If opening the 2013 sports car racing season with a victory in one 24-hour race is not enough, bring home a second! Shane Lewis drove to back-to-back victories in two of the world's premier endurance races in the first month of the new year: the January 11-12 Dunlop 24H of DUBAI and January 26-27 51st Running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. While the Jupiter, FL resident has long been considered one of the sport's top endurance racers, his remarkable performance in the first two major races of the year has turned heads of even the most jaded motorsport follower. The two events accounted for Lewis' 34th and 35th career 24-hour race starts.
"Never in your dreams could you imagine winning two major 24-hour races all in the same month. It's almost indescribable, actually," stated Lewis. "The magnitude of this will take a while to set in. I didn't really get to celebrate Dubai because I needed to prep for Daytona right away. I am already thinking forward to what can be done in the rest of 2013 but I also want to make sure I take the time to let all of this sink in and enjoy it. Only problem now is I want this to be the norm! Winning just makes you want to win more. It's addictive but what a great thing to be hooked on!
Two weeks ago, Lewis traveled to the Middle East to take a victory in the region's premier sports car race, the 24H of DUBAI. The success, driving a Lotus Evora GT4 for Cor Euser Racing 1, was Lewis' first in that 24-hour race. The Dubai SP3-GT4 class win came on the heels of setting the fastest time for the new GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GX-class during "The Road Before the Rolex 24" open test here at Daytona International Speedway (DIS), January 4-6. That set the former Daytona Endurance Series Champion up for a sweep of the first two major milestones of the season. While Lewis came narrowly close to winning the pole position in Dubai he accomplished the feat at Daytona. The multi-time GRAND-AM and ALMS class winner would not only capture the inaugural pole position for the class - his first for the Rolex 24 - but the No. 16 Napleton Porsche Cayman he drove was the clear benchmark in the division.
Their Porsche Cayman S sporting the "Hippie" livery made famous by the 1970 Porsche 917 L, Lewis and teammates David Donohue, Nelson Canache and Dr. Jim Norman completed 635 laps of the 3.56-mile, 12-turn racecourse in dominating fashion. Except for a few short stints in second-place, the Napleton Racing machine led the majority of the twice-around-the-clock event. Prior to darkness falling on the track, the mid-engine machine held a nine-lap lead. However, some ill-timed on-track spins and penalties while Lewis was not in the car forced delays and added suspense. The time lost dropped their class lead to only two laps. However, smart driving and pit strategy in the second-half of the race allowed the car to hold that gap and never be seriously threatened again.
"I have won so many races at Daytona through my career but never the 24 [Hour]. I was very close and have had the victory taken from me in the very last hour before but this time it's for real. I am still a little overwhelmed," Lewis continued. "We led for so many hours in this race and I so wanted to believe we were going to win. I wouldn't let that thought into my mind just in case something went wrong. I am so proud to have been a part of this team and want to thank Napleton and my-co-drivers David, Jim and Nelson. It hasn't settled in that we actually won it yet. If I keep looking at this Rolex watch long enough maybe it will finally set in."
Proving that he is among the elite of the sport in outright speed as well racecraft, Lewis set the fastest race lap in the GX class (one-minute, 55.269-seconds) to go-along with the pole position lap (1:54.606) he earned on Thursday.
"We all came to Daytona thinking the Mazda would be the one to beat. They had three factory cars and we were just hoping to fight for or podium originally," added Lewis. "Then after Test Days we knew we had a good package. The Napleton team wanted this win as bad as I did and prepared well for it. They built an amazing car. This Cayman is one that the team and Porsche should be very proud of."
In his career, Lewis has piloted every major class of sports car from prototype to touring car in 24-hour races. He has made three starts at the "grandfather" of all endurance races, the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1999, 2000, 2003) leading his class in 2003 and he has 16 starts at North America's only professional 24-hour race, theRolex 24 At Daytona (1997-'02, '04-'13) earning his first win in the 2013 GX class. Lewis has five starts at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring ('04, '05, '10-'12) winning his class in '10 and taking podium finishes in '04 and '11. He has had two starts in the DUBAI 24 Hour ('12, '13) winning in 2013. Other endurance race starts include six Petit Le Mans ('98-'01, '03, '10) and seven 12 Hours of Sebring (1997-'98, 2000-'03, '10).
"Probably the best note I got right after the podium here at Daytona was from my longtime friend and many race-winning co-driver Vic Rice," Lewis concluded. "He said congratulations, now do you want to go for three in May? He was referring to the 24 hours of Nürburgring. Oh yeah baby! Let's go for the triple crown!"
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