Ferrari & Mercedes Share Rolex 24 GT Honors

Risi Competizione Ferrari

The No. 62 Risi Competizione, Ferrari 296 GT3 of Daniel Serra, Davide Rigon, Alessandro Pier Guidi, and James Calado won the GTD PRO class of the 62nd Rolex 24 Sunday at Daytona Int'l Speedway. (IMSA photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – After more than a quarter century of trying, Risi Competizione finally took home a set of customary Rolex Cosmograph Daytona timepieces from Daytona Int’l Speedway on Sunday.

The Houston-based organization, headed by longtime owner Giuseppe Risi, had won in class at the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans, 12 Hours of Sebring, and Petit Le Mans since first debuting in 1998.

However, before this weekend, a victory in the Rolex 24 endurance classic continued to elude Risi.

That changed during the 62nd edition of the twice-around-the-clock event, held on the 3.56-mile Daytona road course that incorporates portions of the track’s 2.5-mile superspeedway oval as well.

After starting fifth in GT Daytona PRO with the No. 62 Ferrari 296 GT3, the quartet of Daniel Serra, Davide Rigon, Alessandro Pier Guidi, and James Calado drove a methodical and dominant race that ended in a one-lap victory over their nearest challenger – the No. 77 AO Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R (992).

In fact, the Risi team led the final 82 laps in class and 215 laps overall, despite a pit road fire in the first six hours that threatened to derail their entire effort.

Serra drove the final stint, which featured a full-course caution with 52 minutes remaining that bunched the field back up and put the pole-winning AO Porsche of Laurin Heinrich, Seb Priaulx, and Michael Christensen on the same lap as the Risi Ferrari.

That led to momentary nerves, but Serra comfortably drove away in the final 32-minute green-flag run.

“The BMW had a problem just before the pit [stop], and then it was more about bringing it home,” noted Serra. “Then after the yellow, the Porsche was on our lead lap. [This race] is never easy. You start to hear some noises in the car, and you think everything is out of control on the last lap. But we did it.”

Serra then breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that one of his – and the team’s – most desired prizes was finally won.

“I’m just really happy,” he said. “This is the race I was missing and really wanted to win. This might be the happiest day in my racing career.”

Calado, a two-time FIA World Endurance Championship titlist in the GTE Pro class, was anxious in having to stand by and watch at the end but tipped his cap to his co-drivers and Risi for the long-awaited victory.

“It’s rather easy just to worry during the end of the race, but the team did a great job giving us a great car,” noted Calado. “I’m happy for Giuseppe, he really deserved it. I’m happy for us. It’s a great result for the start of the year and puts us in a great place for the rest of the year.”

Third in GTD PRO was the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3 co-driven by Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, Neil Verhagen, and Sheldon van der Linde, which ran second for much of the closing stages of the race but suffered brake issues less than two hours from the finish that dropped the car back one spot.

Defending class champion team Vasser Sullivan saw its No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3, driven at the time by Mike Conway, crash into Dennis Andersen’s Le Mans Prototype 2 ORECA 07 in the first hour of the race and suffer enough damage that it was relegated to a distant 11th-place finish.

The sister Vasser Sullivan No. 12 Lexus was the car involved in the final caution, when Parker Thompson had to make a hasty exit after the machine caught fire at the exit of the pit lane. Thompson was unhurt.

Sunday’s victory was the first Rolex 24 class win for Serra, Rigon, and Calado, while Pier Guidi picked up his second Rolex watch after winning in Grand Touring Daytona 10 years earlier at the wheel of a Level 5 Ferrari.

Winward Racing GT Daytona

The GT Daytona class-winning Winward Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 of Russell Ward, Philip Ellis, Indy Dontje, and Daniel Morad. (IMSA photo)

Speaking of the GTD class, which featured 23 entries representing 11 different manufacturers, a comeback effort by the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 saw the team put its demons from a disappointing IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season last year to rest.

Led by Daniel Morad in the final hours, the Winward team of Morad, Philip Ellis, Russell Ward, and Indy Dontje came forward from 17th on the starting grid to their eventual class victory – the second such win for all four drivers.

It led to an emotional celebration on the cooldown lap for Morad, whose prior Rolex 24 triumph came in 2017, also in the GTD class.

“I’ve won it before sitting on the sidelines and now I’ve won it in the seat of the car,” Morad said. “I almost crashed on the in-lap (after the checkered flag); I was crying so much. My voice is gone. I think I hurt myself as well.”

Ellis, Ward, and Dontje previously won their Rolex watches in 2021, when the Winward team also reached victory lane at the World Center of Racing.

Though 12 different entries led the GTD class over 24 hours, the Winward Mercedes was dominant when it mattered most. It led 123 of the final 134 laps and a class-high 383 laps in total.

Second through fourth in GTD were a trio of Ferrari 296 GT3s.

The No. 21 AF Corse entry co-driven by Simon Mann, Francois Heriau, Miguel Molina, and Kei Cozzolino was the runner-up, adrift of the winning Mercedes by 2.731.

Third was the No. 34 Conquest Racing car shared by Manny Franco, Albert Costa Balboa, Alessandro Balzan, and Cedric Sbirrazzuoli, while the No. 023 Triarsi Competizione machine driven by Onofrio Triarsi, Charles Scardina, Riccardo Agostini, and Alessio Rovera crossed fourth.

But the day belonged to Winward Racing, led home by Morad’s consistent drive in the final minutes.

“Incredible team, perfect car today,” Morad noted.

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season continues March 13-16 with the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring from Sebring (Fla.) Int’l Raceway.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.

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