17-year-old HPD programme driver Kyffin Simpson demonstrated impressive pace and consistently that belied his relative sportscar racing debut at the 2022 Rolex 24 at Daytona, bringing home the #66 Gradient Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 in 13th position with teammates Mario Farnbacher, Marc Miller and Till Bechtolsheimer.
Kyffin, 2021 FR Americas champion and current Indy Lights driver, built on a respectable performance in last weeks ‘Roar Before the 24’ event to go toe-to-toe with drivers often double his age and experience level. He completed 6 hours of driving in total across three stints with error-free fuel and tire stops, driver changes and significant time spent driving in the darkness of night.
At the 12-hour mark, Kyffin was seen fighting for position at the very front of the GTD field with brave overtakes at the outside of Turns 1 and 6, emerging 3rd in class on merit. The #66 was shown P1 in class several times as the field cycled through pit stops, and despite increasingly cold track conditions that caught many drivers out, Kyffin maintained rock-solid consistency to keep the car in one piece for his experienced teammates.
Frontrunners for much of the race distance, the team was hit with unfortunate mechanical issues in the final hours which ultimately put to rest any realistic chance of victory. A freak electrical issue, along with two tire failures, meant the #66 Acura went ‘behind the wall’ for diagnosis and repairs with around four hours to go. Thankfully, with herculean efforts from Team Manager Andris Laivins, Honda Performance Development engineers and the Gradient Racing crew, the team re-emerged to chase down the chequered flag for the final two hours of the race, placing ahead of nine other cars in class.
Looking back at an intense 2 weeks at Daytona, Kyffin said:
“I had a great time racing at Daytona over the last 10 days and being able to experience everything to do with the Rolex 24 and the Roar. It was not the result we wanted nor deserved but the whole team pulled together, and we were able to run at the front quite a lot.”
“The Acura NSX is just so good to drive. It came alive in the race and I had the confidence to attack the cars ahead. A few unfortunate issues cropped up such as fuelling problem, air jack failure and having to be behind the wall for 2 hours, but the team did a great job getting around the issues every time to get us across the finish line. It was just hard luck more than anything.“
“I’d like to extend my thanks to Andris and the team, and also Jane and the InvestCayman crew for joining us at Daytona this weekend. Their support is greatly appreciated and I’m looking forward to repaying them and the rest of our great sponsors with better results next time out.“
“Huge congrats to Helio, Mike and everyone at the Meyer Shank Racing crew for the overall 24 victory.”
“I am very much looking forward to Sebring and I have faith in our team to perform well. God is good!”
Andris Laivins, Team Manager of Gradient Racing added:
We were all really impressed with Kyffin over the last 12 days. What a place to choose to make your sportscar racing debut! It’s kind of like running your first open wheel race at the Indy 500!
He showed excellent pace in the race in all of his stints, he was great in traffic which can be extremely tough in multi-class racing like this. You can tell he learned a lot from working with all of his teammates. The four drivers worked so well together throughout the whole event. We know that Kyffin absolutely has a future in sportscar racing if he wants it.
We now cannot wait to get him back in the car in March at Sebring.
Thanks to Kyffin and the team’s impressive performance, Gradient Racing line up 8th overall in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup standings. The ‘IMEC’ is scored at several points throughout the race, rewarding consistent frontrunners rather than the absolute result in isolation.
The #66 returns to the track in just over 6 weeks’ time for the ‘Super Sebring’ double-header at Sebring International Raceway, 18-20 March 2022. You can follow and support Kyffin’s progress on social media via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Kyffin is supported by InvestCayman, Visit Cayman Islands, Simpson Race Products, GoPro action cameras, Spy sunglasses, DART, BODDENS, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, and Kokoro Performance driver coaching services.