Barracuda storms to victory in Daytona!
The Boo Barracuda car of Martin Buchan and Stuart French won the 4 Hours of Daytona that opened the 2023 Simply Race Endurance Series - aided by a slick strategy change, and a fair slice of luck in the final hour.
Buchan impressively took pole and built a decent lead in the first stint on the soft tyre. But as he handed over to team-mate French, Boo Barracuda's strategic weakness was laid bare. The Team Purple Helmets car, being driven by Jack Ashton, was double-stinting the hard tyre, causing a rethink for the Scotsman.
Buchan opted to take over the car after the second stop and drive for the rest of the race, double-stinting the soft tyre and regularly posting lap times in the 1:33s to get the 666 car back in the running.
As it turned out, Ashton put in a heroic triple stint of two and a half hours on the hard tyre, putting team-mate Will Murfin in a strong position at the handover. Unfortunately, three offs for Murfin - two of them in the same lap - put the Purple Helmets team out of the running for the win.
Amid all of these, the oNID CamSport car of Ben Brown and Matt Goodger-Scott was quietly making good progress. Also starting on the hard tyre, Brown ran two stints on it before handing over to Goodger-Scott, who held a solid second place.
Then came Buchan's stroke of luck. He'd built up a lead of over 40 seconds when he made his last pit stop with 45 minutes to go. As he was in the pits, the CamSport car took the lead on the road, only to be hit with a technical issue as Goodger-Scott exited Turn 1.
While the issue was eventually resolved after a 15-minute virtual safety car, the speed restriction on the field worked in Boo Barracuda's favour as they finished their pit stop, and Buchan comfortably brought the car home to win by just over 50 seconds. Without the VSC intervention, CamSport would have been much closer.
That VSC - and another one with 15 minutes to go after problems for the oNID Go For The Gap car - decided the battle for third, too. The NAPA Racing UK car had an eventful race, starting with an early spin for Adam Christopher when trying to pass Brown's CamSport entry.
Christopher's recovery over the following hour was admirable: combined with an off-sequence strategy involving short fuelling the second stint, he was right on then-leader Ashton's tail when he handed over to Cam Richardson just before half-distance.
Richardson did a solid job keeping NAPA in the hunt, and moved up to third behind Boo Barracuda and CamSport after Murfin's errors for Purple Helmets. He handed over to Jon Dean-Smith for the last 50 minutes, with the plan of Dean-Smith chasing down the two cars ahead on fresh softs through the last stint.
The pair of VSCs, however, minimised the time Dean-Smith had even to chase down Murfin for third, leaving the NAPA team fourth and arguably the unluckiest of the race. Purple Helmets therefore hung onto third, rewarding Ashton's marathon stint.
The Avanti racing team of Edson Mangueira and Max Wiczling were a quiet fifth, with Wiczling in particular putting in a solid, consistent run. Sixth was the #35 Quatermass car of Aaron Daly and Michael Tyler, who made a fuelling error early on, but recovered as the VSCs allowed them to stretch their final stint across more than an hour.
Seventh place was decided at the line, the Ooh Barracuda car of Nathan Burton (shared with Shaun King) holding off the #63 Quatermass entry of Adam Lock (partnered by Ben Benneyworth) by less than a car-length.Thankfully, the huge shunt they had just after crossing the line was the only major contact of a race where driving standards were excellent. The Go For The Gap car of Dan Hyde and Aiden Carter brought up the rear, having to pit just a few minutes before the end.