2019 Sunoco Whelen Challenge winner Linus Lundqvist completed his debut appearance at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, despite some of the most extreme conditions the race has been held under. With torrential rain arriving at the circuit through the night, the contest was red flagged twice – for the first time in its history – when conditions deteriorated.
Linus drove the Precision Performance Motorsport (PPM) Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO masterfully despite competing in single-seaters last year, and the BRDC British Formula 3 Champion was immediately on the pace during the race and able to hold his own amongst factory-backed professional drivers in other GTD-class cars.
After a busy autograph session and driver and car presentation on Saturday morning, Don Yount, who qualified the car, climbed back behind the wheel at 14:35, for the 57th running of the Rolex 24. Linus suited up after the opening two stints and completed a significant career milestone, his first racing laps around the 31-degree banking of Daytona International Speedway.
The current BRDC British Formula 3 Champion was immediately on the pace and able to hold his own amongst factory backed professional drivers in the other cars. Completing a double stint with no problems, Linus returned to the pits and handed over to his colleagues. Unfortunately, the car stuck in gear at around 22:20 and had to be towed back to the garage. A faulty clutch was identified and the team worked swiftly to replace the part, returning to the track just three-and-a-half hours later.
Getting back onboard the car at 06:00 on Sunday morning, Linus could only circulate behind the Safety Car before the race was red flagged almost 90-minutes later. After this point there was little action on track as any racing laps were quickly curtailed by incidents and yellow flag periods before once again being halted at 13:00 and called for good 15 minutes before the 24 hours were due to expire.
The final results show that after a trying debut for Linus and the team at PPM they were classified 20th in class but most of all, after everything that had been thrown at them, they finished the race which, given the extreme conditions, was a result in itself.
“My first 24-hour race is complete,” said Linus. “It’s maybe not the way I would have wanted it to end as I only got to do one double stint and the rest of the time was spent behind the Safety Car. We had an issue with the clutch, but the team did an incredible job to fix it and I’m really happy with the way the guys came together so a massive thanks to them for that.
“It’s a dream come true. Looking back twelve months ago I wasn’t even sure I was going to be racing. It’s an incredible journey and to be able to stand here aged 19 and say that I’ve finished my first Rolex 24 is pretty amazing and I hope that one day we can come back. This is one of the biggest prizes to win in motorsport and an incredible experience that I will carry throughout my life not just my racing career.”
“It’s the tenth year of the Sunoco Challenge and it’s incredible when you look back and see the kind of winners we’ve had,” said Anders Hildebrand, Managing Director of the Anglo American Oil Company. “What’s amazing is that every year our winners do so well and never put a foot wrong in extremely difficult conditions.
“Linus didn’t make one single mistake. He came from British Formula 3 and it’s difficult to go from a very stiff, very responsive single seater to a much heavier, softer GT car, but he took to it like a duck to water and it has impressed me and the team a lot.”