The Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona is, like the 24 Hours of Le Mans, an endurance race of man and machine to see who can traverse the longest distance in the alotted time. Many teams have tried and many have failed to survive the grueling conditions of the race. The series, typically dominated by Porsche and GM cars, had an abundance of Bavarians at the 2010 running of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona held in Daytona Beach, Florida.
BMW had a big presence this year in both cars and engines throughout the multiple classes in the field. Dinan-tuned BMW V8′s sitting amidships the the Riley-built chassis and run by both the Chip Ganassi Level 5 teams. Additionally, Turner Motorsport entered an M6 into the GT class to battle it out with the many Porsche GT3′s and two Ferrari F430′s. Corsa PR1 also entered a Pratt & Miller chassis M6 powered by a hefty Dinan-tuned V8. Needless to say, BMW was well represented during the race – and what a race it was.
When the flag dropped at 3:30PM, the competitors found themselves in nasty conditions as Daytona Beach had been exposed to heavy downpours for approximately two hours leading up to the race start. As a result, the first few laps found cars corralled behind the pace cars until the rain began to let up. Thankfully, within the first few hours, the rain stopped and the track was able to begin to dry out. As conditions improved the BMW-powered cars were able to show the field what it means to have one of the german V8′s onboard. As darkness fell across Eastern Florida, things really got interested. Nightfall saw a back in forth with lead changes until the next morning, the Ganassi BMW driven by Memo Rojas, Scott Pruett, Justin Wilson, and Max Papis entered the pits from with bad vibrations – also conceding the first place position, which, unfortunately would not be regained. When the checkered flag fell in overcast Daytona, the DInan-BMW-engined Ganassi car found itself only 53 seconds behind the leading Porsche V8-powered Action Express Racing Riley-Porsche – thus grabbing a second place in Ganassi’s first race with the Dinan-tuned engines. An impressive result while the Crown Royal/NPN Riley-BMW of Scott Tucker, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Lucas Luhr, Richard Westbrook, and Christophe Bouchut came in four laps down from the leaders for third place giving BMW Power two spots on the podium.
In the GT class, the BMW M6′s of Turner Motorsports and the Corsa PR1 M6 both crossed the finish line – eighth and eleventh, respectively. Both M6′s fell to the back of the pack during the night with unanticipated pit stops – the Turner falling victim to cooling problems followed by issues with overheating of brakes. However they had top talent behind the wheel with a driver line-up of Bill Auberlen, Joey Hand, Boris Said, and Paul Dalla Lana – Auberlen, Hand and Said certainly being no strangers to BMW’s! The PR1 M6 piloted by Jeff Westphal, Thomas Merrill, Rob Finlay, and Max Hyatt was also in the pits for braking issues as well as problems with loose bearings throwing off the steering – this a result of paint swapping on the track. Ultimately, the GT class was taken by Mazda RX-8′s.
Overall, BMW performed quite well in a race of 40+ cars over the full 24 hours of the race. With two podium finishes in the Daytona Prototype class and with finished for the M6′s BMW is off to a solid start for the season. Look for these cars to roll back out and go head-to-head again with the competition in Homestead, Florida on March 6th.
Special thanks to Matt Russell and Bill Cobb at BMW for our incredible behind-the-scenes access!