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Moretti, Ferari Finally Win Rolex 24; Porsche Wins Supercar Duel

1 February 1998

        DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- After 15 years of disappointment and near
misses, Gianpiero Moretti, of Italy, led his team to victory in the 36th
Rolex 24 At Daytona, scoring the first win in the inaugural season of the
United States Road Racing Championship.
        Moretti and teammates Didier Theys, of Scottsdale, Ariz., Arie
Luyendyk, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Mauro Baldi, of Monaco, outraced and
outlasted the competition in their No. 30 Momo Ferrari 333SP to capture
Ferrari's first win at Daytona since 1967. After taking the lead during the
21st hour from 1997 Rolex 24 Champions Dyson Racing, the Momo team never
looked back, besting the second-place -- first in GT1 -- No. 01 Rohr
Motorsport Porsche 911 GT1 driven by Allan McNish, of Scotland, Danny
Sullivan, of Aspen, Colo., Dirk Mueller, of Germany, Uwe Altzen, of
Germany, and Jorg Mueller, of Monaco, by eight laps and covering a Can-Am
class record 2,531.16 miles -- breaking the 1996 record of 2,481.32 miles
set by Wayne Taylor, Jim Pace and Scott Sharp.
        "With all the money I have spent racing at Daytona, I could have
bought 1,000 Rolexes easily," said Moretti. "I started to race with the
Porsche 962, and then the Nissan, and then again with the Ferrari. I
believed we had all the opportunity to win this race. I love Daytona -- but
Daytona, she doesn't like me. I try again, I try again -- what the heck --
today I finally did it!"
        The win was the first for each of the four Ferrari drivers, who had
each scored previous-best finishes of second place.
        Rohr Motorsport and Porsche, who won GT1 for the second-straight
year, won the battle of the exotics, outlasting the two Visteon-Elan
Natural Waters Panoz GTRs, despite being outrun by them in the early parts
of the race. Both Panoz retired due to overheating during the 17th hour,
opening the door for Porsche's 50th class victory at Daytona. The team
shattered Roush Racing's 1995 race-distance mark of 2,427.92 miles by
completing 703 laps (2,502.68 miles).
        "We've worked extremely hard through the day and night -- and we
had quite a difficult night," said McNish. "We had some problems, two small
incidents, and we had a plug failure as well, so naturally, I'm very
pleased. It's a pretty result."
        Third overall and second in GT1, 36 laps behind the Rohr Porsche,
was the No. 00 Fat Turbo Express Porsche 911 GT1 of Christophe Bouchut, of
France, Patrice Goueslard, of France, Carl Rosenblad, of England, and Andre
Ahrle, of Germany. Rounding out the top five were two more Porsches -- the
top GT2 finishers of the No. 98 Konrad Motorsport Porsche 911 GT2 driven by
Franz Konrad, of Austria, Peter Kitchak, of Excelsior, Minn., Toni Seiler,
of Switzerland, Wido Roessler, of Germany, and Angelo Zadra, of Italy, and
the No. 04 Mobil 1/Porsche Centre Antwerp Porsche 911 GT2 of John Graham,
of Canada, John Morton, of El Sequndo, Calif., and Holland's Patrick and
Duncan Huisman. The Konrad car, along with the No. 98 team car, led every
lap in GT2 en route to securing Porsche's 51st Daytona victory.
        "The victory is a result of a strong team giving 100 percent the
entire 24 hours," said Kitchak. "This is my second time around at Daytona
-- it's nice to be a part of Porsche's great history in the Rolex 24."
        The No. 10 Yokohama/Fina BMW M3 of Bill Auberlen, of Redondo Beach,
Calif., Marc Duez, of Belgium, Boris Said III, Carlsbad, Calif., and Peter
Cunningham, of West Bend, Wis., took its second-straight GT3 class victory
in commanding fashion, finishing 6th overall with 657 laps. Finishing
seventh overall, 18 laps behind in second-place, was the No. 23 Team
Seattle Porsche 911 RSR of Darryl Havens, Mike Conte, Nick Holt and Bruno
Lambert -- all of Seattle, Wash.
        The BMW team took the lead when the leading No. 41
Technodyne/Scottsdale Porsche 911 RSR fell out in the 13th hour, and never
relinquished its advantage. It's 2,338.92 miles covered broke the 1995
record of 2,328.24 miles set by Lilian Bryner, Enzo Calderari, Renato
Mastropietro and Ulrich Richter.
        "This is the second time I've been in Daytona, and to get the win
is fantastic," said Duez. "For BMW, I won Spa 24 Hours, I won Nuerburgring
24 hours, and now, I've won Daytona 24 hours, so this is great."
        Jim Downing, of Atlanta, Howard Katz, of New York, John O'Steen, of
Cincinnati, Ohio, Franck Freon, of France, and Yojiro Tereda, of Japan,
benefitted from the mechanical misfortunes of polesitter Yannick Dalmas,
No. 3 Royal Purple Ferrari 333SP; 1996 race-winner Wayne Taylor, No. 17
Danka Ferrari 333SP; and both Dyson Racing Ford Riley & Scotts to move from
sixth to second in Can-Am, eighth overall, in the final four hours.
        While the race was slowed by 10 full-course cautions totalling 138
minutes, several records were broken in addition to the distance marks in
Can-Am, GT1 and GT3. Max Papis, No. 3 Royal Purple Ferrari 333SP, shattered
his own race lap record of 1:41.951 (125.707 mph) with a lap of 1:40.545
(127.465 mph). Eric Bernard, No. 99 Visteon-Elan Natural Waters Panoz GTR,
turned a lap of 1:45.200 (121.825 mph), breaking the 1997 GT1 mark of
1:49.030 (117.545 mph).