Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque, Alexander Rossi and Helio Castroneves celebrate winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona. (Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY via Reuters)
Wayne Taylor Racing won its record-tying third consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona, using a new car and a new lineup to beat some of the best racers in the world.
Filipe Albuquerque held off Kamui Kobayashi and Renger van der Zande — both part of WTR’s winning teams the past two seasons and both seeking to become the first winners of three consecutive Rolex races — to give the overhauled Taylor team its fourth win in the past five years at Daytona International Speedway.
Albuquerque was challenged over the final 25 minutes by van der Zande, driving a Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing, until the team suffered a second tire failure with seven minutes remaining.
Kobayashi cycled into second but didn’t have enough to catch Albuquerque, who closed out the first overall victory for Acura in the prestigious twice-round-the-clock endurance race.
WTR left General Motors after 28 years at the end of last season to become a factory Acura program, and the team needed every minute of the last two months to get its car ready for Daytona. Wayne Taylor replaced his entire lineup for the move to Acura and hired Albuquerque, as well as his oldest son, Ricky Taylor, Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi. The trio all drove the Acura the past three seasons for Team Penske but needed new jobs when Penske closed at the end of last year.
Ricky Taylor and Castroneves, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, are the reigning IMSA champions and had the familiarity with the Acura to ensure the team was prepared despite no offseason testing.
It was WTR’s fourth Rolex win in five years and fifth overall, one behind Ganassi’s record six victories. The three-straight wins tie Ganassi’s mark.
It’s the first Rolex for Castroneves and Rossi. Albuquerque won in 2018 driving a Cadillac, and Ricky Taylor won in a Cadillac for his father’s team in 2017.
Ricky Taylor, who closed out the 2017 Rolex win for WTR, was in the car late and had the option to finish the race but decided to turn it over to Albuquerque because the Portuguese driver was rested and could tackle track conditions that included increased wind speeds.
“We decided we wanted somebody as fresh as possible in the car,” Ricky Taylor said. “He got in there and was an absolute monster and carried it at the end.”
Cadillac got a second-place finish from an Action Express all-star car that included seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson. Kobayashi carried the load for an Action Express lineup that also included Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller.
When Taylor switched to Acura, he released drivers van der Zande and Ryan Briscoe, and chose a new lineup with familiarity of the car. Ganassi snatched van der Zande, who was battling Kobayashi to become the first winner of three straight.
The Dutch driver closed on his former team multiple times in the final 25 minutes but couldn’t make a pass for the lead and was eliminated when his tire was punctured.
“I could see his eyes in my mirrors,” Albuquerque said of van der Zande. “He was so hungry for this, especially with the whole story of leaving Wayne Taylor. I was lucky that they had a puncture.”
The Ganassi team suffered a puncture less than two hours earlier when six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon was driving, and also overcame two penalties from newcomer Kevin Magnussen, who spent the last seven seasons in Formula One. The team fell to fifth.
“Absolutely gutted,” Magnussen said. “Looked like we had the race win right there. Renger had really good pace catching the No. 10 car and I think he would have had a really good chance to win the race.”
Jordan Taylor, youngest son of the winning team owner, was also a winner in the GT Le Mans class and closed the victory for Corvette Racing. The lineup included Nicky Catsburg and Antonio Garcia, who General Motors said after the race it had pulled from the car because Garcia tested positive for COVID-19 as part of his preparations to leave the United States. Garcia drove nearly eight hours in the race and was last in the car Sunday morning.
“While Antonio Garcia tested negative in preparation for his arrival for the Rolex 24, we have received notice that he has now tested positive in preparation to depart the country,” GM said in a statement.
Era Motorsport won the Le Mans Prototype 2 class in an Oreca LMP2; Riley Motorsports won the Le Mans Prototype 3 class in Ligier JS P320; and Winward Racing in a Mercedes-AMG GT3 won the GT Daytona class, which at 20 entries was the largest class of the 49-car field.