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Ganassi notches another Rolex 24 win, this time with Ford

January 29, 2017
GT Le Mans class winners in the IMSA 24-hour auto race, from left Dirk Mueller, of Germany, Joey Hand and Sebastian Bourdais, of France, show off their Rolex watches at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — No matter the car or the class, it doesn’t take Chip Ganassi Racing very long to find victory lane in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The team that dominated this event for more than a decade picked up its seventh victory when Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais held off a charging Porsche in the final hour to win the GT Le Mans class Sunday.

Wayne Taylor Racing won the overall title . The team included brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor, retiring veteran Max Angelelli and four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon.

Ganassi had won the overall Rolex title six times, but he dropped down a class last year to be eligible to race the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

It meant the team was fresh out of the starting block at Daytona last year, and the Ganassi cars didn’t contend for the win. But the trio of Hand, Mueller and Bourdais won their class at Le Mans, and that had been the biggest target on the Ford wish list.

Still, the manufacturer wanted a win in the most prestigious sports car race in the United States, and it came back to Daytona far more prepared with four Ganassi entries.

“When I first got involved in this program with Ford, I didn’t really have a full understanding of the Ford heritage of racing and the Ford family,” Ganassi said. “So when you win these races, it’s a sense of being happy and accomplishment. But what I find more in this program is the sense of pride to be able to etch my name with the great names part of the Ford heritage.”

It was the 19th Rolex class win for Ford.

Just like the race for the overall win in the prototype class, the GTLM class came down to the final laps. The class had seven cars finish within eight seconds each other, with the lead battle between Ford, Porsche, Ferrari and Chevrolet, which won the division last year but was kept off of the podium Sunday.

Mueller had to hold off Patrick Pilet on numerous passing attempts to preserve the win. The Porsche GT Team finished second and the Ferrari team of Risi Competizione was third.

It gave all three drivers their second Rolex watches. Mueller has a class win from 1998, Hand won an overall victory while driving for Ganassi and Bourdais has an overall victory for 2014.

Ganassi had high praise for the trio.

“What a great group of drivers, they hand the car off to each other how they would like the car handed off to them,” Ganassi said. “It’s a good day when you can just put tires and fuel in a car and just race.”

Hand praised the way the communication of the group despite its eclectic background.

“The three of us together, you may not think it, a German dude and a French guy that’s got a bunch of IndyCar championships and a Californian, but we do really work well together,” Hand said.

In the Prototype Challenge class, Performance Tech Motorsports won in an ORECA ride, but its closest class competitor finished 22 laps behind.

In the GT Daytona class, the Porsche 911 from Alegra Motorsports edged the Audi from Montaplast by Land-Motorsport. That class had five cars finish within nine seconds of each other.

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