Joao Barbosa, driving a Corvette Daytona Prototype with backup from Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais (photo above by John Larsen for the Toronto Star), won a Rolex 24 at Daytona Sunday that also saw two other incidents in the race compete for the overall headline.
The first came at the finish, when the GT Daytona class champion Ferrari (driver Alessandro Pier Guidi aboard) was handed a time penalty for avoidable contact. This moved the second-place Audi, driven by Markus Winkelhock, up to the top step of the podium.
Three hours later they reversed the decision but the damage was done. The message? There will be no hard racing allowed.
Hard racing brought that on. There was no contact (despite the penalty being levied for contact), nor was there dirty driving.
Two drivers, Pier Guidi and Winkelhock, were side-by-side through the infield section of the circuit at Daytona International Speedway and each gave the other room. In the end, Pier Guidi squeezed his opponent; he moved over just enough that Winkelhock had to back off and, in so doing, venture off the track.
This sort of thing happens all the time in road racing. It's part of the game. If Winkelhock had so chosen, he could have run into Pier Guidi and knocked his opponent out of the way. But he didn't.
Hard racing. But, as a result of the later-rescinded penalty levied at the end of the race Sunday, drivers will think twice before keeping their foot to the floor.
By the way, that winning Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari was really the AIM Autosport of Woodbridge team in disguise. Jeff Segal, who also drives for Level 5, drove for AIM for years. The Woodbridge company is temporarily out of the SportsCar series but Segal took its engineer and mechanics with him to Daytona and that move paid off, big-time.
Second, the other headline-attracting moment came early in the race Saturday when GT Ferrari driver Matteo Malucelli lost power and was run into from behind by a Corvette DP driven by Memo Gidley.
That Malucelli was going about 5 miles an hour and still on the tarmac and Gidley was probably over 100 mph and racing when the wreck happened contributed to the severity of the accident.
Both drivers were injured and taken to hospital although Gidley was the worse for wear with operations performed almost immediately on his broken left arm and leg and arrangements made for additional surgery to be performed later on his back.
Questions will undoubtedly be asked about the number of cars allowed to start the race (the infield portion of the circuit was - shall we say - crowded at the time of the mishap) and procedures that should be followed by both drivers and officials when a car loses power.
Meantime, the margin of victory for Barbosa over the second-place car - another Corvette - of Max Angelelli and the Taylor family (father Wayne and sons Ricky and Jordan) was 1.4 seconds.
Barbosa appeared to slow down slightly on the final lap, which made the margin of victory a little closer that it really was. Barbosa had been maintaining a lead of a little more than two seconds that he'd held since racing resumed with about 20 minutes remaining after the final yellow of the day - the 16th caution period of the race, by the way.
In third place was yet another Corvette, this one driven by Brian Frisselle. Burt Frisselle, John Martin and Fabien Giroux completed that team.
The three Corvette DPs were the only cars on the lead lap of the 24-hour race that saw them complete 695 laps (or 2,474.2 miles). Bourdais set the fastest time by turning a lap of one minute, 39.180 seconds around the 3.56-mile course.
The unification of sports car racing in North America meant Corvette was returning to Daytona for the first time since 2001, when Canadian driver Ron Fellows led the Chevrolet team to an overall victory.
Fellows, who was hired by General Motors to develop the Corvette racing program, has retired from sports car racing but continues to represent the company and the brand. He was in Daytona this weekend and had to have been delighted with the Corvette sweep.
Wilkins, who won several races in the old Rolex Grand Am Series, was ecstatic to be a class winner at Daytona and praised his father, the late Mark Wilkins, for helping him reach his goals.
"This is for my dad," Wilkins told a TV interviewer. "I wouldn't have been here without him."
Finishing first in the GT Le Mans class was Patrick Pilet in a Porsche. He was partnered by Richard Lietz and Nick Tandy.
Joao Barbosa has won the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Colin Braun was first in Prototype Challenge, Patrick Pilet was first for Porsche in GT Le Mans and Alessandro Pier Guidi won for Ferrari in GT Daytona, although there was a question at the finish about a possible penalty.
With less than an hour to go, the team of Sebastien Bourdais, Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Burt Frisselle is winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona in a Corvette Daytona Prototype.
Cooin Braun is ahead in Prototype Challenge (Canadian Mark Wilkins of Caledon is on Braun's team).
SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE FROM IMSA:
Memo Gidley, driver of the No. 99 GAINSCO / Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP, underwent surgical procedures on both his left arm and left leg at Halifax Health in Daytona Beach, Fla. Gidley also has an unstable fracture in his back which will require additional surgery before he can be released from the hospital. He continues to be evaluated.
Matteo Malucelli, driver of the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia, remained at Halifax Health overnight for further evaluation. He continues to rest comfortably. An update on his condition will be provided later today.
Meantime, the race. Ricky Taylor is leading overall with less than five hours remaining. He's driving with family members Wayne Taylor and Jordan Taylor as well as sports car ace Max Angelelli.
Canadian Mark Wilkins of Caledon is leading the Prototype Challenge class. He's on a team with James Gue, Colin Braun and John Bennett.
MID-EVENING UPDATE FROM IMSA: Memo Gidley & Matteo Malucelli have been admitted to Halifax Health. They are awake & communicating & undergoing further observation. We will provide updates as they become available.
For the second time in a year, an iconic international long-distance race was stopped by a red flag because of a serious accident.
Just before the three-hour mark (the race started shortly after 2 p.m. EST), a horrendous crash at the Rolex 24 at Daytona resulted in first, a caution, and then a red flag. Memo Gidley, a veteran sports car driver who also raced single seaters in the Champ Car World Series, was involved in the wreck on the infield portion of the circuit.
