24 Hours of Daytona: the French shine in Florida

The 60th edition of the 24 Hours of Daytona has just ended with the victory of the Acura DPi n°60 of Simon Pagenaud and his three teammates. In the GTD Pro category, Mathieu Jaminet won his Porsche 911 GT3 R after an incredible fight with… another Porsche.

Photo : Rick Dole

Often, the 24 Hours of Daytona takes place nicely then ignites in the last hour. But this year, the debates were particularly lively for most of the race, generating 16 yellow flags and countless race facts. But while we were waiting for the potential victory of Sébastien Bourdais, who teamed up with drivers as titled as him, the #1 Cadillac DPi of Chip Ganassi Racing broke down in the early hours of the morning. “I had just set the fastest lap in the race, and there was a small short-circuit which burned small parts that in principle you never change. A beautiful night of M… confided “Seb” after his misadventure.

Annoyed, Bourdais and his teammates Renger Van der Zande, Scott Dixon and Alex Palou, nevertheless resumed the track, but in 41st position. It is therefore not this year that they will leave with a Rolex Daytona of inestimable value (a limited series edited especially for this edition) on the wrist.

And as the misfortune of some is the happiness of others… the elimination by technique of the leading men benefited another Frenchman, Simon Pagenaud, whose Acura DPi offered flawless reliability. Indycar champion in 2016, winner of the Indianapolis 500 in 2019, the Meyer Shank Racing driver wins his first Daytona. “After my last stint, I followed the race enjoying the comfort of my RV (a large American motorhome, Editor’s note), says Simon Pagenaud. It was so cold that we had lit the fireplace! I looked at my teammates and told myself that we were pushing very hard and that it was a very tight race. After Tom’s (Blomqvist) stint, when Helio (Castroneves) took the wheel to drive the car to the finish, I started to believe it. What is happening to us is totally crazy. »

It is also a total success for Acura, which places the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing (Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque, Alexander Rossi, and Will Stevens) on the second step of the podium. The first of the five Cadillacs in the category is third, and honors two French drivers, Loïc Duval and Tristan Vautier, who teamed up with Ben Keaton and Richard Westbrook.

Mathieu Jaminet exceptional in GTD Pro

In the new GTP Pro category, which successfully stages GT3s in the hands of professional drivers, the fight was intense throughout these 24 hours, but above all exceptional in the last quarter of an hour when the French driver, at the driving his 911 GT3 R from Pfaff Motorsport, fought a merciless battle with Laurens Vanthoor, aboard a 911 GT3 R from the KCMG team. The two men did not let go, taking turns at the controls of the category. They gave it their all, sprint style, which is unprecedented in such a long endurance race.

After several touches, Vanthoor still capitulated by going a little too far out of the trajectory (following yet another contact) and finding himself in the grass. A maneuver which will benefit the Ferrari 488 GT3 n°62 then driven by Alessandro Pier Guidi, in ambush for many minutes. In the end, Jaminet crosses the finish line in triumph, the Porsche of Vanthoor (team-mate of the Frenchman Patrick Pilet) having to settle for third place. But what a sight! “This guy is crazy, commented Felipe Nasr, Jaminet’s teammate, just after the race. We had a perfect strategy, but I realize how lucky I am to have great teammates (the third driver is Matt Campbell, editor’s note). It was truly a dream race. »

The tires held up despite the temperature variations

Between regulated pressure (for the first time this year), banking (steered curve of the oval) aggressive for the right rear tire, and the very low temperatures which were expected at Daytona, the eyes of the competitors but also of the Michelin technicians were riveted on car behavior. We remember that last year Cadillac had played with the pressures to try to gain grip, and only by going far below Michelin’s recommendations one of the cars had burst a tire at full speed…

In addition, the IMSA only authorizes one type of rubber for dry surfaces, which must then demonstrate great versatility. “Our Michelin Endurance tire with Medium compound operates over an extremely wide temperature range, and that’s what we have demonstrated,” says Matthieu Bonardel, Director of Michelin Motorsport. And everyone was able to see that the decisions made on the pressures, just like the recommendation work done by our teams at the teams on the pressures or the bodywork, were the right ones. The competitors did not encounter any problems despite a temperature that varied from 16°C to 1°C during the night, which moreover corresponds to the moment when Sébastien Bourdais achieved the fastest lap in the race. »

The next round of the IMSA Championship will also take place in Florida, from March 16 to 19, on the Sebring circuit for a 12-hour race. At the same time, the first round of the FIA-WEC world championship will be held, with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring.

Didier Laurent, in Daytona Beach (Florida)


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