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Rachit Thukral

Albuquerque: 'Nobody expected' Acura 1-2 in Rolex 24

With Cadillacs comprising five of the seven cars in the top DPi class after Mazda’s exit, the odds were stacked against Acura in its bid to defend its crown in the marquee event of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the Japanese manufacturer only represented by one-car efforts from WTR and Meyer Shank Racing.

However, both Ganassi Cadillac DPi-V.Rs 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 Acuras and the remaining Caddys of AXR and JDC-Miller in the final quarter of the race.

The battle between the four cars remained finely poised until both AXR and JDC-Miller team elected to make an extra pitstop for fuel under the race’s final full-course yellow, allowing WTR and MSR teams to battle it out for victory in an all-Acura dash to the finish.

Four-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves did enough to resist the advances of Ricky Taylor in the WTR Acura, securing MSR’s first victory in the Daytona classic since 2012.

While Taylor’s teammate Albuquerque was naturally disappointed to see WTR miss out on a record fourth successive win in Rolex 24, he took heart from how Acura had an upper hand over its numerically stronger rival Cadillac for much of the race.

“Congratulations to Acura for the 1-2 finish. To be honest, I don’t think anyone expected that because I don’t think we had pace to match the Cadillacs, but that’s how it unfolded,” said Albuquerque, who was joined by full-season teammate Taylor, Will Stevens and Alexander Rossi for the IMSA opener.

“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.”

#60 Meyer Shank Racing W/Curb-Agajanian Acura DPi: Oliver Jarvis, Tom Blomqvist, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05 Acura DPi: Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque, Alexander Rossi, Will Stevens, #5 JDC Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi: Tristan Vautier, Richard Westbrook, Loic Duval, Ben Keating (Photo by: Brett Farmer / Motorsport Images)

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 teammate Castroneves for the lead, Albuquerque was left impressed by how reliable the two Acura ARX-05s were in comparison to the five Cadillacs.

“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.”

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