The race slowly unfolds with a myriad of battles as we tick off the first 12 hours.
As the fireworks brightened the night sky, the Rolex 24 at Daytona continued through the night.
The DPi category continues to be heavily contested, the #5 Mustang Sampling/JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac piloted by Loic Duval heading the field for a while during hour 18, until the Frenchman received a drive-through penalty for putting his foot on the throttle too early at a Full Course Yellow restart. The caution period was caused by the #19 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini of Franck Perera encountering issues on the speedway section of the circuit.
Following the restart, Loic Duval led a three-way fight for first position overall, the #48 Ally Cadillac of Kamui Kobayashi and the #01 Chip Ganassi Cadillac of Scott Dixon being the other parties involved. Dixon and Kobayashi had a great scrap for a few laps, exchanging what would soon become the lead after Duval pitted, until the #48 pulled away slightly after the pit stops. But the fight was far from over. At the end of hour 15, the #01 Chip Ganassi Cadillac led ahead of the #48 car, the first non-Cadillac of Wayne Taylor Racing’s #10 Konica Minolta machine rounding out the top 3.
At the top of the LMP2 field was the #11 WIN Autosports Oreca, holding a fairly extensive advantage over the #8 Tower Motorsports Oreca of about a minute. Meanwhile, further behind, the #18 Era Motorsport Oreca of Paul-Loup Chatin encountered issues at the West Horseshoe corner but was able to continue the race after a short halt.
LMP3 was a class that only had two cars remaining on the lead lap, that being the #6 Muelhner Motorsports Duqueine, which led the #33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier.
GTLM was heavily dominated by the two Corvette Racing entries, the #3 machine leading the #4 sister car by consistently around a second. The two Corvettes have stuck together for quite some time and continued to pull away from the impressively quick #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari, which sat third despite its off at the Bus Stop chicane earlier in the race.
In the largely subscribed GTD class, the #21 AF Corse Ferrari was at the front. Following about 20 seconds behind the AF Corse Ferrari after the hour was the #1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini, who trundled along a further 10 seconds ahead of the Wright Motorsports #16 Porsche. The Wright Motorsports Porsche, however, would encounter trouble into the next hour, colliding with Tristan Vautier in the #5 Cadillac at turn 1. It is uncertain whether the Porsche suffered a failure or if there was contact between the two differently classed cars.
As the night wore on, the 2021 Rolex 24 at Daytona was tame.
With 14 hours on the clock, it was Kevin Magnussen leading the race outright in the #01 car, with the LMP2 leader being the #8 Oreca, LMP3 being led by the #6 Duqueine, GTLM was led by the #4 Chevrolet and GTD was led by the #21 Ferrari.
Then, the #12 Lexus had a failure, necessitating an FCY. The car caught fire, but it was quickly put out by the fire marshals. Under the Safety Car, everyone came in, but there were no major position changes.
After the green waved, the Alberqueque Acura took the lead from the Magnussen Cadillac.
The next hour and a half were calm, as the halfway mark of the race loomed. With 12 and a half hours of racing left though, the two leaders engaged in warfare. Albuquerque in the Acura and Pagenaud in the Cadillac were split by a mere tenth. It was like this for lap after lap until both cars pitted, with Magnussen doing so two laps later. He came out 11 seconds behind Albuquerque in third, with the Rockenfeller Cadillac splitting the two.
At the 12 hour mark the positions are as follows:
1. #10| Taylor, Albuquerque, Rossi, Castroneves| Konica Minolta Acura
2. #48| Johnson, Pagenaud, Kobayashi, Rockenfeller| Ally Cadillac Racing
3. #01| van der Zande, Dixon, Magnussen| Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing
1. #47| Lacorte, Sernagiotto, Belicchi, Fuoco| Cetilar Racing Dallara
2. #8| Farano, Aubty, Vaxiviere, Buret| Tower Motorsport Oreca
3. #11| Thomas, Nunez, Merrill, Bell| WIN Autosport Oreca
1. #74| Robinson, Andrews, Askew, Pigot| Riley Motorsports Ligier
2. #6| Kranz, Horr, Koch, McAleer| Muehlner Motorsports America Duqueine
3. #33| Barbosa, Willsey, Clairay, Boyd| Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier
1. #4| Milner, Tandy, Sims| Corvette Racing
2. #3| Garcia, Taylor, Catsburg| Corvette Racing
3. #24| Edwards, Krohn, Wittmann, Farfus| BMW Team RLL
1. #57| Ward, Ellis, Dontje, Engel| Winward Racing Mercedes
2. #21| Cressoni, Mann, Nielsen, Serra| AF Corse Ferrari
3. #75| Habul, Marciello, Stolz, Grenier| SunEnergy 1 Mercedes