Grueling? Oh, definitely. The Rolex 24 At Daytona endurance race asks more of man and machine than any other sports car race in America. The competition is brutal, the conditions ever-changing. The pace remains at a fever pitch from the green flag to the checkered flag.
But you know what has really been grueling for Corvette race teams?
Waiting on the first race of the season. Because this is what we do and everything else is just the prelude. The tuning, the tinkering, the practice, the pit stop rehearsals – once that green flag drops, adrenaline rises. And we’re ready.
And we proved it with our overall victory at the Rolex 24. Of the 67 entries, the top four finishers were all Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototypes. And taking home the big trophy and the Rolex watches: The No. 5 Action Express Racing team, owned by Bob Johnson, with drivers Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa and Sébastien Bourdais. Together, those four Corvette Daytona Prototypes completed 2,778 laps – just under 10,000 miles – in 24 hours. “This winning effort in the Rolex 24 At Daytona was the result of tremendous preparation, focus and execution put forth by our Corvette Daytona Prototype teams,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports.
The Rolex 24 was not only the first race of the season, but the first race ever of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. In the past year, the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, which starts its season at Daytona, and the American Le Mans Series, which starts its season at the 12 Hours of Sebring, combined forces to form the TUDOR Championship. This means the Corvette Daytona Prototype (DP) from the Rolex Series and the Corvette Racing GT cars are competing on the same track, but in two separate classes. The DP cars are race cars – built from the ground up. The GT cars begin with a production car – this year, the fire-breathing 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06. It’s the first year and the first race for the new C7.R. The new racing Corvette showed promise with impressive speed and economy, with both GT and DP cars leading in their classes during the Rolex 24. But the failure of a single bearing took the top-running C7.R out of contention for the win. You race, you learn, and you come back with a better product.
While the Corvette C7.R is racing against the same manufacturers it has been – and competition is fierce, with Porsche, Ferrari, Aston Martin, BMW and the SRT Viper running in its class – the C7.R is looking to pick up where the C6.R left off last season: with the championship.
And with the new series, the purpose-built Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype is not only facing off against last year’s Ford-powered GRAND-AM rivals, but against the ALMS prototype cars, which are powered by Honda and Nissan. Yes, it will be tougher, but just like the Corvette GT team, the plan is to end 2014 the same way as 2013 – with the DP Engine Manufacturers’ Championship and the Prototype Driver’s Championship, won last year by the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Velocity Worldwide Chevrolet Corvette DP. The extra competition makes this Rolex 24 win all the more historic.
And as important as the competition is – as much as we want those trophies and love the wild champagne showers on the victory podium – that isn’t why we race. We race to learn, to test, to improve, to perfect. And every Chevrolet that rolls off the assembly line carries with it a little bit of our racing ethos, a hint of that victory champagne. There is no greater test for man and machine, and no greater purpose than building the best cars and trucks we can.