SunTrust Racing managed to avoid the engine woes that affected its fellow Ford runners to post a fine fourth place finish in the opening round of the Grand Am Rolex Series at Daytona.
The engine problems saw no fewer than six Daytona Prototype machines forced out of the event, with Krohn Racing and Michael Shank Racing losing both cars, and AIM Autosport and Doran Racing following suit.
Those issues led to obvious questions over whether or not the SunTrust car would survive to the finish, but rather than just survive, the #10 crew found themselves involved in a frantic battle for victory in the closing stages.
Indeed, the car led for some 56 laps during the event and in the closing stages, Max Angelelli found himself battling for position with David Donohue, Juan Pablo Montoya and Joao Barbosa for the victory.
While victory would ultimately go to the #58 Brumos Racing Porsche, Angelelli was able to take the flag in a fine fourth place, only ten seconds from victory, to hand the team its third consecutive top-five finish in the event.
"Coming out of last year, we really had an up-and-down year but we ended on a pretty high note,” team boss Wayne Taylor said. "But coming to a 24-hour with a car you have never actually run for 24 hours is a challenge. Add to that the change in engine manufacturer to Ford power, and that was another massive change. So, coming in, there were a lot of unknowns.
“About four or five hours in, John Maddox [Roush Yates manager of Cammer Engine Programmes] told me that it was possible that none of the Ford engines might finish. We spent about an hour talking about it amongst everyone and realized it was negative energy. We decided there was no point in worrying about it because if it was going to happen, it was going to happen. So we said, 'Let's go race.'
“If you take that perspective, then this fourth-place finish is great. But we come here to win. We had an understanding of what might be the problem and we knew we couldn't do anything about it, so we just decided to fight and go race. Maybe we got lucky, or maybe there wasn't any problem at all. We are happy coming out of here in fourth place. We got good points and we know now we have a good package. We have run 24 hours, so we should be able to finish the 2hr 45min races. Our sites are on the championship. That is what it is all about for us."
Having taken the flag in fourth, Angelelli admitted he was disappointed not to have been able to fight for victory, but said he was now confident for the remainder of the year.
"We are very competitive and we want to win, and when we don't win, we are disappointed," he reflected. "That is our DNA. We want to succeed. It's written in our DNA and when we don't, we are disappointed and upset. I don't know what happened to the other Fords. Our car was fantastic. I want to thank Dallara and Ford for what they gave me today. Without that combination, I wouldn't have been able to finish fourth.
“I was fast by myself, but when I got close to the others at the end there, they had higher top speed and I just could not get around. Otherwise, I'm very happy with today. I'm looking forward to a great season."