Gidley was driving the pole-winning GAINSCO Corvette when it approached a slowing Ferrari driven by Matteo Malucelli. Click here for video. There was a large speed differential between the two cars and both were driving into the glare of the sun.
It's unclear exactly what happened, as there were no replays shown immediately, but the crash was horrifying.
Malucelli had radioed that his car had lost power and that he was pulling out of the way when the collision occurred. He was helped from his car and taken to hospital.
Emergency workers had to cut away portions of Gidley's car to get him out and he also was being taken to hospital.
Gidley's teammate, Darren Law, told pit-lane reporters that he and others on the team - regular drivers Alex Gurney, who drove the car to pole position, and Jon Fogarty - would be going to hospital to be with Gidley.
Law and Gidley both have Canadian connections. Law was born in Toronto but raised in the United States. Gidley's mother is from Vancouver while his father was a Mexican fisherman.
At the 24 Hours of Le Mans last June, the race was red flagged about an hour into the running when an accident claimed the life of driver Allan Simonsen.
At Daytona, racing resumed about 6:15 EST.
The 2013 sports car racing season has started with controversy.
A victory Friday in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race by Toronto's Paul Dalla Lana and Bill Auberlen was taken away eight hours later following post-technical inspection and handed to second-place finishers Shelby Blackstock and Ashley Freiburg.
IMSA did not say what caused the disqualification.
As a result, Freiberg became the first woman to score an overall victory in the Continental Tire series. It was also the first win in the series for Blackstock, the son of singer Reba McEntire.
The 2014 racing season is upon us.
Yes, it's true. The two-month break is over and the 24 Hours of Daytona, now known as the Rolex 24 at Daytona, will get the green flag at 2:30 Saturday afternoon and the big, big news is that once again we can watch much of it on the Speed Channel.
For those of you who have forgotten, the Speed Channel still exists in Canada and while we don't get Adam Alexander's Speed News roundups any more, or Dave Despain's Wind Tunnel, we still get pretty much everything else that Speed carried over the years and that includes great coverage of some of the iconic sports car races of our time, starting with Daytona.
Now, the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge BMW Performance 200 (how's that for a mouthful) ran today but a recording can be seen on Speed tomorrow morning as part of the runup to the Rolex 24. Spoiler Alert: see bottom of this entry for results.
I frankly think we're damn lucky that Speed is still around and bringing us these races. If not, I think we might have been limited to the radio broadcast on the Motor Racing Network because - and I might be wrong about this, but - I don't sense any degree of urgency at Sportsnet or TSN to broadcast much motorsport. Yes, NASCAR will still have a home at TSN and IndyCar will likely continue at Sportsnet but classics like the Rolex and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June could have wound up as orphans.
The race Saturday - Alex Gurney will start from pole, by the way - is the first in the brand new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, which will feature an entry list of about 67 cars including 18 Prototypes, 9 Prototype Challenges, 11 GT Le Mans' and 29 GT Daytonas.
Toronto Star Wheels' Gary Grant and photographer John Larsen are in Daytona on behalf of the Star and the website and will be reporting in the paper and on wheels.ca. Grant has filed an Insider's Report on the Rolex and has a good advance story in Saturday's Wheels section.
As well, he filed this separate report:
Although the Corvette camp has no Canadian drivers this year, the team is returning to Daytona for the first time since its win in 2001, with Canadian racing star Ron Fellows along as ambassador. Fellows was the lead driver on the winning team back then.
Perennial Corvette rival Viper is also returning to Daytona this year, led by SRT boss Ralph Gilles, who was raised in Montreal. Fellow Montrealer Kuno Wittmer will be driving the #93 Viper.
Vancouver’s Michael Valiente will be in the #99 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP.
Barrie’s Kyle Marcelli is driving the #7 Starworks Motorsport entry in Prototype Challenge (PC).
Caledon’s Mark Wilkins will be at the wheel of the #54 Core Autosports PC entry.
Also in PC are Chris Cumming from Vancouver and Indycar star Alex Tagliani from Montreal, in the #8 RSR Racing machine.
Torontonian Paul Dalla Lana is in the #97 Aston Martin.
In the #22 Alex Job Racing Porsche is L.P. Dumoulin from Trois-Rivieres, Que., while his brother J.F. Dumoulin is piloting the #44 Magnus Racing Porsche.
A trio from the GTA, John Farano, Ken Wilden and David Empringham, are sharing duties in the #64 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari.
Rounding out the list, Vancouver resident and rally car driver Max Riddle is in the #9 TRG-AMR Aston.
The telecast will go from 2:30 p.m. until 9 p.m., when it's night anyway and you can't see anything except headlights. Coverage will resume Sunday morning at 7 a.m. (sunup) and will continue through to the conclusion.
Great stuff. And just think - NASCAR will ramp up next week, the Daytona 500 is just around the corner and my friend Gerald Donaldson and I will then have to schedule our annual brunch to preview the Formula One season ahead.
Happy days are here again.
Results of Continental Tire race
Bill Auberlen and Toronto's Paul Dalla Lana took the lead in a BMW M3 with less than 15 minutes remaining in Friday's BMW Performance 200 and won the GS class under yellow after an accident involving Vancouver driver Michael Valiante's ST Honda slowed the action.
Shelby Blackstock, Reba McEntire's son, was second in a BMW M3 he shared with up-and-comer Ashley Freiburg.
Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss combined to win the ST classification in a BMW 328i. The victory was the first for both drivers.
- NORRIS McDONALD