Meyer Shank Racing, Acura Win Daytona to Open GTP's Hybrid Era
Last year, Meyer Shank Racing won the 24 Hours of Daytona and the IMSA championship with an Acura ARX-05. This year was a reset, the first-ever race for the hybrid GTP class. MSR made a change to its full-time driver lineup and switched to Acura's new LMDh-spec ARX-06, but they start this reset exactly how they finished the last era.
Although the race was competitive overnight, the No. 60 and driver Tom Blomqvist in particular were the dominant force throughout most of the 24 hour race. Blomqvist qualified the car on pole, held the lead as the starting driver, and pulled away to build massive leads on multiple late restarts. He secures a win alongside new co-driver Colin Braun and the team's IndyCar drivers, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud. It is the first overall win at Daytona for Braun, but the second in a row for all of Blomqvist, Castroneves, and Pagenaud.
The No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing ARX-06 completed a 1-2 on debut for the new Acura racer, which uses a new turbocharged 2.4-liter V-6. Cadillac's new V-LMDh, which uses a naturally aspirated V-8 that is more than twice the displacement of the Acura, complete the lead lap with finishes of third and fourth. The No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing entry, the full-time entry for that group, takes third; the No. 02 entry that will run the full season in the FIA World Endurance Championship finishes fourth.
Both Acuras overcame an issue that required fluid flushes on the pit lane every four hours or so and contact on track. The No. 01 Cadillac also came back from an early hit to the rear bodywork that required repairs.
Both Porsche and BMW also debuted GTP cars in the race, but their days were marred by reliability issues. The Penske-run Porsches were particularly quick overnight, but the team's No. 7 963 required an early battery replacement and the No. 6 car suffered a transmission issue late. Rahal Letterman Lanigan's BMW M Hybrid V8s struggled on overall pace throughout the day, but their No. 25's day was sunk early by an issue inside of the hybrid system. Both BMWs and the No. 6 Porsche eventually finished, albeit many laps down.
In LMP2, Proton Competition's James Allen beat the No. 04 Crowdstrike Racing car to the line by just 0.016 seconds to take the class victory. Allen was joined by co-drivers Fred Poordad, Francesco Pizzi, and Gianmaria Bruni in that car. The No. 88 AF Corse car completed the class podium.
LMP3 was decided by attrition early, leaving the No. 17 AWA entry of Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nicholas Varrone, and Thomas Merrill alone on the lead lap with almost six hours remaining. The team won the class by 12 laps.
In GTD Pro, newly-crowned Nürburgring road car lap record holder Maro Engel led Cooper MacNeil, Daniel Juncadella, and Jules Gounon to a class win for the WeatherTech Racing-branded Proton Competition Mercedes AMG GT3. Engel held off both the No. 3 Corvette C8.R and No. 14 Lexus RC-F on the final restart.
Daniel Juncadella, Marco Sorenson, Roman de Angelis, and Ian James won the pro-am GTD class for Aston Martin and Heart of Racing, beating out not only the other GTD cars but every single entry in GTD Pro. Magnus Racing's No. 44 Aston Martin and Inception Racing's No. 70 McLaren completed the podium.
The LMDh era is well underway. IMSA returns for the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 18th. Cadillac and Porsche will also run their LMDh-spec cars in the FIA World Endurance Championship season opener the day before at the same track.
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