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Acura, Shank, Helio Castroneves sweep the Daytona Rolex 24 as the hybrid era begins

The Meyer Shank Race Acura Team ARX-06, from left, Tom Blomqvist, Colin Braun, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud celebrate after winning the IMSA Rolex 24 in Daytona. (Beautiful pictures)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Acura dominated the debut of mixture engine in North America sport car Sunday’s 1-2 race at Rolex 24 in Daytona, where Helio Castroneves and the automaker won the prestigious endurance race for the third year in a row.

Castroneves has won a Rolex in 2021 on the Acura with Wayne Taylor Racing and won with Meyer Shank Racing the past two seasons. Castroneves, who will turn 48 in May, was deeply emotional after Tom Blomqvist ended up winning.

The Brazilian then led his teammates, including Simon Pagenaud and MSR rookie Colin Braun, in his signature “Spider-Man” celebration.

“I love climbing fences with Helio,” said Pagenaud, who won for the second year in a row and was a teammate with Castroneves in IndyCar. Team owner Michael Shank said during Pagenaud’s last drive, “Simon is driving his entire life.”

Castroneves admits he was thrilled to become the first racer to win three Rolex 24s in a row.

“It is a very tough sport. You lose more than you win,” Castroneves said. “It touched me. That’s why I love this sport so much. It’s very difficult and when you get it, you celebrate.”

Castroneves has been a key part of building Meyer Shank Racing, since helping Castroneves win a record-setting fourth Indianapolis 500 in 2021, they have added consecutive Rolex titles and IMSA championships. MSR is currently a two-car IndyCar program with Castroneves and Pagenaud, and has a real budding star in Blomqvist, who was rewarded by the team for an IndyCar test after last year’s championship season.

“What a car we built; we have a duty to bring it to the finish line,” Blomqvist. “Then have to take it to another level to guarantee victory.”

The 29-year-old British driver has landed a lead role with Honda’s motobike Performance Development.

“He was a lump of gold,” Shank said. “He really believes he’s the fastest out there. We have been in the Tom Blomqvist business for a long time.”

Despite being the defending champions, MSR and Acura proved to be inferior to Daytona. This year’s two-lap endurance race marks the beginning of a new era of hybrid racing, and the technological change to IMSA’s top GTP class makes it the only motorsport series in North America racing with hybrid engines.

The move is a big draw for automakers eager to compete in motorsport with the technology involved in their road cars. As a result, the top GTP class has doubled its number of manufactures over last year’s Rolex from two to four this season, and Daytona International Circuit officials say race attendance Saturday to Sunday is the largest in 61 years.

Fans have come to watch the showdown between some of the top automakers in the world.

Acura put out a pair of entries with Michael Shank and Wayne Taylor, who only collaborated last month with Michael Andretti. porsche drew Roger Penske back to motorsport with two cars, while BMW car convinced Bobby Rahal to move his program to the top of the IMSA. Cadillac going strong with three entries, two from Chip Ganassi Racing and a third from Whelen Engineering.

But the entire preparation for the launch turned out to be an intense endurance struggle, as all nine GTP teams worried that new technology and supply chain issues would keep the cars from failing. able to complete a 24-hour race.

“You are people of little faith,” said David Salters, head of Performance Development at Honda. “Obviously, our car can run 24 hours.”

Alas, one of Rahal’s BMWs soon had mechanical problems, and then both Penske’s. Porsche bankrupt. It was a heavy blow for Porsche, which along with Penske had essentially done all of the development work for the GTP to switch to a hybrid powertrain.

But Acura and Cadillac were able to get past their first laps, and the restart with less than 30 minutes left both the Acura and the two Cadillacs vying for the overall victory.

It was Blomqvist, the main driver of the MSR team that won both the IMSA championship and the Rolex last year, finishing in 60th Acura. He held off Filipe Albuquerque in the Acura to make room for Taylor/Andretti in the restart and Blomqvist came close to winning.

Renger van der Zande and Earl Bamber finished third and fourth in Chip Ganassi Racing, but both their Cadillacs were seven seconds behind Blomqvist.

The Rolex win was the third for Shank, who built a small team into a motorsports athlete.

It’s been a huge relief for Shank, who has had to contend with an ongoing complex where his team competes at both IMSA and IndyCar, and has felt immense pressure to deliver. goods for Acura in this hybrid era. Shank wanted MSR to be a two-car team, but Acura split his two cars between Shank and Taylor. And Taylor just teamed up with Andretti.

Shank emphasized that every session on the track showed MSR as a top tier team and Blomqvist took pole while 60th was the fastest in most sessions. Apparently the opposing team’s owners admitted that their only shot to beat Shank was the Acura not finishing.


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