DAC Motorsports' No. 18 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 completed the 55th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on the final weekend in January to kickoff the first round of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
After receiving the brand new Lamborghini Huracan GT3 just one week prior to the Roar, the new team used every minute available to ensure their drivers had a well prepared car to bring to the test.
Once at the Roar, fine tuning from engineer John Shapiro and crew started, with hopes of not only taking the car to the checkered flag but also becoming competitive in the 27 car GT Daytona (GTD) field. After returning from the Roar with test data in hand, the thrashing continued, prepping the car and ensuring its new sponsor La Champagnerie was well represented.
The crew worked tirelessly before even getting to the main event, and were confident in the quality of the Lamborghini, having no doubts they had a chance be a real contender once the green flag waved.
Throughout the multiple on-track sessions leading up to the Rolex 24, the No. 18 ran flawlessly, providing excellent feedback to the DAC Motorsports team and confirming their hard work and preparation was about to pay off.
During the final practice on Friday, the No. 18 La Champagnerie Lamborghini Huracan GT3 was entering Turn 1 when it was suddenly sent into a spin, hitting the wall and sustaining significant damage to the right rear suspension that was beyond repairable at the track.
DAC Motorsports immediately formulated Plan B, purchasing the Forza Motorsport show car that was on display in the Daytona fan zone from Change Racing. At 4 p.m. ET the afternoon before the race, less than 24 hours before the green flag, IMSA granted the team permission to race the new car. The DAC crew worked tirelessly to prepare the new Lamborghini overnight and rolled out race ready with just seconds to spare.
Although the No. 18 Lamborghini had to start from the back of the 27 GTD car field, Emmanuel Anassis began the race behind the wheel of the Lamborghini, quickly gaining track position and overtaking some of the most talented GT drivers in the world.
“I cannot recall at any time in recent history that a team, after having a four week old car with hundreds of hours of preparation to run the Rolex 24 destroyed, bought an untested, undriven display car and within hours started the race, with only seconds to spare," Anassis explained. "Buying another car and continuing the weekend was an easy decision for us because after all, no good story starts with, 'we packed up and went home.' I was strapped in, waiting to be pushed out of the garage while the crew continued to put body parts onto the car. I could hear the national anthem playing as the crew hustled to push the car from our garage to the back of the false grid. Our team engineer, John Shapiro, stuck his head into the cockpit and offered these comforting words, 'Boss, I have no idea what kind of car you’re sitting in right now,' and with that, we began racing.
"Somehow saying thank you to the team does not seem to have sufficient meaning," Anassis continued. "From the drivers, to the support staff, to the engineers, to our sponsors (LA Champagnerie), we experience an overwhelming level of commitment, dedication and support for without them, overcoming this incredible adversity would have not been possible. In addition, I would like to thank Chris Ward and Giorgio Sanna from Squadra Lamborghini as well as all the IMSA officials that helped us achieve this goal. We now turn our attention to the 12 hours of Sebring where we will hope to be fielding a two-car effort.”
Fellow driver Anthony Massari noted, “There are really no words to describe what the our team was able to accomplish at the Rolex 24. This race chews up and spits out the best prepared teams, cars, and drivers. For our crew to take a car that was on display and even get it to the track to start the race was something spectacular. I don't think anyone believed we would finish. But the team knew if they pooled their experience and didn't leave any bolt untouched we would have a fighting chance, and fight we did. The crew started the race exhausted and had the skill and tact to carry out flawless pit stop for 24 hours. In the 20th hour they overcame major adversity and got the car back on the track.
"I cannot thank our crew enough," Massari went on to say. "These guys are truly the best in the business (I think they proved that), my co-drivers Emmanuel, Brandon, and Zach, who didn't put a wheel wrong in the most challenging conditions. The support of La Champagnerie and the team from Phi, you could not find a better more understanding group to partner with. IMSA for their support. Finally Squadra Corse; Giorgio, Chris, and their team, these guys are true racers to their core. I am really looking forward to Sebring.”
Driver Brandon Gdovic, who completed the longest stint through some of the worst conditions of the race added, “It was an awesome effort for the whole DAC crew to get us into the race and bring it home in one piece. I gained a lot of experience driving this GT3 car for the first time and I am ready for the next one! I would like to thank the DAC Motorsports team, Emmanuel Anassis and Anthony Massari for the opportunity to drive for the team, Lamborghini Squadra Corse for their efforts, our major sponsor La Champagnerie, as well as WindStax and ComServe Wireless.”
The entire DAC Motorsports Team did an outstanding job getting the car back on track and to the checkered flag. A true testament to the dedication, commitment, and expertise of the team as a whole. The team wishes to extend a huge thank you to all of those who supported them during their battle to finish the Rolex 24.