Hat-tricks for Acura and Castroneves
History was in the Florida air as the new LMDh prototypes took their global bow, as the Daytona 24 Hours ushered in the much-vaunted return of Porsche and BMW to sports car racing’s premier division. But while both German giants played their part in another great January classic, the story at the sharp end revolved around Acura versus Cadillac – just as it had during the previous DPi era. And it was Honda’s American Acura brand that had the edge as it claimed a resounding third consecutive victory at the Daytona 24.
Meyer Shank Racing had a clear edge on pace with its ARX-06 as the team claimed a second consecutive victory at the race, with Tom Blomqvist leading the charge from pole position. He was joined by French IndyCar ace Simon Pagenaud, rising US endurance star Colin Braun and the ever-green Helio Castroneves, who continues to enjoy a bountiful Indian summer to his long career – at 47 years old. Remarkably, this was Castroneves’ third consecutive Daytona victory, to continue a winning streak that also includes a record-equalling fourth Indianapolis 500 win in 2021.
“I can’t wait for 2024!” he said with a big smile after leading the whole team in his signature fence-climbing celebration. “Tom did an amazing job, Simon did an amazing job. To build this programme in a short minute, I can’t believe we have both cars in first and second.”
Wayne Taylor Racing’s first race in partnership with Andretti Autosport was predictably strong. But the team, which delivered Acura the first of its Daytona wins in 2021, didn’t quite have the pace to challenge its Acura sister from Meyer Shank. At least Filipe Albuquerque, Brendon Hartley, Ricky Taylor and Louis Deletraz had enough to defeat the two Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs and the Whelen Engineering entry, as the American brand scored a 3-4-5.
BMW’s new M Hybrid V8 lacked ultimate pace, but the #24 entry helmed by Philipp Eng at least managed a solid sixth place. As for Porsche, its new 963 was absolutely in the mix on speed and even led the race, only for trouble to catch up with both entries. One lost 35 laps to a battery change, the other expired in a cloud of engine smoke in the closing stages with Nick Tandy at the wheel, after the Englishman had suffered a spin earlier on.