Harvard, Massachusetts USA
Ron Fellows, Chris Kneifel, Franck Freon and Johnny O'Connell defied more powerful cars, inclement weather and mechanical gremlins to earn the overall victory Sunday,February 4, 2001, in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Rolex 24 At Daytona aboard their GM Racing-sponsored Chevrolet Corvette.
With only three hours left to run in the 24-hour marathon, Dyson Racing's Sports Racing Prototype Ford-powered Riley & Scott seemed to have the win inhand, holding a 26-lap lead over the Corvette. But when Butch Leitzinger went offtrack with a blown engine in hour 22, it was just a matter of time before the Corvette would pass the Dyson car and accumulate a greater number of laps before the checkered flag was thrown.
Chevrolet's drama was not limited to the winning entry. Possibly the biggest news of the weekend was the participation of Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jr. in a second Team Corvette co-driven by Andy Pilgrim and Kelly Collins. The #3 Chevrolet finished fourth overall and second in the GTS class behind the #2 Corvette, the White Lightning Porsche driven by Lucas Luhr, Mike Fitzgerald,Randy Pobst and Christian Menzel and the Freisinger Motorsports Porsche driven by Wolfgang Kaufman, Lance Stewart and Ciril Chateau.
The White Lightning and Freisinger Porsches were also first and second in the GT class, giving the class it's best-ever overall finish in the famous Daytona endurance race. The Pumpelly Racing team of Spencer and Tom Pumpelly, Mason Neck, VA, Steve Ivankovich, Chicago, IL, and Rick DiIorio, Harvard, MA, came home in 15th Overall, and made the top ten in class with a 9th place in GT. Their #34 Porsche GT 3R completed 595 laps at an average speed of 88.136 mph. Starting from the 54th grid position, the team brought their newly acquired GT 3R up through the pack, and despite the rain, avoided incident, gaining 29 places in the process.
But for all the joy felt by the Chevrolet team, there was an equal amount of pain in the Dyson Racing garage. Team owner Rob Dyson fielded a two-car team in the Rolex Series premier SportsRacing Prototype (SRP) class and saw a Rolex 24 victory evaporate in the late stages of the race for the second year in a row. Dropping out with engine failure in hour 22, Dyson's #16 car was eventually credited with a 14th-place finish overall and second in class. The second Dyson car, which had its hopes vanquished with a broken drive train early in the morning on Sunday, finished 19th overall and third in the SRP class.
The eventual SRP winner was Downing Atlanta and its Mazda Kudza driven by Howard Katz, Jim Downing, A.J. Smith and ChrisRonson. The #63 Downing entry was 11th overall, 32 laps behind the winning Corvette.
The Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series has two other racing classes. Archangel Motorsports earned the win in the SRPII class with Andy Lally, Paul Macey, Peter Seldon and Martin Henderson driving the team's Nissan Lola. Winners in the AmericanGT (AGT) class were Kenny Bupp, Doug Mills, Dick Greer and Simon Gregg on the Hamilton Safe Motorsports Camaro.