CrowdStrike Racing by APR heads the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup (IMEC), having kept itself in the fight for the coveted LMP2 victory for much of the 62nd Rolex 24 at Daytona (27-28 January).
The reigning IMEC Teams Champion fought hard but ultimately finished the legendary twice-around-the-clock endurance race as runner-up with George Kurtz, Colin Braun, Malthe Jakobsen and Toby Sowery, racking up 13 points along the way.
At 13:40 Eastern Time on Saturday (27 January), Kurtz took the #04 ORECA 07-Gibson prototype away from third on the grid and into a fast, frantic LMP2 battle that featured several changes in the running order.
The fight was neutralised by a first-hour Full Course Yellow (FCY) and CrowdStrike Racing by APR led after the first slew of pit stops, Kurtz keeping the team well inside the top five for the duration of a solid two-hour stint in stifling heat.
Efforts during the cool of ‘The Roar’ to tune the #04 machine to the high ambient and track temperatures forecasted for the race paid dividends, as the car inspired confidence and tyre degradation was relatively low.
As a result, Sowery made an instant impression on the class-leading #2 United Autosports USA entry upon stepping into the breach, the British racer completing his first ever double LMP2 stint in second position.
The baton was then passed to Jakobsen, who was locked in an epic dogfight for P1 with the #2 and ensured CrowdStrike Racing by APR scored a maximum five Michelin Endurance Cup points for leading at the six-hour juncture.
After a brief appearance by four-time Daytona victor Braun, CrowdStrike’s Kurtz was reinstated for a taxing triple night stint, and Sowery’s second IMSA race run then took the team beyond the stroke of midnight.
The #04 crew slipped off the lead lap during the hours of darkness, but Sowery and Jakobsen made steady progress back towards the LMP2 frontrunners, and Safety Car pass-arounds gave the latter an opportunity to strike for the podium places once again.
The newly-appointed Team Peugeot TotalEnergies Reserve Driver used the grip from fresh Michelins to carve his way by the #52 Inter Europol by PR1 Mathiasen Motorsport and #74 Riley of ex-Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa, and conclude a charging drive in P2.
Kurtz then completed his minimum drive-time in a fleeting appearance, before fellow American Braun embarked on a triple stint, which was partially compromised by front-end damage sustained in light contact that occurred at an FCY restart.
The impact on Braun’s pace and track position was negligible and, although he dropped as low as sixth, he picked off the #2 car for fifth during the latter stages of his run.
Thereafter, CrowdStrike Racing’s Sowery cycled back up to second position and chased the class-leading #18 Era Motorsport hard on the approach to daybreak, before Jakobsen took over and engaged the rival squad in an enthralling and physical tussle.
There were multiple passing attempts on the Tri-Oval but the fight was ultimately won on pit road and the #04 crew banked another five Michelin Endurance Cup points by dint of leading at the 18-hour mark.
Braun went on to draw away by more than 15 seconds and, although an FCY decimated his advantage, he stood his ground in P1 to the end of his stint, only for the #18 entry to snatch the initiative in the next batch of driver-changes.
Driving duties were shared equally between Braun and Jakobsen in the latter stages of the Rolex 24 but neither were able to get within eight seconds of Era Motorsport during their respective stints.
Strategic gambles also proved ineffective against the team, which reacted promptly to or mirrored Algarve Pro’s own actions, but a final-hour FCY presented an opportunity to brim the #04 ORECA with fuel and fit new Michelins, and it also gave Jakobsen a clear view of the lead car.
Unfortunately, slight contact with a BMW Hypercar resulted in a minor loss of aerodynamic performance. but the young Dane pushed his rival hard to the very end and reached the chequered flag in a respectable and deserved second place that puts CrowdStrike Racing by APR atop the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup standings with a tally of 13 points.
George Kurtz (#04 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “When you come to the IMSA Rolex 24 at Daytona, you always have expectations of winning. CrowdStrike Racing by APR did a great job and we tried really hard to pull it all together, but we didn’t quite have enough. We can’t point to anything specific, it’s just that Era Motorsport did a great job. All we can do is reflect on how we could improve, come back and redeem ourselves next year. We have to be proud of the P2 result because we won the most IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup points. It’s a super solid performance overall.”
Colin Braun (#04 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “To finish P2 in the Rolex 24 at Daytona is a great effort. CrowdStrike Racing by APR worked tirelessly to set us up as well as possible for the race and I’m really proud of everyone involved in that. Of course you want to win the race; you try for 20 hours to stay in a position that will enable you to really fight for the victory in the final four hours, and we just came up a bit short on this occasion. We’ll look at what we can do better and come back fighting, but everyone did a great job top-to-bottom. We just lacked that little bit needed to take it to the winners.”
Toby Sowery (#04 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “The Rolex 24 at Daytona is a ‘winner-takes-all’ event so second place is a bittersweet result, especially for CrowdStrike Racing by APR. However, there are a lot of positives to take away because our pace and strategy were good and the car ran faultlessly, which is a testament to the team’s efforts. We just lacked that little bit extra at the end of the race. From my side, this is my first 24-hour race and it’s a different kettle of fish. I’m satisfied with my pace, consistency and racecraft. I jumped in the deep end and managed to swim quite well.”
Malthe Jakobsen (#04 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA 07-Gibson LMP2): “Second place in the Rolex 24 at Daytona isn’t a bad result at all, especially when you consider the level of competition within the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s LMP2 division this year. Of course the target was to win and we still believed we had a chance right up until the final Full Course Yellow restart. We simply didn’t have the pace to keep up with Era Motorsport on this occasion.”
Algarve Pro Racing Team Principal, Stewart Cox, said: “We were in a position to win at the 12-hour mark but, on this occasion, Era Motorsport had the legs on us. We had a 15-second window with Colin (Braun) in the car and tried some strategy to improve our situation, but they reacted immediately, so fair play to them. They’re a very good team and they beat us, it’s as simple as that. Ultimately, we thought we had the pace and I don’t believe they would have been able to pass us if we had had track position, which they snatched away and kept because they were on a slightly different fuel strategy that meant they could react to us. We need to understand if anything went wrong but, inevitably, we didn’t quite have the pace required to win.”