Alegra Motorsports' StrategicAir Riley BMW Shows Its Muscle at Rolex 24
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 25 - Although Alegra Motorsports didn't get the results it wanted in the 47th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway this weekend, the team will return to its home base of Miami with the confidence of a group that knows it can compete against the powerhouses of the Rolex Series.
The team's Riley BMW No. 22 was fast. Its fastest lap of the race was a 1:42.335 on the car's 254th trip around the 3.56-mile, 14-turn road course for an average speed of 125.235 miles per hour. Only six of the 49 cars in the race ran a lap that was any faster, and five of those six finished in the top six. Four of them finished first through fourth, too.
Unfortunately in the wee hours of Sunday morning at the nine-hour, 44-minute mark, one of the Alegra Motorsports drivers, Chapman Ducote of Miami Beach, Fla., hit the wall exiting Turn Six and going onto the high banks to bring out the event's tenth caution flag. He drove the car back to the pits and then the garage area, but the entry was retired at the 10-hour, 56-minute mark due to the damage.
The car got as high as eighth on the scoreboard and it was 12th at the time of the single-car accident. The entry, which is sponsored by StrategicAir, Merchant Services LTD, Gatorade and TodayMD.com, ended up 15th in the Daytona Prototype standings in the final rundown.
The team overcame several challenges prior to the crash. It lost some time early when Ducote pitted because he thought a tire was going down, although luckily that turned out to be a false alarm. Tomas Enge of Monte Carlo was setting some blistering times when a problem occurred with the wiring in the steering column, causing a small fire in the cockpit and the loss of the data acquisition system. Ryan Dalziel of Orlando, Fla., the driver who did such a phenomenal job bringing the car from 19th to eighth early in the race, drove without that data for about an hour before the team brought him in and fixed that problem.
The car's brakes needed changing at one point, and the team waited as long as they could to try to catch a full-course yellow to make those repairs. None came, so they brought Dalziel in at 10 p.m. around the six and a half-hour mark to do a complete brake change and also replace the muffler, which the series officials required. Jean-Francois Dumoulin of Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, team owner/driver Carlos de Quesada of Coral Gables, Fla. and Enge had subsequent great stints before the team's day ended at the beginning of Ducote's second stint.
Dalziel put things in perceptive. ""It was good and bad," he said. "Obviously we had a couple mistakes, but I think we overcame a lot of hurdles. I think we did a really good job as a team to get here and be counted in with the big boys. The car was extremely fast all day. We had great power and a great-handling car. But it's the 24 Hours of Daytona, and you need a lot of luck to do well in this race."
Portions of the race were covered live on FOX and SPEED. The team's Web site is at alegramotorsports.com. Additional information can be found at merchantservicesltd.com, strategicair.com and limitlessskycard.com.
The competitors have some time to regroup now, because the next Rolex Series race is April 24-25 at VIRginia International Raceway in Alton, Va.