CrowdStrike Racing by APR has recovered to the top of the LMP2 classification in the 61st edition of the Rolex 24 at Daytona (28-29 January).
Pre-season testing and the Roar Before the Rolex 24 ran faultlessly for CrowdStrike Racing, and the American-flagged team marched forward from fifth to second in class during the opening exchanges of the Rolex 24 on Saturday (28 January) afternoon.
The leading #52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsport machine initially edged out a 13-second advantage as the #35 TDS Racing car emerged as a threat, snatching the runner-up spot moments before the first scheduled pit stops, when a mix of strategies were employed, the #04 receiving fuel and four new tyres.
Control of the CrowdStrike-liveried prototype changed hands in the second bevy of LMP2 stops, Matthew McMurry stepping aboard and spending much of his stint trading places with both the #11 and #35 TDS entries, yoyoing between third and fifth before vacating the #04 just prior to the 100th lap.
CrowdStrike Racing conducted “cheap” stops during two Full Course Yellows (FCY), the second taking the team out of sequence with some class rivals and ensuring it headed LMP2 at the four-hour mark, at sunset.
However, the order constantly ebbed and flowed as teams deployed their fast Pro drivers and relatively inexperienced Ams at different points of the twice-around-the-clock enduro.
McMurry returned to the fray once day gave way to night and, although the American Pro circulated on the edge of the top six for the most part, he was quicker than those ahead of him and significantly reduced CrowdStrike Racing’s one-lap deficit to the frontrunners.
Hanley picked up the baton during the ninth hour and frequently matched his fellow professionals for pace to stay on the lead lap, and a timely FCY brought the #04 crew back into play on the approach to midnight.
The #55 Proton Competition entry was quickly dispatched at the resumption of green flag racing, and Hanley then chased down and cleared the #35, but not before the class-topping #52 car had made good its escape.
Nevertheless, CrowdStrike Racing was in P2 for the first time in nearly ten hours and there was nothing to choose between the leaders, the gap between first and second fluctuating lap-after-lap until the 14th round of stops when Esteban Gutierrez was plugged in to the #04 ORECA for the first time.
Frustratingly, an unscheduled pit visit for a new nose section was required after debris struck the car and became lodged in its radiator duct.
CrowdStrike Racing plummeted back down to sixth but later regained a huge chunk of time during another caution, enabling Gutierrez to cycle up to the very top of the LMP2 leaderboard over the course of a 25-lap run, which preceded additional stints for McMurry and Hanley.
Initially, both drivers held firm on the edge of the podium places, but Hanley was presented with an opportunity to head the LMP2 contingent away from a FCY restart, after which he stretched his advantage to more than nine seconds.
The Brit reassumed P1 and continued gapping the field once all remaining LMP2 entries pitted during the 15th hour, and, after being leapfrogged in the driver-change, Gutierrez swiftly engaged the #35 in a battle that ended with him retaking the initiative some 20 laps later.
The Mexican ace has since kept his class rivals at arm’s length, re-establishing his lead after each scheduled pit stop to the 18-hour mark of the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Esteban Gutierrez (#04 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA 07 LMP2): “It has been a long race but we are quite pleased with our progress and performance as a team, because we have always been near the front in LMP2. As we have been able to fight and overtake other cars, we feel confident of a good result. We just have to keep everything in line, avoid mistakes and optimise our performance to gain an advantage on our competitors. I’ve enjoyed my experience of the Rolex 24 at Daytona with CrowdStrike Racing by APR a lot and I’m looking forward to a competitive end to the race.”
Ben Hanley (#04 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA 07 LMP2): “The #04 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA 07 LMP2 has felt really good throughout the race and it’s all about holding position out front now. The priority is to get through the night and put yourself in a solid position for the final few hours of the race, and that’s exactly what we have done. The team and my fellow drivers have all done an exceptional job so far and we just need to keep it going and move forwards.”