Column By: JOHN DOUGLAS / RPW – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – After one of the more controversial endings to the historic twice around the clock adventure that is the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, Wayne Taylor’s No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi sat silent, covered by a tarp on pit road. However the team celebrated victory as heavy rains inundated the area.
Early in the event, The No. 10 Cadillac was in solid contention as they ran in the midst of the top 10 through the first stint. Though the Joest Mazdas had early speed and held the advantage on track, the Cadillac teams seemed to have pit strategy on their side.
Able to stay out much longer into the first hour of racing, the No. 10 soon found itself in the lead. They would not fall from the top 5 for the rest of the event.
Fernando Alonso, the former Formula One World Driving Champion, had a solid first stint behind the wheel, driving from third to the lead and a 15 second advantage.
Alonso’s recent foray into new forms of Motorsports has already yielded him a victory in the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans. Along with his World Driving Championship and his victory in the Monaco Grand Prix, Alonso has the rare opportunity to join the ranks of Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt in his quest for the Crown Jewels of Motorsports. A victory In the 24 Hours of Daytona would bring him one step closer to matching two of racing’s all-time greats.
Also a former Formula One competitor, Kamui Kobayashi took control of the No. 10 Cadillac, setting fast lap after fast lap during his first stint of the race, solidifying the lead into the early evening. The Cadillac team’s talent in the car and on the pit box were both in lock step.
Through the evening and early morning hours things changed in favor of the Penske Acuras, however torrential downpours hit the speedway and cause a long delay under red flag.
Once running resumed around 7am, Alonso, now back in the car was eager to make up time on the new competition in the form of the Action Express No. 31 Cadillac.
The Action Express team held the lead for much of the remainder of the race, however a key mistake in turn one gave Alonso the opportunity to sneak by as Felippe Nasr drove wide into turn one. Alonso built up a 9 second lead before the yellow flag again flew over the field for heavy rains.
Teams sat and pondered the finish of the 24 hour trek, however the rains were relentless and Shortly before the 24 hour time had expired on the official Rolex timing clock, IMSA officials announced that the race would not restart.
For Wayne Taylor’s Cadillac contingent, two of the last three Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona’s have resulted in victory, including wins with former NASCAR star Jeff Gordon and now Fernando Alonso.
Alonso’s victory at Daytona represents another notch in the belt of one of this generation’s most prolific talents. The biggest questions around Alonso now center around Indianapolis in May. For now, Alonso will relish the accomplishment of winning the world’s two most coveted 24 hour endurance events in a 12 month period.
“I’m very proud of the job we’ve achieved today. Alonso said. “It was not one day job, it was one month job. In the race itself it was very, very difficult. Conditions were changing over time and we were racing in cooler temperatures than we’d been testing so far.”
Alonso expounded on what winning the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona means to him and his career during the post race press conference.
“It ranks quite high, Daytona is one of those venues or speedways you’d like to win on eventually one day in your career. I’ve been lucky enough to win Grand Prix at Monaco. Races at Spa and Suzuka, Malaysia, Silverstone and my home Grand Prix in Spain. So to add Daytona into that list is quite special.”
For Wayne Taylor’s Cadillac team, the next focus becomes the 12 Hours of Sebring in March. Another race in Florida, however a very different task that the one just accomplished at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday.
For Alonso, it will be time to head back to team Toyota Racing for the second half of the new split season format for the World Endurance Championship, where
he has already won two races with the team, including the a fore mentioned 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans. A swing by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the month of May is also in the works for the Spaniard.