The 2010s may rival the 1980s as the most significant decade in the history of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA).
As the decade comes to an end, IMSA is firmly established as a world leader in sports car racing and the undisputed premier sports car sanctioning body in North America. There have been countless memorable moments over the past 10 years, and we’ll take a look at the top 20 in a four-part series.
In this third part of the series – moments 10 through six – we put the spotlight on speed records, a heartwarming story and a couple of other historical moments.
10. Colin Braun Sets World Records at Daytona In Shank-Prepared Ford EcoBoost/Riley DP
Daytona International Speedway – Oct. 9, 2013
Colin Braun long has been considered one of the fastest prototype drivers in the world, and he’s got a record to prove it. On Oct. 9, 2013, Braun set two world speed records and turned the fastest lap in history on the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway oval.
The record runs came aboard the then-Michael Shank Racing-prepared Ford EcoBoost/Riley Daytona Prototype. Braun’s first record, a lap of the DIS oval at 40.364 seconds (222.971 mph), broke Bill Elliott’s record of 210.364 mph set in qualifying for the 1987 Daytona 500.
Next up were a pair of FIA-sanctioned world speed records – for 10 kilometers and 10 miles from a standing start both previously held by Hans Liebold. Braun’s 10-kilometer speed was 202.438 mph and his 10-mile speed was 210.018 mph, topping Liebold’s 10-km speed of 199.101 mph and his 10-mile speed of 208.316 mph set in a Mercedes-Benz Turbo in Nardo, Italy on May 5, 1979.
The record runs were administered and timed by IMSA.
“It was a very special, exciting day to be able to set the track record with a Daytona Prototype,” said IMSA Chairman Jim France. “I think it was very appropriate and very exciting. For Ford with their new EcoBoost engine, for Mike Shank and everybody involved at Ford Motor Company and their engineers and everybody who worked on the project, it’s wonderful to come to a great conclusion like this.”
9. Nasr Edges Jordan Taylor to Win Closest Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in History
Sebring International Raceway – March 17, 2019
There have been 67 runnings of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts and the closest one of them all was the 67th. Driving the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R, Brazilian Felipe Nasr edged Jordan Taylor in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi by just 1.030 seconds to win the 2019 rendition.
“Those last 20 minutes were super intense trying to hold off the 10 car, they were pretty fast,” said Nasr after delivering the victory for Action Express Racing and his co-drivers Eric Curran and Pipo Derani. “I’m so happy we got the victory and nailed every hour for the endurance championship as well. A perfect day for racing.”
That victory would help to propel Nasr, Derani and Curran to the 2019 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup. And it also put Derani in the record books as the first driver since Phil Hill to win the Twelve Hours in three out of his first four appearances.
8. 2014 Rolex 24 At Daytona Ushers in New Era for North American Sports Car Racing
Daytona International Speedway – Jan. 26, 2014
A dream was realized when the green flag dropped on the 52nd Rolex 24 At Daytona, as it was the first race of the new Tudor United SportsCar Championship – the product of the historic merger between the American Le Mans Series and the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series.
A huge field of 67 cars participated in the twice-around-the-clock race, which included four classes of competition – Prototype (P), Prototype Challenge (PC), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD).
At the end of the race, the driving trio of Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais went down in the record books as the first overall winners of the combined series. They co-drove their No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP to a 1.461-second victory over the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP of Wayne, Ricky and Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli.
The No. 911 Porsche North America 911 RSR shared by Nick Tandy, Richard Lietz and Patrick Pilet were GTLM class winners, with the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA quartet of Colin Braun, Jon Bennett, James Gue and Mark Wilkins taking the PC class win.
The GTD class win went to the No. 555 Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari of Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell, Scott Tucker, Jeff Segal and Alessandro Pier Guidi following a late-race incident between Pier Guidi and the No. 45 Audi of Markus Winkelhock while battling for the victory.
7. USMC Staff Sgt. Liam Dwyer Wins on Memorial Day Weekend
Lime Rock Park – May 24, 2014
Nearly three years to the day after he lost his left leg after stepping on an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan, U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Liam Dwyer claimed his first career victory in what is known today as the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut.
Dwyer co-drove the No. 27 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 to the Street Tuner (ST) race victory with Tom Long. The victory came two days after what Dwyer and many other members of the military referred to as his “Alive Day” – the day on which they narrowly escaped a fatal injury.
Fittingly, the victory also came on Memorial Day Weekend in a car that carried a patriotic, camouflage livery. And it was at Dwyer’s home track. He grew up in nearby Litchfield, Connecticut.
“Home track, Memorial Day, my Alive Day… surreal does not describe the jubilation I’m feeling right now,” said Dwyer after the victory. “Memorial Day is not a day that I take lightly. I know exactly what it means to myself and to my fellow service members. To be here in Connecticut, at Lime Rock, at my home track, a place I’ve camped at before … I can’t explain how awesome this feels right now.”
A year later, Dwyer was back in victory lane – this time at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. That victory came alongside co-driver Andrew Carbonell, who took the lead on the last lap of the two-hour, 30-minute race. That victory came in the presence of another Marine sergeant, Aaron Denning, who saved Dwyer’s life on that fateful day in Afghanistan.
6. Rolex 24 At Daytona Sets New All-Time Distance Record
Daytona International Speedway – Jan. 27-28, 2018
Many longtime fans and observers will point to the 1980s as one of the most significant decades in IMSA history, for a variety of reasons. The sports cars of that era were lightning fast, setting speed records that lasted for decades.
That is, until the late 2010s and the introduction of the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) race car. These new machines, which debuted in 2017, had the muscle to challenge longstanding records, along with the raceability of their predecessors.
In the 2018 Rolex 24 At Daytona, the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R traveled a total of 2,876.48 miles in the hands of co-drivers Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque, totaling 808 laps around the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course.
In the process, the No. 5 team shattered the previous Rolex 24 mileage record of 2,760.960 miles set by John Paul Jr., Rolf Stommelen and John Paul Sr. in a Porsche 935 that completed 719 laps around what was then a 3.84-mile circuit. The car also broke the previous record of 762 laps completed in a Rolex 24 set in 1992 by Masahiro Hasemi, Kazuyoshi Hoshino and Toshio Suzuki in a Nissan R91 prototype.
“This is a great endurance achievement and story,” said IMSA CEO Ed Bennett. “We are extremely proud of all the drivers, teams, manufacturers and IMSA officials who played important roles to achieve this together.”
Another longstanding Daytona record fell a year later when Oliver Jarvis qualified the No. 77 Mazda Team Joest RT-24P DPi car at one minute, 33.685 seconds (136.792 mph) to take the pole for the 2019 Rolex 24. It eclipsed PJ Jones’ previous record of 1:33.875 (136.521 mph) set in 1993 aboard the No. 98 Toyota Eagle Mk III for Dan Gurney’s All American Racers.