Cadillac took a definite “more is more” approach for its return to prototype racing. By handing over its engineering masterpiece, the V8 DPi-V.R, to the distinguished Wayne Taylor Racing, LeMans veteran Massimiliano “Max” Angelelli, and NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon, it assured itself the one-two victory at the Rolex 24 in Daytona.
However, despite an ideal finish, it wasn’t a perfect day for the team.
Gordon accidentally rammed the Number 70 Mazda RT24-P as it clumsily exited the pits on his first time out in the Cadillac, and Ricky Taylor made some bold choices behind the wheel of the Number 10 car in final minutes of the race. However, Taylor’s aggressive moves resulted in a victory after a forced restart and extremely tight grid, thanks to the Number 93 GT3 NSX suffering a fatal automotive stroke with only twenty-minutes left in the race. Taylor made contact with Number 5 Mustang Sampling Racing driver Filipe Albuquerque, spinning him out at the end of Daytona’s banked oval as the two entered the track’s infield. It was the maneuver that ensured Cadillac’s victory.
To the chagrin of the Mustang Sampling team, no action was taken against Team Taylor for the incident. Albuquerque screamed through the grid to reduce the gap with Cadillac to a mere 0.671 seconds in the final seven minutes, but was unable to regain the lead before the race’s end.
“Well, it was a good fight, until I got hit to be honest,” Albuquerque told the cameras. “There is not much to say. I had some [GT cars] ahead of me so I could not brake so late and I closed the door but then I got spun. There is not much to say, and yeah, the officials took the decision. That’s what it is. We finished second.”
Taylor wasn’t particularly apologetic over the contact.
“I was closer than I had been. He’d been struggling in turn one,” Taylor explained. “Their car didn’t look very good there and we were really strong on the brakes.”
“I think he saw me coming. He saw me committing and — like he said — I guess he closed the door … I wanted to win terribly. We were either going to make a move and do something and win or sit there in second and wait for — wait until next year, basically. I didn’t want to do that.”
While Cadillac took the overall victory, the Ford GT team that took its class at Le Mans last year earned first place in the GTLM class, while Alegra Motorsports’ Porsche 911 GT3-R scored the GTD class win.
“I haven’t been this emotional for a win and an experience like this for a very long time,” Gordon gushed after the race. “The reason is because I know what this means to this team. Oh my gosh! This is amazing. Daytona has always been special, but this one sent me over the top. I am just blown away right now.”
The victory makes Gordon forth driver ever to win the Daytona 500 and Rolex 24, joining racing legends A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, and Jamie McMurray. It also marks Max Angelelli’s official retirement from racing.
In a pre-race interview with SportsCar365, Angelelli said, “This is where everything started, and this is where everything will end for me as a driver. I made my name here, starting in Daytona, and now I’m going to greet the people and say goodbye in Daytona. I think it’s good. I thank Wayne for pushing me to do Daytona one more time.”
[Image: Daytona International Speedway]