it to the best of their ability. That, in the end, is why we won. This victory is definitely going to give us a good place to start. It's nice having the lead going into Homestead. Hopefully, we can maintain it."
SpeedSource also rounded out the top five with Emil Assentato, Nick Longhi, Jeff Segal and Lonnie Pechnik.