IMSA Notebook: Two Drivers Break Record for Youngest Rolex 24 Winner
Staff Report, IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - When the checkered flag dropped on Sunday afternoon after the 55th Rolex 24 At Daytona, two drivers found themselves breaking a race record that dates back more than 30 years.
Michael de Quesada, co-driver of the No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, and Patricio OíWard, in the No. 38 Performance Tech ORECA FLM09, won in GT Daytona and Prototype Challenge, respectively. De Quesada is 17 years, 63 days old, while OíWard is 17 years, 239 days old, and both smashed the record for the youngest driver to win the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
"Itís incredible," said de Quesada. "I was there in 2007 when my dad (Carlos de Quesada) won, and since then have dreamed about winning myself. It was the 10-year anniversary since my dadís first win, which makes it even more special. The dream kept going because I was in a Porsche also, plus doing it with incredible guys like Daniel (Morad), Jesse (Lazare), Mike (Christensen) and my dad was amazing."
Prior to this yearís race, the record was held by John Jones, winner of the GTO class in the 1985 Rolex 24 At Daytona. He was 19 years, 109 days old. The closest any driver had come to breaking Jonesí record was in 2005 with GT winner Dominik Farnbacher, who at the time was 20 years, 113 days old.
"Winning in Daytona is the biggest accomplishment I have achieved during my 11 years of racing," said OíWard. "It was such a special win for me because it was my first ever endurance race with teammates I really enjoyed working with. The race was so difficult because the rain and the cold weather made it absolutely miserable on our legs and hands, but at the end we did it! We won the Rolex 24 in the PC class and I couldnít be happier to do it with Kyle (Masson), James (French), Nick (Boulle) and the whole Performance Tech team."
OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST TYLER CLARY SURPASSES EXPECTATIONS IN FIRST RACE: Amidst racers with years of experience under their belt, BimmerWorld Racing entered Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Tyler Clary as the third driver of the No. 84 OPTIMA Batteries BMW 328i for the BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona last weekend.
In his first race at Daytona, Clary qualified the car 10th in the Street Tuner class and raced his way up to fifth before turning the car over to Tyler Cooke about 45 minutes through the race. Overall, the team finished 14th after battling mechanical issues during Cookeís stint.
"My plan was to be pretty tentative off the start," Clary explained. "I wanted to make sure that if there was any sort of mayhem going in to Turn 1 that I would not be a part of it. If we hadnít had a couple of strokes of bad luck with the car, I think we could have easily been on the podium."
Clary, who set a world record in his 200-meter backstroke win at the 2012 Olympics, announced his retirement from swimming in July 2016 and turned his focus to racing. The Riverside, California-native described how he got into the sport at a young age, working a merchandise booth at nearby Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California with his parents to raise money for his club swim team.
"I just always wanted to be one of those guys driving the race cars, so thatís sort of where it all started," Clary said. "Obviously Iím extremely thankful and forever will be for the opportunity that James (Clay, BimmerWorld Team owner) gave me. Iíve gotten to be on some pretty amazing teams during my lifetime and I can feel when a group has the makings to be a great team, and BimmerWorld does."
Team owner James Clay immediately knew that Clary, being a BMW supporter and touring around the country in 2016 with his BMW X5, would be a natural fit for the team.
"Tyler was introduced to the team and me by Jerry Kaufman, one of our drivers last year," said Clay. "I have been racing for almost 20 years and training new racers for a significant amount of that time. I have never seen anyone who assimilates so quickly and performs so well under the intense pressure of a new environment."
Clary recognizes his background as a swimmer helped his transition to becoming a race car driver, noticing several parallels between the two sports.
"The process of learning to make yourself better and being self-critical, learning how to take criticisms and apply them in a way to make yourself better is a big skill," Clary explained. "Another cool thing is that in swimming, you can get plenty of qualified feedback but in racing, the level and depth of data is far greater. To have that much more input into what Iím doing to figure out how to make myself faster is extremely rewarding."
Clary is set to return to the BimmerWorld Racing lineup for the four-hour endurance race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on September 22-24, 2017.
FERRARI WINS ROLEX 24 DEKRA GREEN RACING AWARD: The first DEKRA Green Racing Award of the year was awarded to the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE after the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The award goes to the most environmentally clean, fast, and efficient car in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. The Ferrari was the recipient of the award several times in 2016 as well and the Risi team won the year-end team DEKRA Green Racing Award.
IMSA partners with the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Society of Engineers International to develop a formula for calculating each carís environmental impact. The formula is composed of three components- Clean, Fast, and Efficient- and scores from each component are added together to create a total. The car with the lowest score, representing the smallest environmental impact, receives the Green Racing Award.
"The DEKRA Green Racing Award recognizes the manufacturer that has made an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through technological advances on the teamís engine platform," explained Geoff Carter, IMSA Senior Director of Technical Regulations and Compliance. "Trophies are handed out after each race, as well as at the end of the year, as a reward for the team and manufacturer that have made the least environmental impact in the GT Le Mans class."
Risi Competizione now leads the DEKRA Green Racing Team Championship, and Ferrari leads the DEKRA Green Racing GTLM Manufacturers Championship.
CHIP WILE READY TO TAKE ON BUSY FIRST YEAR AS DIS PRESIDENT: Two down, at least 13 more to go - and thatís only between now and the Fourth of July.
But if those first two races - the 55th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, preceded by the BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona - were any indication, Daytona International Speedway hasnít lost a step in the off-season leadership transition between outgoing Track President Joie Chitwood, III, and his successor, Chip Wile. Chitwood was promoted to the job of chief operating officer of International Speedway Corporation (ISC), which owns the Daytona track.
"So far, so good," said Wile, in the closing hours of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season kickoff, "though we canít control the weather." The fact that about half of the Rolex 24 was run in wet conditions sounds more imposing than it was - most of the time the rain was light, and the last five hours were cool and dry. And with that nail-biting finish - three of the four IMSA WeatherTech class wins were decided by less than three seconds - few were complaining.
Still, literally and figuratively, Wile got his feet wet as he oversaw the sports car racing weekend, good training for the approaching Speedweeks which begins with the Lucas Oil 200 ARCA race on February 18 and ends with the Daytona 500 February 26. Beyond that, thereís Bike Week, the Country 500 music festival, the Coke Zero 400 and more.
"Itís certainly different here," Wile said, comparing Daytona to his last tour of duty as head of Darlington Raceway, "but still, Iím used to being on the go."
And after the Rolex 24, heís certainly sold on sports car racing.
"Our partnership with IMSA, and working together at the Rolex 24, is so important for Daytona," he said. "Itís great to have so many international brands here - to see the sport growing this way. The vision Jim France has" - IMSA Chairman France is the son of Bill France, Sr., NASCAR founder and builder of Daytona International Speedway - "continues to resonate. He has always believed in sports car racing, as well as stock car racing. To see how the operation handles things here has really opened my eyes."
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