In one of the most all-around dramatic Rolex 24 At Daytona races in history, the No. 81 DragonSpeed USA ORECA LMP2 rallied from five laps down to win the LMP2 class of the twice-around-the-clock race. Despite freezing cold conditions overnight at Daytona International Speedway, the group of highly-inspired young drivers were blazing fast come Sunday sunrise.
Armed with youthful enthusiasm and great racing talent, DragonSpeed’s roster of longtime friends overcame fast competition, pit road challenges and uncharacteristically cold weather to claim the team’s first ever victory in the season-opening IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race.
DragsonSpeed experienced problems right away – a technical glitch hampered pit road visits resulting in multiple speeding penalties that put it behind early. But the team finally got the system righted and it was go-time by nightfall.
Sports car veteran Eric Lux and IndyCar Series stars Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward and Devlin DeFrancesco kept making up ground in the class before ultimately handing over the car to Herta in the closing laps to bring home the victory.
The team led more than a 100 consecutive laps Sunday morning before getting passed by the No. 8 Tower Motosport car on a re-start with only 30 minutes remaining. But Herta – driving multiple consecutive stints – pursued. Even going down by almost a full second before catching the No. 8 in the Le Mans Chicane. Contact as they raced tightly sent the No. 8 off course briefly and Herta re-took the lead. For good.
Ultimately, DragonSpeed claimed a 7.089-second victory over the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland car co-driven by Frits van Eerd, Giedo van der Garde, Dylan Murry and another IndyCar driver, Rinus VeeKay.
Tower Motorsport rallied from the off-track excursion to complete the LMP2 podium with drivers John Farano, Louis Deletraz, Rui Pinto de Andrade and Ferdinand Habsburg-Lothringen.
Even after 24 hours, four LMP2 Class cars finished on the lead lap.
“He wasn’t really happy with the move, but I thought it was clean, I was alongside of him and two in the bus stop (Le Mans Chicane) just don’t go and I had the inside lane,’’ Herta said of the pass for the win.
“It’s unfortunate. I didn’t want the race to end that way for them, but you know these things happen, I guess. And I’m really happy with how it ended. I got a big five stints there at the end and was able to bring it up into the lead. Congrats to the whole team.”
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