Flying Lizard Audi, Toyo Tires dominate at Thunderhill

Photo: Flying Lizard Motorsports
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Flying Lizard Motorsports delivered a flawless, trouble-free drive in this past weekend’s USAF 25 Hours of Thunderhill, in what was the team’s return to the race for the first time in several years and its race debut with Toyo Tires, which had been in development throughout the year.

You can say that the FIA GT3-spec car, an Audi R8 LMS matched up against a cornucopia of variety in Radicals, other prototypes and older GT cars, was clearly the most reliable and most advanced car in the field, if not the outright fastest.

And you can also say that with an all-star, all-pro four-driver lineup of team program manager Darren Law and fellow past Flying Lizard drivers Johannes van Overbeek, Guy Cosmo and Tomonobu Fujii they had arguably one of the best, if not the outright best, lineups in the field.

Still, you have to go out and do the thing over the course of 25 hours, at a track with wide-open space, occasionally arbitrary noise restrictions, intermittent and occasionally heavy rain and consistently crazy wide speed differentials between the six classes.

The Lizards did that and won by a whopping 35 laps over their competitors, in a flawless performance. The car completed just south of 2,000 miles (1,973) in 690 laps.

“What an amazing event. This was the first official race we have entered since we began our relationship with Toyo Tires,” Law said.

“We spent this entire season working with Toyo on the development of their racing slick and the tires were phenomenal all race; we had no issues. Obviously doing a race like this isn’t anything new for Flying Lizard Motorsports, so with a good driver lineup and good race execution, we brought the car home in perfect condition.”

Here’s some win tweets:

Meanwhile, here were some of the other Thunderhill tweets of note from the race:

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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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

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.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

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.