O’Gara Motorsport make good impression at Daytona
O’Gara Motorsport Stages Impressive Rebound to Finish Rolex 24 At Daytona – Early Race Leaders Recover From Electrical Issue to Set Fastest Race Lap, Finish 14th in No. 11 Lamborghini Huracán GT3
O’Gara Motorsport staged an impressive rebound in this weekend’s Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 30 – 31, where the team led early on and later set the fastest GT Daytona (GTD) lap of the race in the No. 11 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 after recovering from an electrical issue in the race’s third hour.
Although the final result sheet will list the No. 11 as finishing 14th in GTD, the debuting IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team will best be remembered for being the fastest car in its class for the vast majority of the race. Team co-drivers Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler, and Rolex 24 rookies Richard Antinucci and Edoardo Piscopo, didn’t make a single mistake in the twice-around-the-clock race.
After qualifying ninth in Thursday’s wet qualifying session, Bell quickly charged to the lead in the No. 11 during his race-opening double stint Saturday afternoon. Bell twice led the GTD class in his initial run before handing the Lamborghini over to co-driver Bill Sweedler.
Sweedler quickly raced the No. 11 back up to second place but soon encountered a major electrical issue that slowed the Lamborghini. After trying to repair the problem in the pits, the O’Gara team was forced back to the Daytona International Speedway (DIS) garage where the issue was traced to a broken wire in the steering wheel harness.
Repairs were swift but the No. 11 still rejoined the race nearly two dozen laps down to the competition. The issue took away any realistic chance to win the Rolex 24 but did set the stage for an on-track performance that was far and away the most impressive of the race in GTD.
“It’s bittersweet, obviously, it’s disappointing, but the O’Gara team, all of our drivers, everything was flawless for about 23-1/2 hours,” Sweedler said. “That 30 minutes of troubleshooting that electrical problem we had seemed like an eternity. We knew we had a great car, we knew we had the full package, the Lamborghini really is an amazing platform. All we can do is look forward to Sebring, we collected points here and it’s time to move on. Congratulations to all of the winners.”
For Team Owner Tom O’Gara, just competing in the Rolex 24 At Daytona was the culmination of months of hard work and planning.
“The sheer amount of preparation and planning on the narrowest of deadlines made this an incredibly difficult task for everyone on the team,” O’Gara said. “Everything was new, from our car to the spares to all of the support equipment and some personnel, pretty much everything. From that point of view, it went very well, and I couldn’t be prouder of how well our team performed in our debut on one of sports car racing’s biggest stages. We will review the electrical issue, see what we can do to prevent it in the future, but otherwise move on and prepare for Sebring. I feel we are leaving Daytona having put our best foot forward and more in our first Rolex 24 race.”
Bell and his teammates also left Daytona with many positives.
“The fact that we made up about 12 laps speaks to the execution of the guys,” Bell said. “An electrical issue, you just can’t foresee that, but that was all that went wrong today. We just had a flawless race in terms of execution and the people side, and I think we can be very proud of that. For a new team to come in, show that kind of pace, set the fastest race lap and go from ninth to the lead and drive away, it was fun to watch. And we finished 24-hours of racing, so you have to emphasize the high points.
“The guys did a great job with pit stops and all of our drivers, including our two rookies, did just a terrific job. Antinucci and Piscopo both had good stints and, in the end, Antinucci was just ripping off the lap times. I am proud of those young guys for coming in and not making any mistakes, which is always the biggest challenge.”
Antinucci followed Sweedler in the initial driver rotation and set a blazing pace in each of his stints. His Sunday time of 1:45. 873 was the fastest GTD lap of the race.
“Racing the 24 was a phenomenal experience,” Antinucci said. “I can’t believe how this brand new team, O’Gara Motorsport, performed in its debut GT race.. Flawless pit stops, awesome strategy and clinical driving from the drivers all around. We could’ve won this race. That is a fact. We will be back better and stronger. Watch us.”
Piscopo didn’t take to the wheel of the No. 11 for the first time until Saturday night. He too clicked off some impressive laps despite being deliberately conservative.
“It was my first time here, racing on this track for the first time ever at night, I was more careful and deliberate than I would have been normally by then,” Piscopo said. “We had already made up some of the lost ground by the time I even drove so I wanted to be sure and not lose that as I learned my way around. I became more and more comfortable each time I drove.”
“I’m really proud of the guys,” said O’Gara Motorsport Technical Director Gerald Tyler. “I’ve said to everyone I run into, no one can imagine the work, the effort, the decisions that go into an event like this, and especially when things happen so last minute from hiring to purchasing. We didn’t win it, I would like to have been there to compete, we could have we think, but it’s amazing that happened and really sad that a simple wire put us back like it did. We tried to come back, who knows what would have happened otherwise, but we did what we could and I’m proud and happy to have been part of it.”
O’Gara Motorsport has stepped up to IMSA GTD competition this year after a championship-winning 2015 season in the IMSA Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America series. Bell and Sweedler, the reigning IMSA GTD Champions, joined the team during the off season.