2024 Daytona 24 Hours | 6 talking points

29th January 2024
Damien Smith

The odd tear was shed as the illustrious endurance racing alliance between Porsche and Penske hit gold on Sunday, after ex-Formula 1 driver Felipe Nasr saw off a challenge from Cadillac to score a historic victory in the 62nd Rolex Daytona 24 Hours. Here are the headline talking points from an action-packed start to the IMSA sportscar season.


1. Milestones for Porsche and Penske at Daytona

The result marked a 19th overall victory for Porsche at Daytona and the first since 2003 when The Racer’s Group scored a surprise win with its 911 GT3-R. Porsche-powered Rileys won in 2009 and ’10, but this weekend’s success was the first for a full-blown Porsche sports-prototype since Joest scored the last for a 962 in 1991 (although Kremer’s Porsche-based K8 scored a win in 1995, just to muddy the waters!).

Whatever, it’s been a long time since Porsche won overall at Daytona. But it’s been an even longer wait for Roger Penske. ‘The Captain’ last watched one of his cars win Daytona’s great 24-hour race 55 years ago in 1969, when Mark Donohue and Chuck Parsons pulled off a famous win in their blue Sunoco-sponsored Lola T70 MkIIIB.

No wonder emotions welled for Penske in the immediate aftermath, at the start of the sophomore year for the Porsche 963 programme. “We entered into this partnership with Porsche and last year at Le Mans we stumbled,” he said. “We had some good runs [elsewhere] last year, but to come back here and have both cars run for 24 hours and then win the race, it’s hard for me to believe. This goes down as one of the biggest wins we’ve had. Now we have to go for the big one at Le Mans.”


2. Shootout to the finish at Daytona 

The race boiled down to a tense 30-minute duel between the #7 Porsche 963 driven by Nasr and the #31 Action Express Cadillac helmed by Tom Blomqvist, who was bidding for his personal hat-trick of Daytona victories. Typically of this great race, a late safety car had concertinaed the field together and with 23 and a half hours of racing spent, it all came down to a half-hour sprint.

In the previous hour, with 72 minutes to go, Blomqvist had gained the upper hand with a fantastic move on Nasr at Turn 1 while the Porsche was still working heat into its tyres following a pitstop. Blomqvist took the long way around a GTD Ferrari 296 to sweep past Nasr and claim the lead.

But a final full course yellow was called when a Vasser Sullivan Racing Lexus RC F GTD entry suffered an engine fire. In the ensuing final round of stops Nasr gained back the lead with a quicker pit visit because the Brazilian required less fuel than his Caddy rival to make it to the finish. That meant when the safety car let them go with 32 minutes left on the clock Blomqvist had it all to do once again.

He looked quicker on the infield section, but every lap Nasr was hard on the gas back up on to the banking and always had just enough to keep the British-born Swede at arm’s length. The gap ebbed and flowed in traffic, but Blomqvist lost out in a throng of GTD cars as the clock ticked down. The final gap between them was just 2.112sec.


3. Confusion at the finish

But Porsche-Penske celebrations were muted at first because the chequered flag appeared a lap earlier than expected, and before the 24 hours was officially up. Nasr kept his foot in for one more tour and took the chequer for a second time, just to be sure. At that point the team could properly let rip.

For Nasr and the rest of the #7 driving crew, this was their first overall victory at Daytona. He shared the glory with American Dane Cameron, Australian Matt Campbell and IndyCar ace Josef Newgarden, who added a Rolex watch to his career haul just eight months after winning the Indianapolis 500.


4. Podium for Jenson Button at Daytona

Second is a bitter pill at the big races, but Blomqvist – who switches to IndyCar racing this year with his former sportscar team Meyer Shank Racing – earned further credit for his drive. He shared the V-Series.R with Pipo Derani and Briton Jack Aitken.

Third in GTP was the #40 Acura ARX-06 run by Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti and driven by Louis Deletraz, Jordan Taylor, IndyCar ace Colton Herta – and Jenson Button. The 2009 Formula 1 world champion acquitted himself well on his Daytona debut, in a team that never quite had the pace to challenge for victory. At the final restart Deletraz made contact at Turn 1 with the #6 Porsche 963, Mathieu Jaminet recovering from the moment to finish fourth in a car delayed by penalties for energy consumption infringements caused by a software glitch.


5. Era claims LMP2 victory at Daytona

The secondary prototype class also featured a final-stint shootout as Era Motorsport’s Christian Rasmussen claimed victory in the ORECA he shared with Dwight Merriman, Connor Zilisch and Scot Ryan Dalziel. Indy NXT champion Rasmussen held off Crowdstrike’s Malthe Jakobsen, who was lucky to be let off with a warning after punting a BMW GTP car into a spin following the final restart.


6. Another 24-hour victory for Ferrari

In the wake of its glorious Le Mans win last year, Ferrari added a GTD Pro class victory to its roster as Risi Competizione prevailed at Daytona with its 296 GT3. Le Mans winners James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi were both on the driving strength in the winning car, sharing with Davide Rigon and Daniel Serra, the latter bringing it home ahead of the AO Racing Porsche 911 GT3 of Laurin Heinrich, Michael Christensen and Seb Priaulx (son of Goodwood favourite Andy).

In the pro-am GTD category, the Mercedes-AMG of Winward Racing took the spoils with Daniel Morad clinching the victory he shared with Russell Ward, Philip Ellis and Indy Dontje. The IMSA SportsCar Series resumes with the Sebring 12 Hours on March 13-16.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images

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