- Orlando’s Paul Holton Co-Drives to BMW Endurance Challenge Victory
A legendary name, a charismatic personality and a championship-winning racing résumé. That’s an apt one-liner to describe the career of Christian Fittipaldi.
Fittipaldi, who has won three Rolex 24 At DAYTONA titles and legions of fans over nearly four decades of racing, has announced he will retire from competition after this weekend. But first, some unfinished business: the quest for a fourth victory in North America’s premier sports car race, which starts Saturday at 2:35 p.m. (ET; NBCSN) at Daytona International Speedway.
Fittipaldi, the nephew of former Formula 1 and IndyCar star Emerson Fittipaldi, made the decision to retire last season after qualifying at an IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race in Canada. He said that while it may seem like a rash decision, it was anything but that.
“There were a bunch of reasons that compounded things [in the decision-making process] but not one thing specifically,” the 48-year-old Brazilian said. “There were about 10 different reasons where I was weighing pros and cons. But after that qualifying at Mosport (Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) it was just bigger than me. That was it.”
Fittipaldi’s three Rolex 24 championships came in 2004, 2014 and 2018. The last two victories came with his current team, Mustang Sampling Racing, in IMSA’s headlining DPi class. Fittipaldi co-drives the No. 5 Cadillac DPi with Joao Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque. A repeat victory won’t come easily; the No. 5 failed to qualify Thursday due to brake issues and will start last among the prototypes in the 47-car field.
“I love this race … I’ve had a lot of success here since 2003,” Fittipaldi said. “Daytona has definitely marked a huge part of my racing career over 38 years of my life. Daytona has definitely been huge for me. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to close the chapter by doing this race one more time.”
Orlando driver Paul Holton, meanwhile, is writing his own chapter at Daytona International Speedway. On Friday, after starting on the pole, he and co-driver Kuno Wittmer of Montreal drove the No.75 McLaren GT4 to victory in the BMW Endurance Challenge – the season-opening race for the production car-based IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.
Holton and Wittmer competed in the series’ Grand Sport (GS) class. In the Touring Car (TCR) class, Shelby Blackstock – son of country music star Reba McEntire – co-drove a Honda Civic TCR to victory with Tom O’Gorman. Blackstock co-drove to the overall victory in the event in 2014.
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