Ryan Hardwick watched his Wright Motorsports Porsche race in last year’s Rolex 24 At Daytona from a hospital bed, sidelined with a concussion. The view was much more rewarding this year.
The No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R owned the last hours of GT Daytona (GTD) action at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, winning by 12.542 seconds over the No. 44 Magnus Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3. Veteran driver Jan Heylen drove the lengthy final stint, warding off bids from the Aston Martin and the No. 21 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3.
Heylen held strong and pulled away to deliver the first Rolex 24 win for himself, Hardwick, endurance driver Zacharie Robichon, and Wright Motorsports. Porsche driver Richard Lietz earned his third Rolex 24 watch, coming after a 2012 GT win and 2014 GT Le Mans triumph.
“It’s just so hard to win any race, let alone a 24-hour race,” Heylen said. “At the end with two or three hours to go, we had a good lead and I was sure in my mind that it wasn’t going to be that easy. We had good speed in the car and we just had to control our race and not worry about the GTD PRO cars. We’ve come here many times and tried, so to finally be on the top step is an amazing result.”
The No. 16 drivers methodically worked their way to the front from the 11th starting position in GTD. They didn’t lead until more than four hours into the 24-hour race. The car came alive overnight and controlled the late stages, leading 120 of the last 125 laps.
A critical strategy decision saw the No. 16 crew call the car in for its final pit stop with 52 minutes left in the race, just before a full-course caution for the No. 19 TR3 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 stopped on track. The No. 44 Aston Martin and No. 21 Ferrari had to pit under yellow and were unable to threaten the Porsche the rest of the way, much to the happiness of Hardwick.
“For me, it was a little bit of redemption coming back to this track and not only competing at a high level but ultimately winning,” Hardwick said. “Just blessed to be a part of a great team and exceptional driving by all of these guys, especially through the night and at the end of the race with Zach and Jan really pushing hard when the game was on.”
The next round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts, March 16-19 at Sebring International Raceway.
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- Cadillac Leads but Acura Rebounds at Rolex 24 Halfway Mark - January 30, 2022
- Sixty-one cars on Rolex 24 official entry list - January 27, 2022