The Winner’s Watch: All The Drivers That Took Home A Rolex Daytona At The 2021 Rolex 24 At Daytona
This year’s 24-hour endurance race was decided in the closing minutes.
There's only one motor race in the world that can be described by its primary sponsor's name. "The Rolex," as it's become known, is a yearly tradition at Daytona International Speedway. Watchonista experienced the 2019 edition of the Rolex 24, and we're still dreaming of being in victory lane with Rolex.
As the title sponsor since 1992, Rolex has a lasting presence in the most critical endurance race on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship calendar. While the prize money is in the millions, ask any driver, and they'll tell you it's not about the money. It's about "the watch."
As 15-time class winner and 5-time overall winner at the Rolex 24, Scott Pruett confessed to Watchonista in a 2019 interview, “You know it’s a wonderful thing, if you talk to any driver, they’ll tell you the same thing. When you come to Daytona, it’s about the watch. Because if you win the watch, you’re wearing it proudly. It’s not a trophy that goes on a shelf or money that goes in the bank. When you win the Rolex 24, you can wear that sucker every day. I’m just fortunate that I’ve won 15 of them.”
This year’s edition of the Rolex 24 was the first held in the times of COVID. With limited crowd sizes, social distancing, and masks, the general public (and press alike) had few opportunities to attend in person. However, thanks to the power of the internet and television, Rolex was omnipresent throughout the weekend, and fans didn’t miss a minute of coverage.
The 2021 Rolex 24 At Daytona
For the uninitiated, Rolex's role at the Rolex 24 comprises a title sponsorship and the all-important prize ceremony. The winners in each of the five classes get a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona. Additionally, each year, the race's Grand Marshall is presented with a specially engraved version of the Daytona to fulfill his/her ceremonial duties.
This year’s Grand Marshall was Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO). Fillon had this to say of his involvement in the 2021 edition, “It is a great honour and pleasure for me. My presence here as Grand Marshal of this prestigious race sends out a strong message to the entire endurance world: Le Mans and Daytona, the ACO and IMSA, are working hand-in-hand and shall continue to do so. Our discipline has a bright future thanks to this collaboration. Competing in the WeatherTech Championship and in the FIA WEC with the same car was a dream for many manufacturers. It is soon a dream come true.”
At the 2021 edition of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the five classes in the race were DPi, LMP2, GTLM, LMP3, and GTD. And the race for the overall win was heavily dominated by the DPi cars, including a duel between the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing and the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac.
In a dramatic turn of events, the Ganassi entry, which dominated the final stages of the race, cut a tire with less than 10 minutes to go. This resulted in promoting the Wayne Taylor entry to first place. Then, shortly after 3:40 pm local time, on Sunday, January 3, the No. 10 Acura crossed the finish line to take the top prize at Daytona.
Since each class winner receives a watch, over a dozen Rolex Daytonas were presented at this year’s Rolex 24. While the watch itself bestows plenty of bragging rights, winning the watch and the top trophy at the Rolex 24 is the ultimate prize. This year, that distinction went to the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 DPi entry from Wayne Taylor Racing. The Daytona Prototype international (DPi) drivers that went home with a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona were Filipe Albuquerque, Hélio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor, and Alexander Rossi.
The next class to finish was the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class. The No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA LMP2 07 was driven by Paul-Loup Chatin, Ryan Dalziel, Dwight Merriman, and Kyle Tilley. Each of the drivers took home a Rolex Daytona.
In the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class, Corvette Racing claimed the top spot with the No. 3 Corvette C8.R taking the class win. It was a fitting tribute on the 20th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s last appearance at the Rolex 24. The car was driven by Jordan Taylor, Nicky Catsburg, and Antonio Garcia. Each of the gentlemen went home with a watch.
In the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) class, the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 driven by Spencer Pigot, Gar Robinson, Scott Andrews, and Oliver Askew took the class win and the watch. It was also the first time the LMP3 class ran in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, which resulted in a true test of the endurance of the LMP3 entries.
Last but not least, in the GT Daytona (GTD) class, Mercedes took the final watches of the day. With the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 taking top podium position for the GTD class. The car was driven by Maro Engel, Indy Dontje, Philip Ellis, and Russell Ward. All four gentlemen received a, you guessed it, Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona.
I was personally rooting for the No. 48 Ally Racing Cadillac DPi V.R driven by Simon Pagenaud, Jimmie Johnson, Mike Rockenfeller, and Kamui Kobayashi. But alas, the No. 48 finished second in the DPi class.
Overall, the 2021 Rolex 24 At Daytona was full of action and surprises, even until the last minutes of the race. Rolex's sponsorship of the race gave it a compelling storyline throughout the coverage; it was excellent to hear all of the drivers talking about how excited they were to receive their watches. Rolex had some great television moments throughout the weekend, including a special interview segment with past winners describing how important their Rolex Daytonas were to them.
We’ll leave it with a quote from winning DPi driver Ricky Taylor, “It’s an amazing feeling – so much went in to this, it was definitely a test of trust and a testament to preparation. From the start, the race never slowed down, it was one of the most hectic, intense, flat out 24 hours I’ve ever been a part of; it went right down to the end.”
(Images © Rolex)