Daytona, Florida - Portuguese drivers Filipe Albuquerque and Joao Barbosa teamed up with Brazil's Christian Fittipaldi in a Cadillac DPi to win the Rolex 24 Hours as former double Formula One champion Fernando Alonso's car experienced frequent problems at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday.
Albuquerque's Action Express No.5 team dominated the race as mechanical issues plagued competitors, including Alonso whose team finished 13th, 90 laps behind the winners.
"Unfortunately we had too many issues that were out of our control," said Alonso, who was making his debut in the 24-hour endurance race. "Some unlucky situations, first of all with the puncture in the third or fourth stint. We lost four laps with quite a lot of damage on the car.
"And after that we had a brake issue, and lost another 40 minutes. So that was the end of our race, probably. Then we had a throttle issue and then again a brake issue."
Even the champions had their share of problems with Albuquerque, who drove the final portion of the race, unable to push hard out of fear of overheating.
Another Cadillac team with Mike Conway, Eric Curran, Felipe Nasr and Stuart Middleton took second. Ninth place went to Ricky Taylor, Helio Castroneves and Graham Rahal with Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud and Dane Cameron taking 10th
The day was a special one for Chip Ganassi Racing, which posted its 200th career victory across four different motorsports disciplines, including Nascar and IndyCar, to claim the GT Le Mans class. Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, and Scott Dixon drove the winning car, taking the class victory over fellow Ganassi drivers Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais.
Local motion: South Africans at Daytona
South African brothers Kelvin and Sheldon van der Linde teamed up for the first time in their careers to contest the GT Daytona (GTD) category, together with team-mates Chris Mies and Jeffrey Schmidt.
Having qualified their No.29 Montaplast Audi R8 eighth, the team quickly moved up to first in class, and stayed that way throughout much of the night. However a rear wing failure, a subsequent five-minute time penalty and an off-track excursion for Kelvin, who was punted off by Juan Pablo Montoya, saw the team end up seventh, three laps down on the winners.
Another South African, Stephen Simpson, who now lives and competes in the United States, had a strong result in the premier Prototype class when he and team-mates Chris Miller, Misha Goikhberg and Gustavo Menezes took their No.99 JDC Miller Oreca LMP2 car, nicknamed the "Red Dragon" (sister car to JDC's No.85 "Banana Boat") to seventh overall.
Reuters and Drive 360