Olly joined fellow Corvette drivers Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Richard Westbrook in the Spirit of Daytona Corvette-bodied Daytona Prototype in the 50th Anniversary of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and finished 8th overall. Here he gives his thoughts and reflections on a superb weekend of racing for spectators and competitors alike.
“So here we are the day after the Rolex 24 at Daytona looking back on what must have been one of Grand-Am’s best events ever. It’s a shame our new Corvette DP No. 90 car wasn’t able to figure a bit more in the mix at the front but we were pleased to bring a brand new car home in the top ten. We had lots of comments over the week about how beautiful the car looked – it’s definitely raised the image of the DP cars significantly.
“The 50th running of the race was certainly the biggest Daytona event I’ve been to and both the series and track had pulled out all the stops to make it special. It was great to see some real top level drivers from lots of different categories come together to take part – Juan-Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, AJ Allmendinger, Allan McNish to name just a few. There was also a very big GT field with a lot of factory drivers in it, and inevitably the size of the field had an effect on how the race evolved. It’s a credit to a lot of the GT drivers there wasn’t a big clash between one of the lead cars and a GT which would have re-shaped the race.
“It was clear right from the start that the Ford-engined cars would be fast, particularly the new Riley-bodied cars, and the first three finishers were always in contention for the win from the outset. I was pleased to be able to lead at the six hour mark, which we achieved through good strategy and pit stops, and I had fun racing with Ryan Dalziel in the Starworks car and the winning MSR No. 60 car.
“Of course I enjoyed driving with Antonio, Richard and Jan again; there’s an easy, common understanding between the four of us and lots of banter goes backwards and forwards which is good fun and lightens the atmosphere at an otherwise tiring event. Our driving styles are slightly different, but we all had a basic good read on the car and got the best out of it we could. My only issue during the race was that, due to the difference in height across the line-up, I had to make quite a big compromise with my seating position and my left leg was giving me pain.
“My first time in the SDR car wasn’t until 8:45pm which was quite a challenge as it was dark and quite cold by that stage. I was very tentative on the first lap out as it took so long for the tyres to heat up, particularly the fronts. You have to weigh up the risk versus reward; you don’t want to lose time to your competitors but equally you don’t want to fly off the road and cost the team laps and laps getting a fix. It’s a tightrope to walk.
“Around the midway mark I was down in the pits getting ready for my second time in the car and all of a sudden I saw some of our guys leaving the pit box and lots of worried faces. It looked like we had a transmission problem as Richard had reported that he’d lost a certain amount of drive. We had broken an axle but unfortunately the fix was a bit more complicated than they first thought and it cost us 14 laps. Looking back, we finished 15 laps down to the winner so we could have really been in contention but for that. The Rolex watch will have to wait for another year!”