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Montoya drives Ganassi to Daytona 24 win
28 January 2013
Chip Ganassi Racing secured its fifth Daytona 24 Hours victory in ten years of competition, this time with former F1 driver and current NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Juan Pablo Montoya at the wheel of the winning car.
Montoya drive the final stint in the #01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW-Riley Daytona Prototype, which emerged as the car to beat from early on in the endurance race held at the weekend at Daytona International Speedway in Florida.
Montoya's team mates for the gruelling 24 hour event were veteran GRAND-AM stars Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett, together with IndyCar's Charlie Kimball making his début in the Daytona event.
While the #01 always looked to have the measure of the rest of the Daytona Prototype field, the car emerged from pit lane in fourth place during the penultimate full course caution an hour before the scheduled end of the race. Montoya had an edge-of-the-seat battle with AJ Allmendinger in the 2011 winning #60 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley in order to regain track position, but once he pulled it off the Ganassi car reeled in the remaining cars and then disappeared into the distance to eventually win the race with ease.
The #60 ultimately lost second place to the #10 VelocityWW Corvette after the Wayne Taylor Racing squad opted not to change tyres on the car before Max Angelelli drove the final stint to the chequered flag, with his co-drivers Jordan Taylor and reigning IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay watching on and cheering from the pit lane.
Even though the #60 finally came home in third place, team owner Michael Shank said that he was more proud of the drivers - Allmendinger, Justin Wilson, Oswaldo Negri Jr, John Pew and Marcos Ambrose - this year than he had been when the car had won in 2012. The #60 suffered two different mechanical issues that left it seven laps down at one stage, and only a spirited fight back coupled with 16 full course cautions over the 24 hours of racing - including one caution for heavy fog at dawn lasting nearly two hours on Sunday morning - enabled them to get back on an even footing with the leaders before the end.
Mike Rockenfeller was one of the co-drivers of the #9 Action Express Racing Corvette which finished in fourth place a lap off the leading three cars after a costly penalty for causing avoidable contact with Allmendinger at the final restart. The #90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Corvette was a further 11 laps back with Oliver Gavin among the driver line-up, and the #2 Starworks Ford-Riley finished a further lap off the pace. The car's performance had been afflicted with a sticking throttle on Sunday, thwarting the best efforts of drivers Allan McNish, Ryan Dalziel, Sebastien Bourdais and Alex Popow.
GP2 was represented by Felipe Nasr who finished in eighth place overall in the #5 Action Express Racing Corvette, with former F1 driver and current NASCAR Truck Series contender Nelson Piquet Jr. among his team mates,
The GT class was won by Felipe Albuquerque, Oliver Jarvis, Edoardo Mortara and Dion von Moltke helming the #24 Audi R8 which finished in ninth place just 1.5s ahead of their #52 Audi stable mate, whose last-stint driver Rene Rast picked up second spot in the class after Markus Winkelhock in the third Audi tried to do without the late slash-and-dash favoured by the other leaders and ended up running dry in the final minutes of the race as a result. Winkelhock's misfortune left third place in the GT class in the hands of the #69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari, followed by the #63 Scuderia Corsa Michelotto Ferrari and the #44 Magnus Racing Porsche.
The #13 Audi eventually ended up in fifteenth place overall (seventh in class) as a result of running short on fuel, putting Winkelhock just ahead of the AF Waltrip Ferrari which featured NASCAR 2012 Sprint Cup title runner-up Clint Bowyer in his first outing in the Daytona 24 Hours. The winner of the GX class was the #16 Napleton Racing Porsche Cayman, which finished in 26th place in the overall standings.
Among those suffering from mechanical problems were the #3 8 Star Motorsports Corvette featuring Anthony Davidson's return to racing after his frightening crash at Le Mans in 2012, and the #02 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW-Riley shared by IndyCar stars Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon along with Joey Hand and NASCAR's Jamie McMurray. Dixon subsequently moved over to supplement the line-up of the race-winning #02 car.
The second Michael Shank Racing car, the #6 Ford-Riley driven by Indy Lights stars Jorge Goncalvez and Gustavo Yacaman together with Michael Valiante and Chris Cumming also suffered an early exit, while Andy Priaux didn't even make it to the start of the race after the #93 Turner Motorsport car was too badly damaged in an earlier practice session to take the green flag.
The next GRAND-AM race is held at the Circuit of the Americas just outside Austin, Texas on March 2.
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