From qualifying last Sunday to the first few hours of Saturday and Sunday's 24 Hours of Daytona, Cadillac's overwhelming speed in the GTP class was the story. two Cadillac V-Series.R entries from two separate factory teams locked out the front row, the Cadillacs led all the post-qualifying practice sessions, and the Cadillacs led through the early running. The race ended in a 40-minute shootout between two of IMSA's biggest stars over the past few years, but Cadillac did not triumph.
Tom Blomqvist, the dominant force in last year's race as an Acura driver for Meyer Shank Racing and a new IndyCar driver in 2024, got into the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac V-Series.R as it ran second with a few hours left in the race. Blomqvist quickly made up time on the leading No. 7 Porsche driven by Felipe Nasr, cutting down a gap of more than a dozen seconds before taking the lead after a second-to-last cycle of pit stops. For a moment, it looked like Blomqvist was ready to kick into high gear and run away with the race.
Crucially, though, the Porsche stopped one lap later than the Cadillac on that final green flag stop. When a Lexus GTD entry caught fire and brought out the day's final safety car, that extra fuel and a decision to put less total fuel in the car allowed the Porsche to complete a faster stop and take the lead back on the pit road.
That put Nasr in position to defend against Blomqvist in what appeared to now be a faster Cadillac. Not only did Nasr not allow Blomqvist past, he built a small gap on the Cadillac and ensured that Blmoqvist did not have a real shot to make a move at any point over the course of the stint. The former Williams Formula 1 driver, two-time IMSA champion, and Porsche factory driver secured the brand its biggest win of the LMDh era to date, making the 963 a winner in a race where it disappointed against high expectations on debut last season.
Nasr is joined in the victory by co-drivers Matt Campbell, Dane Cameron, and 2023 Indianapolis 500 champion Josef Newgarden. The No. 31 Cadillac and Acura's No. 40 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti ARX-06 completed the overall podium.
With one 24 hour trophy in its cap, Penske and Porsche's eyes turn to Le Mans. A win in the 24 hour race would not only extend a long-standing record for Porsche, it would add the biggest event in sports car racing to Roger Penske's legendary trophy case. For now, the pair will have to settle for Porsche's first win in this race since 2010 and Penske's first win since 1969.
In GTD Pro, what started as a sensational battle eventually whittled down to a one-car race. Risi Competizione's Ferrari 296 both outran and outlasted the competition, winning by 35 seconds over AO Racing's "Rexy" Porsche 911 GT3 R finished second, 33 seconds back. Paul Miller Racing's No. 1 BMW M4 GT3 stayed within ten seconds of the Ferrari for most of the day, but a brake rotor issue in hour 22 dropped it to a somewhat distant third and final podium position.
In the pro-am GTD class, Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 driver Daniel Morad held off Miguel Molina in an AF Corse Ferrari 296 on the final stint. Conquest Racing's Ferrari 296 completed the class podium. Christian Rasmussen took the Era Motorsports car to the LMP2 win, six seconds over the No. 04 Crowdstrike Racing entry and 18 seconds clear of the No. 74 Riley Oreca. LMP3, a class that had become a controversial staple of IMSA in recent years, is no longer a part of the 24 Hours of Daytona.
IMSA's season continues with the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 16th. The European top-level sports car season begins a few weeks earlier with the Qatar 1812 km on March 2nd. Both are major milestones on the lead-up to the 101st anniversary 24 Hours of Le Mans, set to be run on June 16th.
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