The 2023 International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season got off to a great start for Acura, Aston Martin and Mercedes-AMG, each of whom won in their respective classes at the 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The overall win went to Acura who took the top spot on the podium for the third consecutive year in this twice around the clock endurance classic. What makes this year’s repeat overall win by Meyer Shank Racing so impressive, is the IMSA prototype GTP cars are using all-new hybrid powertrains.
“I am so proud of everything this team has accomplished,” said Mike Shank, Meyer Shank Racing team owner. “Thank you to Acura, HPD, Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti – it was a team effort and we all worked together to get to this point. Since we got our hands on this car after Petit Le Mans last year, our guys have worked countless hours on this car. And I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we started this race, but it goes to show the work that was put in behind the scenes to make it to the finish on top. We had a few things pop up during the race – we had a small battery issue and we had to keep the engine running so that was a little bit stressful. But we worked through it. The stand made great strategy calls, the crew had perfect pit stops and the drivers exceeded my expectations, I couldn’t be happier with this result.”
The driver lineup of Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Tom Blomqvist and Colin Braun secured pole position and lead the 61 car field to the green flag at 1:40pm local time on Saturday, January 28th. 24 hours later the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 had completed 783 laps of the 3.56-mile or 5.73 km Daytona International Speedway road course covering almost 2,800 miles or 4,500 kms.
“Everyone did an amazing job – Acura, HPD and the entire MSR team,” said four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves. “And I’m not talking about everyone from the sports car side of MSR, even guys from the Indycar side as well – everyone helped to get this car going. This one [win] is right on top, I mean, right together with the Indy 500. This is a special place, a historic place and the talent around this track and within the race, its just huge for me to be able to accomplish, not only with a team that believes in me, you know, but now we keep it going with great teammates. It’s just it’s just a dream come true for sure. When we [MSR] won the Indy 500 in 2021, we knew what we had. Last year was incredible and feel that 2023 is going to be our next incredible journey and we have the people, we have the resources, and we know we can do this. This win is just another stamp on what an incredible team Meyer Shank Racing is.”
GTD Class Win
Aston Martin begun its 110th anniversary year with a win in the GTD class. The reigning IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar GTD class champions, Heart of Racing No. 27 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 GTD, was piloted by Roman De Angelis (CDN), Ian James (GBR), Darren Turner (GBR) and Marco Sørensen (DEN). This was Aston Martin’s first Rolex 24 at Daytona win after 12 attempts dating back to 1964.
“Words can’t do justice to how proud I am of this team and what they’ve achieved this weekend,” said Ian James, Heart of Racing team principal. “To win the Rolex 24 at Daytona is the crowning glory for anyone involved in IMSA and it means the world to all of us to have finally done it. Winning Daytona as reigning IMSA GTD champions just goes to prove the strength and the talent of the team we’ve built up at Heart of Racing. It's great to be able to win this race for the Seattle Children’s Hospital and to underline the love and support we give to them, and we owe our gratitude to team owner Gabe Newell for allowing us all to make this dream come true, and of course Aston Martin.”
The racing Aston Martin Vantage GT is derived from the road going car and shares the same aluminum body-frame. It has a specially tuned version of the street car’s 4.0 litre V8 turbo-charged engine. Aston Martin have now won the two most presitigous sportscar endurance races in the world, last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“This is an incredibly significant day in the history of Aston Martin Racing,” said Huw Tasker, AMR Head of Partner Racing. “The Rolex 24 at Daytona is a race we’ve wanted to win for a long time with Vantage and, for good reasons, it’s proved a tough nut to crack, which is why it means so much today. For Aston Martin to win its class in the most important endurance race in North America is an emphatic statement of our intent in this market, and it's the perfect way to begin the defence of Heart of Racing’s defence of the IMSA GTD crown. Congratulations too must go to Magnus Racing, who delivered a superb performance and could just as easily have won, and to our new partners TGM who along with TF Sport did a great job to reach the finish of such a challenging event.”
GTD Pro Class Win
The No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG Motorsports GT3 won the GTD Pro class with drivers Maro Engel (GER), Jules Gounon (AND), Daniel Juncadella (ESP) and Cooper MacNeil (USA).
"Tears of joy,” said Cooper MacNeil, the son WeatherTech founder David MacNeil. “This has been a long time coming, a lot of hard work, and it's just amazing to complete the cycle with winning here. It's lucky number 13 for me and we got the win. I honestly couldn't be happier. What a day, what a 24-hour race. We were in contention the whole time and we knew we had a fast car. Mercedes-AMG gave us three of the best drivers that they have, if not the best in the world. The best thing is they build a fast and reliable car, because if you don't have those two you can't win a race. A hell of a way to end my IMSA career."
Complete race results can be found at IMSA.com.
The next race in the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will take place at the 71st running of the Mobil-1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on Saturday March 18th in Sebring, Florida.
Photography By Acura, Aston Martin, Mercedes-AMG and Rolex
Video By IMSA