The 2017 International Motor Sports Association WeatherTech sports car championship began with the 55th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Starting on Saturday, Jan. 28th, and continuing into Sunday, the event was a showcase of excitement right from the get-go.
Early on, the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing team led the way, with driver Ricky Taylor at the helm. With teams trading drivers throughout the race, the race leadership changed hands as well. By the two-hour mark, Seb Morris, Christian Fittipaldi and Jeff Gordon, also driving for Wayne Taylor, had assumed first, second and third.
Wet conditions in Daytona Beach threw the competitors for a loop, as persistent rain showers forced teams to pit for tires that would provide greater grip in inclement weather.
As the race went on, Filipe Albuquerque assumed command in his #5 Cadillac Daytona Prototype car, followed by Michael Conway in the #31 and Jordan Taylor in the #10 for his father Wayne’s team. Certainly, it was a banner night for the Cadillac teams. Nissan driver Bruno Senna ran fourth.
Seven hours into the event, Jordan Taylor assumed command before relinquishing his seat to former NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon, who once again took the #10 Cadillac prototype to first place. Despite briefly losing the lead to Filipe Albuquerque, the Taylor Racing team remained a force to be reckoned with, as Ricky Taylor ran a lap ahead of the entire field past the ten-hour mark. With approximately 13 of the 24 hours remaining, an epic battle shaped up between IMSA regular Joey Hand and IndyCar Series veteran Tony Kanaan for first place in the GT Le Mans category. Meanwhile, Italian driver Max Angelelli, the fourth driver for Wayne Taylor Racing, dominated, stretching his lead to 73.203 seconds at one point.
On Sunday morning Joao Barbosa took the wheel of the #5 Cadillac and set a blistering pace, 2.729 seconds in front of Angelelli. Meanwhile, Ryan Hunter-Reay, another veteran of IndyCar, led the GTD class. As the race continued to wind down, Jordan Taylor was at the helm of the dominant #10. However, it was his brother Ricky who would find himself involved in what would be a stunning conclusion.
In the closing minutes of the race, Albuquerque was in control of the Rolex 24, as Ricky Taylor prepared to make his move. Taylor confronted Albuquerque and reportedly sent the driver of the #5 Cadillac for a tailspin as he reassumed the top spot in both the overall rundown and the Prototype class. When the checkered flag dropped after 24 grueling hours of intense competition, Taylor streaked across the finish line, securing the overall victory along with his brother, Angelelli, and Gordon. Patricio O’Ward scored the Prototype Challenge victory, while Dirk Mueller and Michael Christensen brought home victories in the GT Le Mans and GT Daytona classes, respectively.
Angelelli said in his post-race interview that he was astonished that he had just won the Rolex 24 for the second and final time in his career, having previously done so in 2015. Car owner Wayne Taylor praised his sons for their outstanding performance on the track, saying that, “Ricky and Jordan are really special kids." He also commented that they placed a valiant effort into their triumph.