Rolex 24 at Daytona continues.
The racing action under the lights of Daytona International Speedway continued as we headed into the second half of Rolex 24 at Daytona. As the next stage of the race started, the battle for the overall lead heated up. Filipe Albuquerque in the no.10 Konica Minolta Acura got held up by the traffic and that helped Simon Pagenaud in the no.48 Cadillac to appear in the rearview mirrors of his opponent. Pagenaud tried to pass Albuquerque, but the attempt was unsuccessful.
As long as the fatigue appeared, the drivers made mistakes. Alan Metni in the no.42 NTE Sport Audi had a contact with the no.11 WIN Autosport’s Tristan Nunez in turn 6. Lance Willsey also went wide in the first turn in his no.33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier. Furthermore, the no.111 GRT Grasser Racing Team retired from the race after mechanical issues.
Nicolas Lapierre had a contact with the other car at the pit exit, which sent his no.52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA spinning. That severely hurt the team’s hopes for a good result at World Center of Racing The incident also caused a Full Course Yellow, the seventh of the event and the first in 2.5 hours.
After FCY, the racing got underway once again. Felipe Nasr took the lead heading into turn 1, but went into the grass and lost the position. Mike Rockenfeller inherited the race lead after that.
With the approaching of the sunrise, the battle for the DPi lead kept up. There were less than 7 seconds between the top 5. Scott Dixon in the no.01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac was on the attacking distance from Mike Conway in the no.31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac. After several tries, the IndyCar legend made the move. The battle for the GTLM was also very intense between Corvette Racing’s Alexander Sims and Nicky Catsburg.
Another Full Course Yellow was out on the track after Kevin Estre spun and broke the ad sign at the Bus Stop chicane in the no.79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche. Debris was on the racing line and had to be removed.
With 9 hours left before the chequered flag, Renger van der Zande is the Dpi leader in the no.01 Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing, Gabriel Aubry is on top of the LMP2 class in the no.8 Tower Motorsport ORECA, while the no.74 Riley Motorsports Ligier leads the LMP3 category with Spencer Pigot behind the steering wheel. Antonio Garcia tops the standings in the GTLM in the no.3 Corvette Racing car, Philip Ellis does so in the GTD in his no.57 Winward Racing Mercedes.
At 8:59:00 the race is back on. Renger van der Zande retained the lead over Allmendinger at the restart. However, he lost P2 to Kamui Kobayashi in the AX-Cadillac no.48 on the first lap after the restart. Kobayashi attacked van der Zande in Turn 1, both collided and Kobayashi spun. The Japanese continued with the no.48, even without a flat spot.
Kobayashi accumulated a 20-second gap due to the incident. But the gap wiped out in the next yellow. In the GTLM class, the no.24 BMW was back on the lead lap. The top four here were currently circling the circuit in formation, but for what felt like the first time in this race it was not Corvette leading, but the no.25 BMW around Timo Glock and Bruno Spengler.
Let’s take a quick look at the GTD class, which in the last hours was mainly led by the no.57 Winward Mercedes around Maro Engel. Engel’s teammate Philip Ellis now had to relinquish first place to Matteo Cressoni in the AF Corse Ferrari no.21. Together with Raffaele Marciello in the SunEnergy 1 Mercedes no.75, a trio formed at the top that was very close together.
In the Bus Stop chicane, there was a small crash between the TGM Porsche no.64 and the TF Sport Aston Martin no.97. Both were able to continue driving, so no caution was needed. The Aston Martin pit crew got the car back on track very quickly, so car no.97 did not lose much time.
Car no.79 had 8 more hours to catch up, after a really bad start at the beginning of the race. Richard Lietz had to make up 10 laps to get to the other cars in the GTLM class.
Next yellow flag. At 7:50:00 remaining, the no.52 PR1 Mathiasen Oreca landed in the barriers. The car stranded in the run-off zone, causing the next yellow flag period. However, Scott Huffaker got moving moments later.
While all the other top DPis were in before the yellow was called, Chip Ganassi Racing did not get in until FCY for the next stop. Consequence: Renger van der Zande dropped down to fifth, behind Helio Castroneves, Dane Cameron, Pipo Derani, and Jimmie Johnson. Ally Cadillac Racing no.48 was back in the game in full force due to the FCY.
The race restarted and van der Zande caught Johnson and Derani at the restart, the Cadillac no.01 was already third behind the two Acuras of Castroneves and Cameron.
The NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson could not match the pace of the other DPi drivers and lost ground to the leading quartet. The no.48 was already ten seconds behind the front runners, while the top four remained close together.
In the GTLM class, the no.24 BMW was back in the fight for the top spot thanks to the FCY. Augusto Farfus only recently took fourth place in class from Davide Rigon in the no. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari. Almost five seconds lay between P1 and P5. In the GTD class, Maro Engel led in the no.57 Winward Mercedes.
At 7:05:00 remaining, Renger van der Zande was back on top. The Dutchman left the two Acuras of Cameron and Castroneves behind. Van der Zande overtook Castroneves courtesy of lapped traffic over the outside lane in turn 1.
Maro Engel in the no.57 Winward Mercedes was leading the GTD class but was under enormous pressure from Daniel Serra in the no.21 AF Corse Ferrari. Engel had to pull out all the stops to stay at the top of his class. Engel and Serra even collided in turn 1, Serra was able to avoid a spin. The scene was under investigation, however.
Daniel Serra kept pulling alongside Engel on the start-finish line and was also marginally ahead when crossing the line, but the German ultimately held on to the lead. In the GTLM class, the two Corvettes had pulled away from the pursuers by about five seconds.
Here are standings in each class after 18 hours of racing:
- Konica Minolta Acura no.10 (Taylor / Albuquerque/ Rossi/Castroneves)
- Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing no.01 (Van Der Zande/ Magnussen/Dixon)
- Wheelen Engineering Racing no.31 (Nasr/Conway/Derani/ Elliott)
- Tower-Oreca no.8 (Farano/Aubry/Vaxiviere/Buret)
- Era Motorsport no.18 (Merriman/Tilley/Dalziel/Chatin)
- DragonSpeed USA LLC no.82 (Lux/Defrancesco/Schiller/Mies)
- Riley Motorsports no.74 (Robinson/Andrews/Askew/Pigot)
- Sean Creech Motorsports no.33 (Willsey/Barbosa/Boyd/Clairay)
- Muehlner Motorsports America no.6 (Kranz/Hoerr/Koch)
- Corvette Racing no.4 (Milner/Tandy/Sims)
- Corvette Racing no.3 (Garcia/ Taylor/Catsburg)
- BMW Team RLL no.24 (Edwards/Krohn/Farfus/Wittmann)
- AF Corse Ferrari no.21 (Cressoni/Mann/ Nielsen/Serra)
- Winward Racing Mercedes no.57 (Ward/Ellis/Dontje/Engel)
- Sun Energy 1 Mercedes no.75 (Habul/Marciello/Grenier/Stolz)