At 2:30 p.m. this past Saturday, the green flag dropped for the 55th running of the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, and 55 cars, spread across four different categories, careened into turn one. At that point, all the cars were running impeccably, adorned in flawless liveries, with all their parts intact.
Over the next 24 hours, blue Florida skies turned overcast, day lost out to night, skies opened up and temperatures dropped. Daytona’s famous endurance race is never a walk in the park by any means, but this year, the drivers, mechanics and cars had to work overtime to stay in the game.
Because of the low temperatures, all the cars struggled to get heat in their tires and thus conceded a lot of grip; even the top-category prototypes couldn’t go fast enough for their aerodynamics to work. Essentially, prototype drivers had to manhandle 600 horsepower go-karts around the track, while the GT class cars tried their best to stay out of their way — all in the rain.
By the time the checkered flag fell on Sunday at 2:30 p.m., the safety car had made over 20 appearances and 14 cars had failed to reach the finish line — and the ones that did were crumpled shadows of the cars that started the race 24 hours earlier. For Cadillac and the Wayne Taylor Racing team, the last hour might have seemed to last longer than the previous 23 combined. There was an electrifying energy on the pit wall; eyes were glued to screens showing the live feed; and when Ricky Taylor went for, what would be the winning pass, with four laps to go, there could have been an atmospheric pressure drop from the collective gasp. The Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac piloted by Max Angelelli, Ricky and Jordon Taylor, and the recently un-retired Jeff Gordon was a dream team that made a dream come true.