The first six hours of the Rolex 24 At Daytona staged at Daytona Beach, Florida over the weekend provided the typical highlights and heartbreaks, particularly when it came to Verizon IndyCar Series drivers.
Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon set out to defend Chip Ganassi Racing’s 2015 victory in the endurance sports car race and moved into the lead a couple times in his initial stint. After falling to as low as ninth place when second driver Jamie McMurray was turned around on a restart, IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan hopped in at the five-hour mark and had the No. 02 Ford EcoBoost Prototype into second place within 15 laps.
Katherine Legge had the rocket-shaped DeltaWing soaring, guiding the one-of-a-kind car from 13th starting position into the overall lead and setting the pace for 27 laps in her initial stint. Soon after she stepped out, however, Andy Meyrick ran into another car stalled on track, causing significant damage to the DeltaWing that made its return to the race questionable.
Legge, with 39 career IndyCar starts under her belt, has been the longest-tenured driver in the DeltaWing program at four years. She was pleased but cautious following her stint, almost sensing the impending incident involving Meyrick and the Starworks Motorsport Prototype Challenge car that IndyCar driver Jack Hawksworth was slated to drive later in the evening.
“We have a great car but with a great car comes a lot of pressure,” Legge said. “We were able to keep the car underneath us and work our way around any traffic. The key to a 24-hour race is getting through the traffic.”
James Davison and Townsend Bell, starters in recent Indianapolis 500s, each piloted their cars to the front of the GT Daytona field before turning it over to co-drivers. Bell was pleased with the debut of his new O’Gara Motorsports Lamborghini team.
“It’s a brand new team, brand new car,” Bell said. “Everybody has experience but not much experience working together. That’s kind of fun to see where we’ve started to where we’ve come, just in the first stint. To have a little bit of success in the first stint is just a confidence builder.”
The anticipated Ford GT program under the Ganassi banner struggled, however, with issues plaguing both cars that put them multiple laps behind in the GT Le Mans class.
“I’m not exactly sure what it was, something in the gearbox,” said Ryan Briscoe, a seven-time Verizon IndyCar Series race winner who started the Rolex 24 in the No. 67 Ford GT. “I came down into Turn 1 and it got stuck in sixth gear and wouldn’t come out. We tried to fix it on pit lane and couldn’t so we had to go back to the garage and the guys found the problem and got us back out there”.