After a solid test session in early January, Kyle Masson was confident he was ready to make his IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debut in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Was he ever.
Masson, 19, from Windermere, Florida, was a driving force in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports entry that won the Prototype Challenge (PC) class in the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 28-29 at Daytona International Speedway. Masson and teammates James French, Patricio O’Ward and Nicholas Boulle finished 22 laps ahead of the runner-up car in a flawless performance.
“I’m kind of in shock right now,” Masson said after the race. “I don’t feel like I’ve realized I’ve won it. I’m sure it will hit me tomorrow, and I’ll be super-excited about it.
“This was my first go at it, first time winning. My first win is the Rolex. Thank you to the team and my family for the support.”
Masson made his sports car debut last season driving in the IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda series. He finished fifth in the standings, with six podium finishes, including a best of second place at Trois-Rivières, Quebec.
Then Masson received an opportunity to start his second season of IMSA competition in the most prestigious sports car race in North America, the Rolex 24 At Daytona. He exited the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test session Jan. 6-8 at Daytona confident he was ready to compete with the top drivers in the class.
Masson more than held his own in the endurance classic.
The team started from the pole after French’s stunning performance in qualifying. O’Ward and Masson turned the two quickest race laps in the PC class, respectively, as Performance Tech drivers recorded three of the four quickest PC laps during the 24-hour span.
Only eight-tenths of a second separated the quickest race laps for all four Performance Tech drivers in a stunning show of consistency despite race traffic and track conditions that changed from dry to wet to damp.
It was the first Rolex 24 At Daytona victory for Florida-based Performance Tech Motorsports, which fields cars in the PC class of the WeatherTech Championship and also in the IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda Challenge Series.
“This was really special,” Performance Tech Team Principal Brent O’Neill said. “I think we led all but about 10 minutes of 24 hours. This was a great team effort. The guys in the pits did awesome, and each of our drivers drove their butt off. The team deserved this.”
Masson will continue with Performance Tech for a second season in the IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda. He will race for a championship in the MPC class, which consists of the existing cars that competed previously in the Lites 1 class.
A new addition to the team this season will be Masson’s father, Dr. Robert Masson, who will be Kyle’s teammate during his first season in the IMSA-sanctioned Challenge Series.
The 2017 Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda season starts with two rounds March 15-17 at Sebring, Florida.