Tequila! Someone is celebrating in style this week and they earned every shot of that Patrón party. By now, you know the No. 2 Tequila Patrón HPD team won this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. After years of hard work, and plastering the Patrón name all over North American road racing for the last few years, they came home with a hard fought win.
What did it take to win this race in 2016? One thing is damn sure, it didn’t happen overnight. The ESM camp has seen their fair share of drivers and cars, starting in Grand AM and American Le Mans many years ago. At Daytona, we’ve seen them in a Ferrari, move to prototype challenge, and this year they dominated with a P2 car. In fact, ESM took home the first ever overall Rolex24 by a P2 car. To pull this off it takes an insanely talented team. It takes years of practice. It takes millions and millions of sponsorship dollars spent on different cars in every class. ESM has had to adapt from Ferrari’s to these insanely styled Honda Powered Ligier Prototypes. Add those factors up and… you’re still not even close to winning a Rolex 24.
The craziest part about this race is that you can do everything exactly right; you can buy all the right talent, you can execute the perfect pit performances and still end up like our poor old friend the DeltaWing. The forever plagued DeltaWing was running very strong too, leading laps like never before, but got cut out in it’s prime just like so many entries do at Daytona. You can’t put a price on luck.
Pure determination in the final hours put Patrón on the top. I’d never heard of Pipo Derani until I saw him climb out of the green monster in victory lane, but it’s evident he was chosen to pull the last stint for his size and attitude. Standing atop the P2, people around him were taller still! You’ve never seen a smile bigger than his either. I’m not sure the big wig from Honda Performance Development knew just what to do with his minute in the spotlight. The plain clothes dude accepting the manufacturer’s title trophy from Tom Kristensen looked like he had a bit of a shock to his system, rightfully so.
Let’s not forget about the crazy Americans crossing the finish line side by side at the most American race track in the most American cars on the grid. The Corvette is no stranger to the 24, and this year took first and second. While Tequila Patron won with experience and shear driving talent, Corvette benefited from incredible reliability and consistency throughout the race. Winning first and second place in GTLM for the Rolex 24 is one measure of reliability for the Corvettes. The fact that they finished just thousandths of a second apart from each other proves just how much experience (and trust in their drivers) Team Chevy has at this track.
On the opposite side of the Daytona experience table is Ford. This year saw the debut of the new Ford GT, and Chip Ganassi had a hell of a time getting it to run consistently throughout the race. BMW also debuted a new GT car. Their M6 sported a clean livery that paid homage to 100 years of M power. Both these cars experienced growing pains throughout the 24 hours. When it was all said and done, only one Ford and one M6 made it across the finish line behind the Corvettes.
I think in many of our hearts, we were wishing for Scott Pruett to get his final win in one of the classic Corvette Prototypes to top Hurley Haywood’s record, but this mix up with a P2 winning overall and the Corvettes destroying the whole gt field made for some insane moments.
Next stop in the Floridian endurance challenge is Sebring – a track where new cars are battle tested, new drivers are broken in, and tire melting Florida sunshine adds new elements to competition engineers can only fathom. Congratulations to Tequila Patron on their win in the first leg of the Tequila Patron Endurance Cup, you earned it!
Follow the team and find the whole photo Gallery from #Rolex24 below:
Michael Raffia: @roalkoll
Kendra Aceto: @becausekendra
Zach Lumley: @zachlumley
Jeremy Stoutamyer: @nineonemedia
Alvaro Gabaldon: @alvaro.gabaldon