DAYTONA, Fl. (January 29, 2023) – After 510 laps and sixteen hours of high intensity racing at the hands of Dwight Merriman, Christian Rasmussen, Ryan Dalziel, and Oliver Jarvis, the No. 18 Era Motorsport Oreca 07 LMP2 car has retired from the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The crew was looking for redemption from 2022's running, in which an early incident caused them to be in the back of the field for most of the race, only to lose the transmission with under 30 minutes to go.
With hope of preventing a repeat, on Sunday morning Rasmussen settled into a driving stint around 5:30 a.m., in which after a few laps oil pressure readings dropped, and the car was called into the garage. After an hour of diagnostics with the Gibson Technology engineers, it was decided that the car was not fixable, and the team had to officially retire.
"It's heart-breaking to be in a similar position to last year once again," said team owner Kyle Tilley.
“To be taken out of the race by something outside of the team’s control is gut wrenching. The guys and girls of Era Motorsport did such a wonderful job that they deserved much better.
“To come from 8 laps back to be in a position to fight for the win was something both crew and drivers should be proud of.”
Era Motorsport’s race was defined by incredible tenacity, and strong perseverance. Having started eighth in the class grid, the first few hours of the race saw the 18 car race its way up to fifth place at the hands of Merriman and Dalziel, with the latter setting some of the fastest lap times of the race.
Their progress was reset when the crew was hit with a three minute and 20 second penalty for taking an unauthorized wave-around, but seeing what they had already managed in the opening hours of the race, the team was unfazed despite being a few laps down at the end.
Unfortunately, poor luck hit the team in the form of another competitor a few hours later. An LMP3 car locked-up going into a turn behind Merriman, making contact, and causing him to spin. Overall, the team ended up seven laps behind the class leader by the end of hour seven.
From here, drivers set their sights on victory. Knowing the team had the pace and capability of gaining back the time, little by little the gap between the 18 and the leaders closed, and by 9:00 p.m. Saturday Dalziel, Rasmussen, and Jarvis had already gotten three laps back for a deficit of four.
Overnight, the drivers continued to push, and the crew continued to support them in any way possible, which led to Era Motorsport being the fastest team in the LMP2 field for most of the overnight hours.
When asked for a mic check by his spotter at the beginning of a stint around 12:30 a.m., Jarvis simply responded, “hold on, I’m on a mission.”
In the overnight hours the crew pushed through long green-flag runs to catch their competitors, and took wave-arounds on cautions to help with their progress.
During what became Dalziel’s final stint around 4:30 a.m., he was able to pass the then-leading team to take a sixth lap back, putting the team just one lap down with an incredibly fast car and eight hours of racing to go.
Unfortunately, the come-back was not meant to be, as just a few laps into the next stint of Christian Rasmussen, the motor let go and was unable to be repaired to rejoin the race.
While it stings to DNF two Daytonas in a row, the Era Motorsport crew can be proud of their massive efforts and lightning fast pace that they held for a majority of their runtime, and while the DNF isn’t the start to the season they wanted, their efforts this weekend proved that starting on the back foot is no issue for the Era team.
The No. 18 will return to competition at the next round of the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Series on March 18, 2023 for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with drivers Ryan Dalziel and Dwight Merriman behind the wheel again.
For the latest information and news on Era Motorsport, visit eramotorsport.com, or follow them on social media @eramotorsport.