More than ever before, Renger van der Zande finds himself in the spotlights for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The defending winner has had a busy weekend both on and off the track, but when the green flag is waved today and the #10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R run by Wayne Taylor Racing speeds off into the first turn, bringing home that back-to-back victory is the team’s sole purpose for the next 24 hours.
DAYTONA 24 HOURS | DPI PREVIEW | LMP2 PREVIEW | GTLM PREVIEW | GTD PREVIEW | CORVETTE C8.R TECH ANALYSIS | INTERVIEW NICK CATSBURG | INTERVIEW DENNIS OLSEN | PRE-RACE NOTEBOOK | RACE UPDATE 1: SATURDAY AFTERNOON | RACE UPDATE 2: SATURDAY EVENING | RACE UPDATE 3: SUNDAY NIGHT | RACE UPDATE 4: SUNDAY MORNING | RACE UPDATE 5: SUNDAY FINISH | SATURDAY GALLERY | INTERVIEW KAMUI KOBAYASHI | INTERVIEW JESSE KROHN
How does it feel to be returning to the Daytona 24 Hours as the defending champion?
Renger van der Zande: “It feels very good, it feels like you are part of the event more than anything. To be a winner in Daytona was a special feeling last year and coming back to this event and trying to do it again is also a special feeling.”
IMSA is one of the championships where you’ve put yourself on the map and this will already be your seventh Daytona 24 Hours. Does that make this race even more special for you than it already is?
RvdZ: “Yes and no. I think, once you win it – for example, your favourite tracks are always the ones where you’ve been doing well so for sure Daytona is one of my favourite tracks now and not because the layout is so cool but just because of the success I’ve had here.
“Seven times Daytona, and I hope to do it another seven times for sure. IMSA is a bit of my home for racing, I’d say.”
What is the most important lesson you learned last year that you bring with you to this year’s race?
RvdZ: “I think last year again, like every year, people get very excited in the first 75-percent of the race. It’s about staying calm, that’s how you win this race. Let’s not take any risks at the beginning and then try to win it at the end.”
How is the weekend going so far?
RvdZ: “The weekend is OK. We’ll have to see how the BoP plays out because the Acuras seem to be hiding a little bit. The Mazdas have been very quick, I don’t think they are hiding. I’m not sure where we are, but we feel very confident with our car. Tyre degradation in the rear is going to play a big role here, I think, and we’ve been anticipating that so that looks good.”
Now that Jordan Taylor has left the team, does it feel like you’re the one taking the lead amongst the drivers?
RvdZ: “When Jordan left, I became the driver who had been working with the team for the longest time. It means you kind of help the other drivers with little tricks and tips that we’ve been doing for the last few years. And on the other hand, it’s good, especially with Ryan Briscoe as a fulltime driver, because they are bringing different views to the set-up which is very helpful.”
What is your expectation for the race?
RvdZ: “We’re gonna win it – very easy! Hopefully, haha!”
You’ve only won two races in the last two seasons – however two very big races – does that put extra pressure on the race this weekend?
RvdZ: “For sure we need to win more races. Last year was a hard time to win races because I think the BoP was just too bad to really win. Sometimes we finished fifth or sixth and it was the best we could do. With a better BoP we’ll have a better chance.”
You’re racing at Bathurst as well, making this and next weekend very physically challenging. How have you been preparing for this 36-hour back-to-back race week?
RvdZ: “I’ve done the Roar, Dubai, Daytona, Bathurst once and that was a bit too much. But only doing the 24 Hours of Daytona and then Bathurst, I don’t see that as an issue – I see it as a good challenge to do two very iconic races, I’m looking forward to doing that.”