We challenged Madrid-based artist to illustrate each and every hour of the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona. You know, in real-time. Could she keep pace with this notoriously chaotic endurance race? You've never seen Daytona like this before. Here's the hour-by-hour coverage:
What a race! I wouldn't have thought the last big gasp moment would have come from the GTD class, after all the factory fighting in GT Le Mans. A nudge from the Level 5 Ferrari of Pier Guidi was enough to bring a slap from IMSA, assuring a win for the Audi.
Up front, the Action Express Racing team kinda cleaned everyone's clock. There were a few scraps along the way, but the tenacity with which the Action Express guys held on to their lead made them a good bet from early in the race. There was something on the order of 1.5 seconds between first and second, but the Action Express team earned every bit of their win by breaking trail for most of the race.
The PC prototype's were good fun, but they get a little lost in the wake of the thunder and kinetic possibilities of the much larger, much throatier P class. That's a shame, because the PC's are pretty little cars. At Daytona, the CORE autosport team won fancy watches all 'round.
That GT Le Mans class… It's pretty good. Keep your eye on GTLM, it's just wild enough to work. Today, it was the 911 RSR driven by Nick Tandy, Richard Lietz and Patrick Pilet won the class. That shouldn't come as a huge surprise. After Thursday practice we'd started putting our bets on the SRT boys, but the Viper's prodigious torque was tripped up by reliability problems. Racing improves the breed, they say.
For a proper race report, click here to read what Contributing Editor Marshall Pruett has to say from trackside.
Running 3rd in GTLM, the #4 Corvette started to puff a bit of smoke out from under the car. The next thing you knew it was rolling into the pit and crowding its way to the garage. I snuck in right behind it, awash in the thick reek of ruined transmission. The car was apart in minutes, a crane appeared and the wrecked gearbox was dumped on the floor and slid away, simultaneously the new gearbox was chucked in and lifted into place. The Corvette team was huge, and focused. Crew Chief Dan Binks simultaneously pointed and instructed all while moving the heaviest and hottest parts. I walked away shaking my head, impressed with their bravado. With so little time left in the race, surely they'd run out the clock in the garage.
The car was on track by the time I found my seat.
This place is just thrumming with energy. The guys on track are cranking out laps like they're fresh. Ricky Taylor, in the Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette is leading in the P class, and overall. Mark Wilkins in the CORE Autosport Chevy powered Oreca has the PC class at his back. Nick Tandy in the Porsche 911 RSR is leading GTLM and Spencer Pumpelly in the Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS is leading GTD.
I only know this because there's a Xeroxed timing sheet floating around the press room, and our awesome assistant Wil is giving me crib notes. When I go to the roof and soak in the chaos I'm immediately lost. Almost every car that started yesterday race is still out there, pounding away. Imagine racing through Manhattan at, say, 3am. The traffic is that dense. Late in the hour there's a yellow flag and I can finally catch my breath.
What a race.
Have we mentioned that the pace of this race is insane? How are there any cars left? Or walls? Who's even winning? Wait… what's on the front of that Ferrari? Is that a cone? Please tell me that merits a yellow flag.
Our illustrations are behind by an hour. That puts us ahead of the Mazda. It's really feeling like a grind now, so I ask Daniela (who is Spanish) about her health.
"It's like my body does not want to collaborate. Mood is ok, but I want to cry because body doesn't want to help. I better not think about it. The pilots have to be worse."
"I wash my face."
Ricky Taylor, driving the Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette leads at the end of hour 20. With visibility restored, small battles have broken out all over the track, including the pursuit of the #5 Action Express Corvette by the #9 Action Express car. We do love a good family squabble.
It's warming up and the track is stirring. After brake rotor changes for cars with steel brakes, most teams won't see another major service. Barbosa has to serve a penalty for avoidable . Late in the hour Scott Dixon's #2 Ford Riley DP is forced to limp around the track with a flat, evaporating some, but not all, of Ford's hard fought gains on the Corvettes.
The sunrise is pink and perfect. This is the time you can't miss. Bring your coffee. Bring your donuts. The track is magic and empty and yours for the taking. An hour from now sleepy security guards are going to slump against fence posts and tell you exactly and politely where your garage pass can't take you. Get it while the gettin' is good. A familiar name, Joao Barbosa, is back on top with the Action Express Corvette DP.
There's color in the sky and the hope of morning. It's still lonely at the track, but photographers are starting to filter out to the most exciting corners to shoot in the early light. The pros are putting their money on their best shot coming from the bus stop, where cars have been having trouble all weekend. There's still a battle in the Prototype class, and now a Ford is dicing with an army of Chevrolet powered cars. Max Angeleli and the Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP lead the field again, but it's getting closer than our regular reports would indicate.
The clock grinds on. Surprisingly, hour 16 sees some great battles between class leaders on the banking. Not that you should have stayed up to watch, that's what TiVo is for. With sunrise only two hours away Max Angelelli and the Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP has the lead. It's been said, but the average pace in an endurance race these days is just staggering. Our illustrations are slightly behind the clock, and Daniela has resorted to drying her work with a hair dryer to get caught up. The Ferris wheel is still turning.
Another hour in the dark. It's weird out there folks. You should do this some day. Max Angelelli caught Bourdais and took the lead.
