The redemption story of the day in Grand-Am's Rolex Series season finale came in the form of its overall winner. Although SunTrust Racing captured its third Daytona Prototype win both of the season and in succession at Lime Rock Park, it's been a year fraught with disappointment and frustration for Wayne Taylor's operation.
That was evident when Ricky Taylor – who made two high-profile mistakes earlier this year at Detroit (contact with the wall while leaving the pit) and Road America (lost control under caution) in possible win positions – emerged from the No. 10 SunTrust Corvette DP in tears after the victory.
“I'm just thinking about the tough year it's been,” he said, visibly emotional. “It's been such a bad year for me. The team has gave us such great cars, and at times I was doubting myself. But this win is such an unbelievable feeling.”
The older of Wayne's two sons more than earned the victory Saturday, holding off a hard-charging Antonio Garcia in the sister Corvette DP, this one from Spirit of Daytona Racing, throughout the final half hour. Garcia pushed but never had a proper passing opportunity to get around Taylor – even as they encountered the GT class leaders in the final five minutes of the race.
Chalk up the win for Taylor and co-driver Max “The Ax” Angelelli for the first time since New Jersey in May, with Garcia and co-driver, polesitter Richard Westbrook, second.
The pair led a Corvette sweep of the top five, with GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing (Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty) ending on the podium for the third straight race, but still shy of its elusive first win of the year. That result confirmed the DP manufacturer's championship for Chevrolet, after eight wins in 13 races this season.
Ryan Dalziel finished sixth, co-driving with Alex Popow for Starworks Motorsport, and was unable to claw back what was a near unassailable gap to Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas ahead of him in the DP title chase. Dalziel and Popow were sixth, Pruett and Rojas seventh, as the latter pair secured their third consecutive DP title for TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. It's Pruett's fifth, Rojas' fourth, DP title overall.
“This was incredibly tough, but I can't say enough about the TELMEX BMW Ganassi guys,” said Pruett. “We had to bring everything front and center even though we weren't always the fastest. Gotta get every point we can.”
The day featured a close moment between Rojas and Billy Johnson, guest driving in a third Starworks second-gen Riley Ford, when Johnson ran Rojas down the road off Turn 7 early in the race and Rojas ended in the grass. Johnson was assessed a penalty, to the chagrin of Starworks team principal Peter Baron who was again incredulous, and in his words, “speechless,” with the officiating.
GT's title was already decided for AIM Autosport Team FXDD (Jeff Segal, Emil Assentato) last race, but the race itself didn't lack in drama. Magnus Racing was on the verge of a Herculean fuel stint – and would have made it work with one more yellow. Unfortunately for the Porsche driven by team principal John Potter and Andy Lally, the yellows were stacked in the early portion of the race (four in the first 45 minutes) and none in the last 20 minutes. Lally's Porsche hiccupped with barely over a minute remaining and he was forced to the pits. It marked the second gut punch to Lally in as many days, having lost the ST class title in his KIA at the death on Friday.
Their demise came to the benefit of Stevenson Motorsports, which took the class win with its Camaro and drivers Robin Liddell and John Edwards, who had qualified on pole.
“I expected him (Lally) to have a stumble,” Liddell surmised. “We were slightly quicker and I think a bit better on the tires. It was a hard race. John did great and qualified on pole. I only had one proper dry lap before the race. It all worked out.”
Grand-Am's two new manufacturers for this year shared the podium for the first time, with the APR Motorsport Audi R8 bouncing back from an early spin to finish a season-high second ahead of the guest Ferrari 458 in the hands of Scuderia Corsa, which made a great debut in the last two races.
APR only had one top-10 finish previously this season with Dr. Jim Norman and Dion von Moltke, but von Moltke drove like a man possessed to score his second podium across sports car racing this year – he also co-drove the winning GTC class Alex Job Racing Porsche in this year's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Scuderia Corsa took third in the hands of Johannes van Overbeek, on loan from ALMS Ferrari squad Extreme Speed Motorsports, and newcomer driver Alessandro Balzan. That result kept Ferrari in the lead of the GT manufacturer's championship.
The series' banquet is Monday in New York City, with only a few months until the 2013 Roar Before the 24 and 51st Rolex 24 at Daytona from January 26-27.