Sunday 31 January 2016 by Eliane Gilain
January 31, 2016.– Presented this weekend, the 2016 edition of the 24 Hours of Daytona was also the first event of the season in the North American Endurance series, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship. Several Canadians participated in this race, including Quebecers Kuno Wittmer, Bruno Spengler and Lance Stroll (photo opposite).
Overall victory went to the Honda-powered Ligier from the Extreme Speed Motorsports team. It completed 736 laps, in addition to being the fastest car on the entire grid with the lap record signed by the Brazilian Pipo Derani. Her crew also included Americans Johannes Van Overbeek, Scott Sharp and Ed Brown. Note that this was the very first race for young Brazilian Derani on American soil. Not bad for a beginner! This Ligier-Honda LMP2 beat two Corvette DPs to the finish line, namely those of the Wayne brothers and Rick Taylor, associated with Rubens Barrichello and Max Angelelli, and that of the Marc Goossens / Ryan Dalziel / Ryan Hunter-Reay trio.
These three crews finished on the same lap, 5 laps ahead of another Corvette DP, that of Scott Pruett, Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa and Felipe Albuquerque. This prototype from the Action Express team has long been in the fight with the Riley-Ford of the Chip Ganassi Racing team, driven among others by Lance Stroll.
Lance was competing at Daytona in his first major endurance race of his career. The 17-year-old Quebec driver competed in all his stints brilliantly, always maintaining his prototype in the leading pack. He even led a few laps overnight. The wheel of this No. 01 Ganassi Racing car was shared by Stroll, Andy Priaulx, Brendon Hartley and Alexander Wurz. Overheating then transmission problems caused the crew to lose a few laps at the end of the night.
Stroll is not the only Quebecer to have completed these 24 hours, it is also the case of Bruno Spengler. Accompanied by Bill Auberlen, Dirk Werner and Augusto Farfus on the BMW M6 GTLM bearing the No.25, he completed the event in 5th place in the GT Le Mans category. For Bruno and his teammates, this race was summed up in multiple exchanges of position. Their car has always evolved between 3rd and 7th place, depending on traffic and pit stop strategies.
It was a completely different story for the second BMW M6 entered by the Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing team in GTLM, that of Kuno Wittmer. During the night, shortly after halfway, Lucas Luhr, then at the wheel, allegedly suffered, according to our sources, a broken brake disc, which sent him violently into the wall in turn No.1 and prematurely ended the race of Kuno, Lucas Luhr, John Edwards and Graham Rahal. This car had briefly held first place in its category at the start of the race… Disappointment also for the new Ford GTs, unable to compete with the leaders before their retirement in the first half of the event.
The special mention of this 2016 edition goes to the winners of the GTLM class, the Corvette Racing team, which let its drivers fight for victory during the last moments of the race. Oliver Gavin, in the No. 4 Corvette, narrowly won ahead of teammate Antonio Garcia in the No.3.
Finally, note the victory of the Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Rast/Seefried/Potter/Lally in the GTD category (the second category of GT cars on the track). A category in which Canadian Paul Dalla Lana, originally from Vancouver, drove an Aston Martin Vantage GT3. Together with Mathias Lauda, Richie Stanaway and Pedro Lamy, he managed to finish 4th GTD.