Win Autosport team owner and driver Steve Thomas couldn’t hide his delight following his and his team’s first Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona International Speedway where the team not only finished the race but came home in a brilliant fifth in class and 16th overall.
Speaking following the race, Thomas commented saying:
The team has just done an amazing job. They gave me a car I could drive; the pit stops were awesome and by my 3rd stint, I was able to keep pace with the class leaders. It was so much fun to be running with the lead pack and not see them running away from us. We had a great restart in the 2nd stint and gained a few places and that was a credit to Ross Bently (SpeedSecrets) helping me with the restart and the green. With a coach like Ross, you just can’t go wrong and then Bobby G. (Golasinski) running this team and Travis and Cyril—they all are just the best! I felt like I’ve been very well prepared for my first Rolex 24, the team did a great job of getting me prepared—and I just have to say, this has been great, a ton of fun!”
The team led the race for 173 laps and speaking about the event Thomas said:
Congratulations to the team for accomplishing our goal of finishing the race today. They exceeded our expectations, we led the race for 173 laps (of 787) and had a brake issue that knocked us back, but the crew was amazing—the stars of the show! The drivers did their job and we got it to the finish line. On to Sebring, we’ve proven we can compete.
Team partner Bobby Golasinki is hungry for more and can’t wait to get back on track when the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar championship heads to Sebring saying:
I am so proud of this team. This team has only been together 7 weeks and this weekend they showed what kind of experience and talent we have on the team. It was great to get to the track and be competitive right away and that’s why I’m disappointed in our results today, because we could have won this thing! I mean we led 173 laps (of 787) in our first race weekend as a team, so I can’t wait to get to Sebring.
Driver Tristan Nunez was elated with how the race went saying:
Overall, the first outing for Win Autosport at the Rolex 24 has been a success. We led the race for quite a few hours, which I think surprised all of us. And yes, we had some bad luck in the middle of the race that put us out of contention but It was something that wasn’t our fault and really, it was out of our control. Bad luck happens, particularly in these long races so now, I’m already looking ahead to Sebring. I think this was a great starting point for the team.”
The team has only existed for seven weeks and Matt Bell explains that their measured expectations went out the window when they took the lead of the race:
We came into this race knowing we were up against some of the world’s best, with huge experience in this class. The team has only existed for 7 weeks so the primary aim was to make sure we finish the Rolex 24. But all ‘measured’ expectations went out the window when we took the lead and held it for the first 4 hours! Steven’s performance has been amazing and laid the foundation for us to take the lead. Tristan, myself and Thomas were able to just keep extending that lead into the night. Unfortunately, some unusual brake issues and a GT car taking Tristan out dashed our hopes of a dream win on debut, but it’s been an amazing effort by the Win Autosport crew and my teammates, we showed we can be a force to be reckoned with in this class that’s for sure! We’ll be back!”
Thomas Merrill listed his highlight of the race as being a newcomer and having been able to lead the race which in such a competitive field is no mean feat and speaking following the race he commented saying:
My personal highlight of our first Rolex 24 as a team was our ability to jump out into the lead and lead consistently through three different driver stints. Me, being the third of those driver stints, and being able to jump in, hold the lead and extend the lead over the course of my 3-hour stint is pretty impressive for a team of drivers. It made me very proud of this team that we’ve come so far in a very short amount of time. As it is with any new team at the first race, there’s always a learning experience, some on the issues like we had this weekend, but also ours was that we are capable of winning races right away. We showed that to ourselves and to everyone else. I’m particularly proud of Steven (Thomas), he drove absolutely wonderfully and gave me, Tristan and Matt every opportunity for a great weekend.