Taking the lead at the halfway point, the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports RT-24P led the rest of the way to win Saturday evening’s WeatherTech 240 at Daytona International Speedway, the return to competition following a five-month hiatus for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Jonathan Bomarito and Harry Tincknell shared the winning entry, finishing 10.168s ahead of teammates Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez in the 2h40m race that ran caution-free.
“It was an unbelievable race! Thanks to everyone on the Multimatic Motorsports crew,” Tincknell said. “We had a short turnaround from the Rolex 24. Today I had the luxury of just ‘driving around’. JB did a fantastic job at the start, and, to get a 1-2 for Multimatic and Mazda is great. From the first practice yesterday, we could see after only four or five laps that we had the pace.”
“It was tough,” Bomarito admitted. “It started in the rain, but right away it started drying. But I knew right off that we had a car that could win. It was amazing running under the lights at Daytona and dealing (with) all the conditions.”
The battle for the final podium position went down to the wire, Sebastien Bourdais finally taking third in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling JDC/Miller Motorsports Action Express Cadillac DPi-V.R started by Joao Barbosa. The Cadillac wound up nearly 12s ahead of the No. 6 Team Penske Acura DPi of Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron, with the No. 31 Action Express Whelen Engineering Cadillac of Gabby Chaves and Pipo Derani another 3s back.
“We chose to start the race on rain tires,” Bourdais said. “Some of the teams started on slicks. It turned out the strategy played into our hands and we were able to have a pretty good run and finish on the podium in our first race back. Joao did the tough part today in the wet early. When I got in the Mustang Sampling Cadillac, (the track) was dry. The race went green the whole way and we really didn’t have the speed to compete with the Mazdas today. We will look forward to Sebring.”
The race began in very challenging conditions: A heavy thunderstorm struck the Speedway just after the afternoon qualifying, with residual lightning delaying the start for 41 minutes. A light rain continued when the 26-car field took the green flag at 6:41 p.m. Most of the field opted for rain tires; but several – notably the Whelen Engineering Cadillac started by Chavez and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac of Ryan Briscoe – gambled and started on slicks.
But the rain let off and the track dried quickly in the 99-percent humidity, forcing pit stops to change tires in the opening 10 minutes.
“On every lap, every single corner was different when you got there,” Bomarito said of the opening minutes.
Helio Castroneves started on the pole in the No. 7 Team Penske Acura, with the team running in contention until Ricky Taylor pitted a smoking car just before the midway point, marking the end of its race.
GT Le Mans came down to a Corvette vs. Porsche duel. Antonio Garcia, at the wheel of the No. 4 Corvette started by Jordan Taylor, passed Earl Bamber with 45 minutes remaining and held off the No. 912 Porsche co-driven by Nicky Tandy by 1.977s — not only the first triumph for the new C8.R, it was also the 100th victory in IMSA competition for Corvette Racing.
How fitting it would come on the Fourth of July…
“This was definitely a big day,” Taylor said. “We came out of the Rolex 24 with a very strong fourth place and no issues. The big break (in the schedule) gave the guys time to go through the data from the 24. When we came back, we rolled off the truck very strong.
“The race came down to execution,” he continued. “We had a perfect day, and it’s very special to get the first victory for the C8.R at Daytona – and also the 100th victory for Corvette Racing.”
It was the first triumph for Taylor since winning the 2019 Rolex 24 in his father’s DPi. It ended a longer streak for Garcia, who last hit the top step of the podium at VIR in 2017.
“We’ve deserved this moment so many times,” said an emotional Garcia. “We still won the championship two years, but this was very big. Jordan did a perfect job; I saved another on my first stint; and we made it to the end. We came so close with the C7; now we did it with the C8.
“I went out on cold tires, and I was struggling a bit to get temperature in my Michelins. As soon as I realized I was starting to catch (Bamber), our fuel numbers looked good and it worked out perfectly: Earl made a little mistake (and) because I was following him very close, I was able to take advantage of it.”
Fredrik Makowiecki and Laurens Vanthoor rounded out the GTLM podium in the No. 911 Porsche, followed by the No. 25 Team RLL BMW R8 GTE of Bruno Spengler and Conor De Phillippi.
In GT Daytona, AIM Vasser Sullivan ran a flawless race, with the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 of Aaron Telitz and Jack Hawksworth winning by a lap over teammates Frankie Montecalvo and Townsend Bell in the No. 12.
The No. 14 led all but six laps in the class, losing the advantage only during a pair of pit stop cycles. The No. 12 took over second behind the No. 14 eight laps into the event, and shadowed its teammate all the way to the checkered flag.
“I told Jack before the race that my job was to make his job as easy as possible,” Telitz said. “We finished 1-2 – you can’t ask for anything more.”
“Once I got in, it was all about maintaining it and keeping it under control,” Hawksworth said. “I didn’t see another GTD car all day. I’m not complaining – it drove like it was on rails.”
Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian took the next two positions, with Matt McMurry and Mario Farnbacher in the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 leading Misha Goikhberg and Alvaro Parente in the No. 57 Acura.
Fifth went to Cooper MacNeil and Toni Vilander, which managed to lead twice in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa WeatherTech Ferrari 488 GT3 EVO.
UP NEXT: The WeatherTech Championship heads to Sebring International Raceway for the Cadillac Grand Prix on Saturday, July 18.