Daytona Beach, Fla. (26 January 2014) – Spirit of Daytona Racing took a strong first step in the opening round of the 2014 IMSA Tudor United SportsCar Championship with a run to fourth place in the 2014 Rolex At Daytona with the No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.com Corvette DP with drivers Richard Westbrook, Michael Valiante, and Mike Rockenfeller.
Under a cool but perfectly clear Florida sunny day, the team started the race from the front row with Westbrook at the controls. The huge race marked the opening event of the IMSA era, and the frantic pace underscored the level of competition in the new series.
The team, which is based just a few miles down the road from the fabled track, remained consistent throughout the race, remaining at the top of the pack and challenging for position throughout.
In fact, the spirited home team only fell out of the top-ten once throughout the entire event after changing a sensor on the motor just after the two-hour mark, sending Westbrook out to continue his first stint. The seasoned British driver moved back up into the top-ten before handing the No. 90 Corvette DP over to Michael Valiante.
Consistency was again the key for the Spirit of Daytona Racing crew throughout the rest of the night and into the morning as the three seasoned sports car drivers traded shifts behind the wheel, remaining at the head of the pack and running as high as third place in the fifth hour. While the consistency was there, the pace ultimately wasn’t as the team was not able to convert the speed it showed earlier in the week as the race laps played out.
Despite not having the pace to fight for a podium at the home track, the solid result at Daytona sets a positive tone for the rest of the season, as the team banked crucial points towards the championship with the 4th place result.
The team had prepared for several months in the off-season, attending tests at Daytona both in November and again for the Roar at the beginning of this month, as well as putting in countless hours in the shop in between. The checkered flag finish came as the result of many months of planning as the team built an entirely new Daytona Prototype Corvette following a major crash involving Richard Westbrook in the testing at the end of November.
“This was a real team effort, and it was great to get to the finish with the VISITFLORIDA.com car,” said team owner Troy Flis. “Unfortunately, we had a race car this week that was so quick that finishing fourth is a let down. We are going to have to go back and see where we were missing and what was missing for us pace-wise. It was tough for the guys, the car wasn’t really there for them. But everyone stayed focused and we came home ahead of a lot of guys that are going to be in this championship so now it is all about looking ahead to Sebring.”
VISIT FLORIDA, which serves as the state’s official source for travel planning, offers valuable travel planning resources to visitors on all there is to see and do in Florida through its award-winning website VISITFLORIDA.com. The 2014 season opens with two Florida-based races (Rolex 24 and Sebring 12 Hours) before the team starts a cross-country and international schedule proudly carrying the VISIT FLORIDA colors.
2014 Rolex 24 SPIRIT OF DAYTONA RACING DRIVER COMMENTS:
Michael Valiante – “We had a really great car on Fridaynight practice but for some reason we lost the balance. Still I think we’ve got reasonable pace where if we had been on the lead lap, we would have been able to challenge for the podium. So, overall it’s been a trouble-free race and the team’s done a great job. But everyone is raising the bar for this race now and you can’t really afford to make any mistakes. It’s great to get a top four but you always want to win!”
Richard Westbrook – “It’s great to finish a 24-hour race and that’s a testament to the strength of the car and the team. It’s a new car, new regulations, a lot of new parts on the car so great job by all. We’re pretty disappointed only because we didn’t have the car today that we had in the two days of practice. We went into the start really wanting to be able to fight for the win and we weren’t able to do that for whatever reason. So we need to download and work out what went wrong. I’m here for the points first and foremost. That’s our goal for the year to go for the championship. I’ll probably wake up a little bit happiertomorrow than I am now (with that perspective).”
Mike Rockenfeller – “I want to thank Audi for letting me come to race in this event, it is a great way to warm up and stay sharp. Unfortunately we struggled most of the race. Mechanically the car is really hard to drive, always oversteering. It is really a handful. It looks like it isn’t our race. Dealing with the car is just not enjoyable, when you have to let guys pass you and you can’t keep up with them no matter what you do. It’s really a shame, I was hoping for more. From the beginning on we just somehow didn’t have it. ”