DAYTONA BEACH, FL (30 Jan. 2024) – Shaking off the cobwebs after a well-deserved break following a championship season, Racing to End Alzheimer’s opened 2024 competition on Friday by running a four-hour race before a large spectator crowd at Daytona International Speedway in a return appearance to the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge (IMPC).
Unfortunately, a long trip to the paddock to replace a broken fuel pump only 14 minutes into the race made for a long day for Mark Kvamme, Nick Galante and Matt Forbush, who came back to finish 22nd in the lead Grand Sport (GS) class sharing the No. 51 Toyota Supra GT4 fielded by Hattori Motorsports.
Running in the IMPC gave Galante the opportunity to return to the series that saw him win titles in 2016 and 2018.
“What a blast to be back at Daytona,” said Galante. “Especially for the Racing to End Alzheimer’s charity. That pushes you never to give up, because of all the good that they do. I knew I couldn’t quit, because there’s people out there suffering, and I’m young and healthy, feeling good, so I went for it.”
The race was held on the eve of the 62nd Rolex 24 At Daytona exposed the Racing to End Alzheimer’s colors to an international audience that included many of the stars of international sports car racing and even award-winning actor Brad Pitt, who was at Daytona working on a Formula 1-themed film.
After meeting with many of the race fans during the open grid walk prior to the start, the team was forced to visit the garage for nearly an hour due to early mechanical problems.
“It was a tough start to the race,” said Kvamme, who captured his second-consecutive Porsche Deluxe Carrera Cup North America Am crown last fall in dramatic fashion. “We had a decent qualifying, and we were right there, and on lap three or four, it was cutting out early in sixth and seventh gear. I was catching the guys in the infield, and then they’d lose me on the straights. It was unfortunate because we were in the garage for a while to change the fuel pump. Compounding the problem was that the fuel pump is located just above the turbo, which was very hot, and you don’t want to get any fuel splashing on the hot turbo and causing a fire. It was a lot of tension, but we got it done. After we got the fuel pump fixed, we found out that the power steering was done. So that added another 15 minutes.”
Kvamme returned to the race after spending 50 minutes in the garage and had no problems during the completion of his stint – his only planned start in the IMPC series this season.
“Actually, the rest of my stint was pretty basic,” he explained. “I was passing TCR guys, and I was passed by only one GS car – I was pretty happy with that. I was keeping good pace, and I was concentrating on keeping consistent. I was happy with my laps. It was a tough beginning, but the car was great, and the team was really great, and I’m so happy to be with Racing to End Alzheimer’s.”
Forbush was up next, turning consistent laps throughout his mid-race stint.
“I’m happy we got the car back on track, because it was fun to be out there,” Forbush said. “We had a little bit of a sputter in seventh gear again, but otherwise it was running well. Being my first time here, I was worried I wouldn’t get out there. It was fun and the car felt good. I was also happy that we got it back out there as much as possible for Racing to End Alzheimer’s, it would be a shame not letting their logo be seen. I felt good about that.”
Galante posted a stellar stint over the final 90 minutes, improving four positions in class before the checkered flag flew.
“It was tough going down so early, but I always keep at it,” Galante said. “I’ve been down in golf before (note: Galante is a professional caddie at Pebble Beach) and won some matches early in my high school career when other guys messed up. So, I kept my foot down and stayed focused. Mark Kvamme and Matt Forbush did a great job hanging in there and keeping the car clean. As soon as I got in the car, it was just as perfect as it was in practice.”
Racing to End Alzheimer’s founder Phil Frengs met with the multitude of fans in the paddock and on pit road, passing out wristbands and other team mementos.
“Daytona is always one of my favorite weekends of the year, because it’s such an iconic place and a historic setting,” Frengs said. “We get the chance to race here in this beautiful Toyota with two of our long-time drivers, Nick Galante and Mark Kvamme, along with our good friend Matt Forbush. We got to meet a lot of great people in the paddock and on the packed grid walk before the race. On our Porsche Deluxe Carrera Cup North America Porsche, we add names of loved ones who have suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s to the car. But since this is a promotional effort, we’re not adding names to this car, but we are gathering names to add to our Carrera Cup car this season. We’ve heard a lot of great stories this weekend, about how this disease – Alzheimer’s and dementia – affects their families, and oftentimes we see a glassy eye as they tear up when they tell us their story. We’re happy to hear them.”