O’Connell claims PWC GT title in dramatic fashion

Johnny O'Connell. Photo: Cadillac Racing
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MONTEREY, Calif. – Johnny O’Connell entered the Pirelli World Challenge season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with a 26-point lead and has ended it with a 61-point lead over title rival Olivier Beretta to claim his fourth straight GT class championship.

Yet that points gain does not tell the story of what was a dramatic, tense, action-packed 20th and final race.

While the pair of NGT Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia GT3s dominated the race – Alessandro Balzan winning from Alessandro Pier Guidi – the story of the title came down to O’Connell and Beretta, after Beretta had cleanly driven from 12th place up to fourth in the 50-minute race.

On Lap 25, Beretta made a passing attempt of O’Connell at the Corkscrew, with O’Connell concerned the damage would be too much to knock him out of the race.

Beretta seemed to poise to seize the title at that point, but was issued a drive-through penalty from Race Control for avoidable contact.

Beretta then retired at Turn 11 with just over five minutes remaining, and O’Connell’s title was secured, despite a 12th place finish.

In the race, Balzan beat Pier Guidi, Ryan Dalziel, Andy Pilgrim and Michael Lewis. Eric Lux (GT) and Colin Thompson (GT Cup) claimed additional class victories.

The title for O’Connell marks his fourth consecutive championship in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing entry, although first in the first year of the new FIA GT3-spec Cadillac ATS-V.R.

Frankie Montecalvo (GTA) and Thompson (GTC) secured the other class titles.

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, points


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

POINTS: Standings after Rolex 24 at Daytona l Michelin Endurance Cup standings l Daytona endurance points

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.