By John Oreovicz
IMSA Wire Service
The 62nd running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona boiled down to a two-car race for overall and Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class honors between the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R and the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963.
The Porsche seized the advantage a little more than 19 hours into the 24-hour endurance contest that served as the season opener for the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and Matt Campbell and Felipe Nasr combined to build a 10-second lead. But Pipo Derani and Tom Blomqvist fought back in the Cadillac, culminating in Blomqvist making a daring pass for the lead on Nasr into Turn 1 with an hour and 20 minutes remaining.
A full-course caution that flew with 52 minutes remaining eliminated Blomqvist’s 2.2-second advantage and reset the race for a final sprint. When the pits opened eight minutes later, the Porsche crew got Nasr out ahead for the green flag that flew with 32 minutes to go.
That clean air at the head of the field was all the Brazilian needed. He kept the No. 7 Porsche that he shared with Dane Cameron, Matt Campbell and Josef Newgarden in front through the final stages, crossing the line 2.112 seconds ahead of the No. 31 Cadillac, which was driven by Blomqvist, Pipo Derani and Jack Aitken. Jordan Taylor, Louis Deletraz, Colton Herta and Jenson Button finished third in the No. 40 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06.
“It’s incredible to think we pulled that one off,” Nasr exclaimed before being mobbed by Porsche personnel in the postrace celebration.
It was the 23rd time Porsche claimed overall honors in the Rolex 24, the last coming in 2010 using a Riley chassis in the Daytona Prototype (DP) class fielded by Action Express Racing – the same team that now fields the Whelen Cadillac.
Team Penske owns two prior sports car victories at Daytona – a 1966 GT/GTO class win and the overall prize in 1969, when Mark Donohue and Chuck Parsons enjoyed a 30-lap cushion at the finish in a Lola T-70/Chevrolet.
“When you think about 1969, when we won here with a Lola, things were a lot different in those days,” Penske said. “Just to see the competitiveness, where six or seven tenths of a second was the difference after 24 hours of racing, it’s unbelievable.
“I’ll tell you, this goes down as one of the biggest wins we’ve had.”
The victory was equally as satisfying for Porsche, which entered IMSA’s new GTP era featuring a hybrid-electrified platform in 2023 in a highly publicized resumption of the German marque’s relationship with the Penske organization, which produced major sports car victories in several different time periods since the early 1970s. But the Penske-Porsche partnership fell short of the WeatherTech Championship crown last season, losing out to the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac.
Porsche targeted increased reliability in the five IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup events for 2024. That goal was achieved at Daytona International Speedway, as all four Porsche 963 hybrids in the field (two with Penske, one with JDC-Miller MotorSports and one with Proton Competition) finished in the top six.
Cameron competed for the Penske-Porsche program in the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2023, and the American sports car ace was delighted to transfer to the North American-based IMSA program for ’24. He was in tears in Victory Lane.
“Fifteen years – that’s a long time,” Cameron said. “I’m so proud of these guys. We had so many issues in the long races last year, and so much work to tune this thing up.”
Campbell and Nasr teamed to score a GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) class victory at the 2022 Rolex 24 driving a Porsche, but this was the first overall win for each.
“Incredible the way this race ebbs and flows and the way we took it to the Cadillacs today,” said Campbell. “Hats off to them – they really gave it to us. To finally get our first big victory in the world with this car is phenomenal. What a team! We finally got it done.”