24 H. Daytona - Proton Competition Wins Photo Finish in LMP2
The No. 55 Proton Competition ORECA LMP2 07 went from the scrap heap to the top of the heap in the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Three days after the car was significantly damaged in a Rolex 24 practice session, James Allen eked out the narrowest of victories by just 0.016 seconds over Ben Hanley in the No. 04 Crowdstrike by APR ORECA.
An intense four-car battle over the final 90 minutes led to the photo finish, with the Proton and Crowdstrike entries swapping the lead with the No. 35 TDS Racing and No. 88 AF Corse ORECAs. Hanley went to the front with 20 minutes left in the No. 04, overtaking Job Van Uitert in the No. 35 with a bold pass leading to the infield section that involved contact between the cars and sent Van Uitert off course and to an eventual fourth-place finish.
Allen moved ahead of Nicklas Nielsen in the No. 88 AF Corse ORECA and into second place with seven minutes to go, then the 36-year-old Australian set his sights on Hanley ahead. Lapped traffic allowed Allen to slice the deficit and nearly grab the LMP2 lead on the next-to-last lap. Unsuccessful in that attempt but instilled with confidence, Allen drafted Hanley through Turns 3 and 4 of the Daytona oval on the last lap, pulled alongside in the trioval and nudged ahead as they took the checkered flag.
“Going into the final lap at the start, I saw that I actually did get in front of him before the line,” Allen said, “so I thought there’s no point trying to force any late-braking moves or anything silly. I could just get him going down the final straight and that’s kind of what I did.”
Even though he wasn’t sure he did.
“The spotter came over the radio and said we won, and I still didn’t believe it,” Allen admitted. “I was like, ‘Are you sure?’”
It was quite the recovery for Allen and co-drivers Fred Poordad, Francesco Pizzi and Gianmaria Bruni, who each collected their first Rolex 24 victory. The No. 55 ORECA sustained significant damage in a practice crash on Thursday, but the Proton crew worked overtime to repair it for the race.
“Luckily, ORECA makes a very strong tub because it was still intact,” explained Allen. “But the drive shaft was buried in the diff and took the gearbox with it. The whole rear end and all the bodywork had to come off, all the suspension. It was a very long job. It was really a big job by everyone on the team and I really appreciate it. They managed to get it done and the car was on the grid.”
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