The 55th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, a 24-hour endurance race at Central Florida’s Daytona International Speedway, crowned some unlikely victors.
The race began at 2:30 Saturday afternoon. Over the next 24 hours, dozens of four-person relay teams sped around the 3.56-mile circuit 659 times, including several hours in the rain. Of the 55 cars that started the race, 41 finished.
The winners, who go home with an engraved Rolex, battled it out in cars by Cadillac, Ford, and Porsche. Cadillac won the prototype class in a Dpi-V.R helmed by racing legend Jeff Gordon, the first NASCAR champion to take victory at the Daytona 24. Another Cadillac Dpi-V.R claimed the No. 2 spot. It was the Detroit brand’s first time competing in prototype racing since 2000 and its first win in the top echelon of professional sports car racing.
Another Detroit vehicle, the Ford GT, took top billing in the race’s GT Le Mans class, and Porsche won the GT Daytona class with a 911.
Every automaker arrives at Daytona with hopes of victory, a luster that could trickle down to its showrooms. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday, as the motorsports adage goes. The race is a chance for brands, especially the upscale Italian and German ones, to showcase a luxury lifestyle backed by the dynamism of its cars.
It’s also a war of attrition, a grueling marathon prone to inclement weather, exhaustion, and mechanical malfunction. Neither of Mazda’s two prototypes finished the race due to mechanical issues. Though it didn’t win, Lamborghini set a record with the most cars competing in Daytona’s GT class – eight Huracan GT3’s, ranging in price from $261,805 to $314,365. Executives said they hoped its presence would reinforce its image as a super sport luxury brand, even without a win.
“We like a family feeling,” Giorgio Sanna, head of Lamborghini Motorsport, said from the automaker’s suite overlooking the track at Daytona International Speedway two hours into the race. “We try to export this family feeling to our teams.”
Races such as Daytona, which kicks off the start of the motorsports season, provide automakers an opportunity to show how well their cars perform under stressful conditions. Said Maurizio Reggiani, Lamborghini’s head of research and development, “It’s a chance to prove reliability, competitiveness, and ease of use.”