With Cadillac DPi-V.Rs making up five of the seven cars in the top Daytona Prototype international class following Mazda’s exit, the odds were stacked against Acura, the Japanese manufacturer only represented by one-car efforts from defending winner WTR and Meyer Shank Racing.
However, both Ganassi Cadillacs dropped out of contention with mechanical gremlins and Action Express Racing’s enduro-only Ally entry suffered heavy damage in an incident with a GT car, leaving an even fight between the two Acura ARX-05s and the remaining Caddys of AXR and JDC-Miller Motorsports in the final quarter of the race.
The battle between the four cars remained finely poised until both AXR and JDC-Miller pitted under the race’s final full course-yellow for extra fuel, leaving MSR and WTR to race for the win.
Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves did enough to resist the advances of WTR's Ricky Taylor to secure MSR’s first victory at Daytona since 2012, Taylor having to settle for second in the car he shared with Albuquerque, Alexander Rossi and Will Stevens.
While Albuquerque was naturally disappointed to see WTR miss out on a fourth successive Daytona win, he conceded that he hadn't expected to be able to fight for victory against the Cadillacs.
“Congratulations to Acura for the one-two finish - to be honest, I don’t think anyone expected that,” said Albuquerque.
“I don’t think we had pace to match the Cadillacs, but that’s how it unfolded.
“When it’s that close, you want to win. It’s such a long race, everyone is so tired.
“The emotions are strong when you win, and emotions are really strong when you lose. We’re all sad, especially when we were so close, but it is what it is.”
Taylor kept the pressure up on Castroneves as they navigated the traffic after the final caution, but the American driver was unable to contend with the MSR Acura in the last 10 minutes of the race, eventually finishing second ahead of the leading Cadillac of JDC-Miller driver Loic Duval.
While admitting that he didn’t have the pace to pass his former Acura Team Penske team-mate Castroneves for the lead, Taylor was left impressed by how reliable the two Acura ARX-05s were in comparison to the five Cadillacs.
“A great day for Acura, HPD does so much work for us and I think it shows in the reliability,” Taylor said.
“We were up against five other Cadillacs versus two Acuras. The reliability was amazing and the performance of the engine and the cars was flawless.
“The team executed beautifully, but I just didn’t have enough at the end to go get Helio.
“I’m disappointed right now, but we’ll begin working towards Sebring.”