DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Although he was racing in Dijon, France at the time, Derek Johnston became the outright winner of the Rolex 24 At Daytona Driver Challenge presented by Sunoco last weekend when Rob Garofall's gallant bid to overtake him in the average points table failed at Silverstone, where the SPEED Series held its final 3-hour race of the season.
Garofall began Saturday knowing that to secure the biggest prize in British motorsport and a driver's seat in the 2010 Rolex 24, he had to finish second in the race; otherwise be third with pole position or fastest lap, or fourth with pole position and fastest lap.
The day began well when Garofall took pole position on a difficult, drying track by just 0.170s from Sam Hancock. 20 points in the bag and now third place in the race would be enough to win the Challenge. But mechanical gremlins slowed him and his co-driver Simon Phillips during the race with the pair settling for a 13th-place finish, 18 laps behind the leader.
The unlucky Garofall dropped to fourth overall in the standings with 69 points. Johnston won the Challenge with his existing score of 77.50 points, Daniel Ricciardo (British F3) was 2nd on 75.50 and Alan Simonsen (British GT) 3rd on 72.14 points.
Over in France, Johnston was almost lost for words on hearing he had won the Challenge and simply exclaimed "I can't believe it!."
The prize that Johnston has won is a driver's seat in a Daytona Prototype at the 2010 Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 30-31 and the chance to race against the best sports cars racers in the world such as Scott Pruett, Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and Max Angelelli. Johnston will also participate in a three-day preseason test session known as the Roar Before The Rolex 24 on Jan. 8-10.
Johnston had a conservative fifth-place finish in Saturday's race at Dijon, but buoyed by the news from Silverstone he and Stuart Moseley went out on Sunday to win the second race outright and secure the Radical European Masters title. In one weekend he had become the undisputed King of the Radicals in both the UK and Europe and won the biggest prize in British motorsport.
The Rolex 24 At Daytona Driver Challenge presented by Sunoco has been a driver challenge between Sunoco-fuelled series in Europe and the UK. During 2009 the drivers in the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series, the Avon Tyres British GT Championship, the Radical UK Cup and the SPEED sports prototype series have gone head-to-head against each other throughout the year collecting points for pole position, race results and fastest lap all with the prize of a driver's seat for the 2010 Rolex 24 At Daytona on the line.
Tickets for the 48th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona are available online at http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.