After more than two hours of racing the yellow flags finally came out after the DeltaWing, helmed by Katherine Legge, packed into a wall near the bus stop. It's another tough break for the DeltaWing team, and it'll be disappointing for fans showing up in the morning, as the D-Wing has proven to be a real favorite. It's good news for the rest of the field though, as plenty of teams have been looking for an excuse to dive into the pits. Only the hardcore are still spectating. Arthur Kowitz and his fantastic RV are making the best of a primo spot overlooking turn 5. He'll have a great view of Sebastian Bourdais, who spelled Fittipaldi, marching steadily toward a new watch. Colin Braun is leading the PC class in the CORE Autosport Chevy powered Oreca, Oliver Gavin is leading GTLM in the Corvette Racing C7.R, and Lorenzo Case's Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia leads GTD.
The Rolex 24 at Daytona is officially over the hump, and it feels like it. Without a partying crowd the speedway is giant and open and very spooky. Crews are sneaking naps when they can. Drivers have retired to their RV's. The racing might be more conservative at night, but these guys are still going like hell. With infrequent yellow flags, a whole lot of miles are getting clicked off every hour. Christian Fittipaldi's Action Express Corvette DP is covering that ground the best. In the PC class, Jon Bennett and the CORE Autosport Chevy Oreca has the lead. GTLM has the two Porsche's in front, with Jorg Bergmeister's Porsche North America 911 RSR in the top slot. GTD is being led by Townsend Bell in the Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia.
Halfway through the race, young American driver Alexander Rossi finally gets a good stint behind the wheel in the troubled DeltaWing. He's running 97 laps down from the leader, now Christian Fittipaldi, who relieved Barbosa in the Action Express Corvette DP. The field is still spared from major attrition, aside from the crash of Memo Gidley's Corvette DP car and Matteo Malucelli's Ferrari, but the same can't be said for the fans in the infield. It's getting late, even the professional enthusiasts are starting to pack up.
Daytona has an awfully cheery infield. Campers, partiers, spectators and racers all mingle away from pools of light, surviving the long night with the help of fried food and alcohol. Karaoke clashes with the PA and the howl of engines in the fan zone. In the garages, the intrepid start to take advantage of the more relaxed hours of the night to get close to their favorite team. Joao Barbosa and the Action Express Corvette DP continues to absolutely dominate into the end of the hour, when he finally hands off the car. Respect to that long and tough stint by Barbosa. It seems impossible that the half hour point is only an hour away.
The GTLM class leading SRT Viper pulls into the garage with what sounds like a power steering problem. The car has to fight through a crowd getting into the garage, regardless if it's going in or out. The SRT team extended the garage stop to get the car into fighting form, ceding the top spot in GTLM to Californian Patrick Long and the #912 Porsche 911 RSR. Joao Barbosa and the Action Express Corvette DP continues to lead the race overall. It's 12:15am in Florida, spirits are high and there are no signs of mutiny from our intrepid illustrator.
Track action might have quieted down in hour 9, after a long yellow flag, but the media center is still buzzing. While photographers are out working, editors grind out updates... like this one. Joao Barbosa and the Action Express Corvette DP are at the head of the pack.
Fireworks ring in the 8th hour of Daytona, and yellow flags close it out. Debris on the darkened track is especially treacherous. Jordan Taylor in the Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP is setting the pace. With so much of the hour under yellow, attrition has slowed and a few stricken cars, including the DeltaWing piloted by Alexander Rossi, have made their way back onto the track.
Daytona's lights can only do so much. In addition to wizardry like radar assisted rear-view cameras, many teams use spotters in perches high above the track. Binoculars and a radio keep these hearty souls in the mix long into the night. Mike Rockenfeller and the Spirit of Daytona Corvette Prototype lead the way into the 8th hour of racing.
Daylight already seems like a distant memory. Spectators might be getting cold, but the racing action is still blazing hot, and so are everyone's brakes. The famous Ferris Wheel might be the most iconic light show at Daytona, but glowing brakes after dusk are the best show in town. Hour 6 closes with Christian Fittipaldi leading overall in the Action Express Corvette DP. Colin Braun, driving the Core Autosport Chevy powered Oreca, is at the head of the PC class, while GTLM is still at the mercy of Robert Bell's SRT Motorsports Viper GTS-R. Rene Rast in the Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS car leads GTD.
Sun sets with the track still under a red flag. Spectators start to close ranks for a long night. Racing gets under way around 6pm and it's intense from the get-go.
At the end of hour 5, Memo Rojas leads overall in the Ganassi Racing Ford Ecoboost powered Riley Prototype.
Rescue crews race to Memo Gidley's #99 Corvette DP car. The field falls silent for more than an hour.
The third hour ends under the first red flag at Daytona in years. A horrendous crash between Memo Gidley's #99 Corvette DP car and Matteo Malucelli's GTD Ferrari F458 Italia, which had lost power in the infield, shatters both cars and traps Gidley in his prototype. Low afternoon light makes for poor visibility and treacherous conditions at the track. Both Gidley and Malucelli have been extricated from their cars and taken to the hospital. It goes without saying that all of us at R&T wish them both the best. An accident like this and earlier incidents in the pit are an excellent reminder of the dangers of racing.
The racers found a rhythm in the second hour of racing. The first pit stops and driver changes are handled, with some teething issues. The HPD ARX-03b driven by Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel and David Brabham started without a wheel, knocking over a crew member. At the end of the second hour of racing, Dixon still leads in the Ganassi Ford Ecoboost Prototype and Alex Tagliani leads the Prototype Challenge class in the Chevrolet powered Oreca FLM, RSR Racing car. As suspected, Marc Goosens leads GTLM in the Dodge Viper GTS-R, while Kevin Estre leads GTD in the Porsche 911 GT America.
Green flag! Racing gets underway and the crowded field immediately has trouble fitting itself through infield bottlenecks.
The diesel-powered P-class Mazda SKYACTIV-D is off to a rocky start, with an early pit-stop.
At the end of the first hour, Scott Dixon leads overall.