Penske Racing's Timo Bernhard admitted that he was disappointed with sixth place in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, but said the team could be proud with what it accomplished from the opening round of the Grand Am Rolex Series season.
Having turned its focus to the series this season after spending recent years in the ALMS, the sportscar arm of the successful open-wheel outfit went into the event amongst the favourites for victory – a fact shown by Bernhard qualifying just 0.001secs away from pole position in the #16 Porsche Riley.
Bernhard quickly moved into the lead of the race at the start and the car would remain a firm contender at the front until the 18th hour when Romain Dumas was forced to pit and the team dropped away from the front while the rear assembly was changed.
Further time was lost later in the race before the car took the flag in sixth place, some 18 laps back from the leaders, and while not happy with the result after the strong early showing, Bernhard said the team had learned plenty ahead of the second round in Virginia.
"I am not happy with the finish but I am definitely not disappointed with what we accomplished as a team," he said. "We all did what we set out to do. We learned a lot about the car and we learned a lot about what areas we need to work on for a strong finish in this series. More important, we have strong notes to prepare for our next race in Virginia."
Bernhard and Dumas were joined for the event by Penske's IndyCar ace Ryan Briscoe, and the American admitted he had enjoyed the experience.
"I believe everyone from our team did what they had to do; we all played our part," he said. "Pit strategy was on and the pit stops were executed extremely well. I had to keep reminding myself that there were several hours to go and then it happened.
“This was my first time driving with Romain and Timo and I would do it again if given the opportunity. They are both champions and we are all driven to win. Hopefully, we'll get another shot at the Gold Rolex next year."