Scot Ryan Dalziel delivered a dazzling performance to help his Action Express Racing team win America’s Blue Riband event, the Daytona 24-Hours, for the first time.
The 27-year-old from Wishaw — partnered by American Terry Borcheller, German Mike Rockenfeller, plus Joao Barbosa from Portugal — battled throughout the race on the 3.56-mile Florida circuit to win by just 52.303secs.
“This is a truly amazing feeling,” Dalziel, who finished runner-up in the 24-hour race in 2007, said after climbing out of the team’s Riley-Porsche Prototype. “I knew before we started the race we had the car and the team to win, but to actually do it is amazing.
“It was terrific to be on the podium three years ago, but at the same time I knew how bad it hurt just to have missed out. This time though we’ve won, and won pretty convincingly overall, and we’re ready to have a hell of a party.”
The Orlando-based Scot’s team briefly lost the lead when the Ganassi Riley-BMW of American Scott Pruett overtook him with three hours remaining.
But the newly-formed Action Express Racing retook the lead 30 minutes later when the Ganassi car, which eventually finished second, suffered suspension problems and dropped three minutes.
“Yeh, that was crucial for us,” Dalziel, whose team led more laps of the 755-lap race than any other car, continued. “We knew they’d been pushing really hard to catch us, so it didn’t surprise us they had technical issues.
“Our car, in comparison, ran like a dream right through the race. Ok, we had a few clutch and throttle issues, but it was brilliant. It never really missed a beat throughout the 24-hours. I can’t believe I’ve finally won the Daytona 24-Hours.
“I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet what we’ve achieved. It was just a crazy range of emotions in the final minutes of the race but obviously I’m delighted with the outcome.
“I’ve never before been in a perfect race where every pit-stop, every tyre change, every fuel-stop has been absolutely spot on. Everyone in the team delivered for this event, it’s as simple as that. We were all quick behind the wheel and I think around the midnight mark we really began to believe we could have a shot at the win.
“The Ganassi cars are the benchmark for this event and we matched them for pace. For 16 hours we raced with them on the same lap, a tremendous achievement, but ultimately we won this race thanks to our own pace and not through anyone else’s misfortune! It’s an incredible feeling and to have a win here on my resume is fantastic as a professional sports car driver. I feel my career is re-launching in 2010 and this is obviously a perfect start!”
Dalziel’s triumph marks his second Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype victory, following a maiden win at Laguna Seca, California back in May 2008. His previous best in the ‘Rolex 24 at Daytona’ was a second-place podium finish in 2007.
Dalziel’s joy though was in complete contrast to the disappointment and dejection of Bathgate’s Dario Franchitti. The 36-year-old double IndyCar and Indy500 winner, who won the Daytona in 2008, was on course for another victory when his car’s engine blew.
“Yeh, it’s disappointing,” Franchitti said after his Ganassi Riley-BMW, which led for the opening eight-and-a-half hours, was forced to retire with engine failure. “Everything was going like clockwork, but in motorsport everything can change in the blink of an eye.”
Edinburgh’s Robin Liddell was fourth in the GT class, and 11th overall, in his Stevenson Motorsports Camaro.