SA flag flies on Daytona winner
YOUNG SA CHAMPION: Dion von Moltke, who drives on a South African racing licence, receives his Rolex watch after winning the 2013 Daytona Rolex 500.
Young Grand-Am Rolex Series star Dion von Moltke, born of South African parents in Texas, was teamed with a trio of Audi factory drivers and took the German automaker to its first victory at the Daytona 24-Hour.
Moltke, Briton Oliver Jarvis, Italian Edoardo Mortara and Portugal's Filipe Albuquerque drove the No.24 Alex Job Racing Audi R8 to victory in the GT class, greeting the flag 1.476sec ahead of the No.52 Rene Rast to make it a 1-2 finish for Audi.
Moltke built his career in Grand-Am and the American Le Mans series on a solid foundation of international karting and Formula Car racing and races under the South African flag. He's also lived in Sydney and Los Angeles but is now permanently housed in Miami.
The last - and only other - South Africans to win at Daytona were SA track, off-road and rally champion Sarel van der Merwe teamed with Tony Martin and Graham Duxbury in a Kreepy-Krauly March Porsche - back in 1984.
NERVOUS FINAL STINT
After starting fifth, the Alex Job Audi stayed in contention for the entire 24-hour journey before disaster struck with two and half hours remaining when the car was assessed a penalty for avoidable contact with the No.61 Ferrari.
Despite assertions from the Ferrari team that they hadn't been hit, Mortara was forced to head to the pits lane to serve a one-minute penalty.
This put the car a lap behind the leaders and back in seventh place. However, clever pit strategy from the Job team over the remaining 150 minutes of the race not only put the No.24 car back on the lead lap but Albuquerque was able to drive into the lead.
The Audi squad faced a nervous final stint, uncertain as to whether they would need to make one final pit stop for a splash of fuel. Albuquerque's late race pace actually enabled the team to call him in for fuel with a mere five minutes remaining and return to the race with a slim lead.
Despite late race pressure, Albuquerque was able to hold on to take the victory.
“I’m completely speechless. With more than two and half hours to go we got a penalty for avoidable contact and went a lap down,” Moltke said. “We thought we were down and out but we kept fighting, we kept digging, we kept trying to find any way, and Filipe (Albuquerque) probably put in the best drive I've ever seen a race car driver do in my life and that's what it really takes to win this race.., and to pull it off is really special.
“It was going to be close on fuel and when we had to come in for a splash we thought 'Oh no!' but we came back out in the lead and the whole team just erupted. I’ve never seen an atmosphere like that."
'WINNING DAYTONA IS INCREDIBLE'
The victory is the second major sports car endurance victory for PR Newswire-supported Moltke and Alex Job Racing in less than a year. The combination was also victorious in the GTC class in the American Le Mans Series in 2012's 12 Hours of Sebring.
Sunday was was the second victory for Job at the Rolex 24 at Daytona - the previous one was in 1999.
Moltke added: “To win a Rolex watch at Daytona is incredible. This was only my fifth time doing this race and it was the first attempt for Olly (Jarvis), Edo (Mortara) and Filipe. Until this year I’d never even led a lap here.
"I managed to do that in my stint and now to come away with a victory is just amazing.
“I’ve a great relationship with Audi and I’m thrilled to be a part of their first win here at the Daytona International Speedway. To get to drive with these three guys was a great experience they have already become some of my best friends in two weeks.
"They really are some of the best drivers I've ever had the honour to work with. I've always really enjoyed and loved driving for Alex (Job). Everybody on the team really gets along and I've always said chemistry is the most important part of winning any race, especially Sebring or Daytona or Petit or any of those races.
"To be standing here on the podium as a winner at the Rolex 24 at Daytona is quite surreal. I have to say a big thanks to everyone who has helped my career including everyone at PR Newswire. Their backing and support has played a key role in my career.
“Of course everyone at Alex's team and everyone at Audi. We all had one goal this weekend and we all worked together towards that goal.”