TUSC: Rolex 24 Race Updates, Hours 1-12

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UPDATE (2:15 a.m. ET): We’ll start this update with further news on GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing driver Memo Gidley. The team recently tweeted that he’s undergone surgery on his left arm and left leg and remains under observation at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach.

As for the other driver involved in today’s violent third-hour accident, Risi Competizione’s Matteo Malucelli, no further word has been given on his condition outside of IMSA’s previous confirmation that he, along with Gidley, was “awake and communicating.” Of course, when we do receive an update, we’ll let you know.

Meanwhile, the Rolex 24 has crossed the halfway point with the twin Action Express Racing Corvette DP machines fighting it out with the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley/Ford Ecoboost for overall supremacy.

Ganassi’s sister car, the No. 01, has fallen 32 laps off the pace following repairs for damage to the right-front portion of the car. MRN Radio reported that driver Scott Pruett had something break on the car and then slammed into the outside wall while he was exiting the backstretch “bus stop” chicane.

Pruett was seeking to earn a record sixth Rolex 24 triumph, but it appears he’ll have to wait until 2015 to break that tie with fellow sports car legend Hurley Haywood.

Christian Fittipaldi, driving the No. 5 Action Express machine, gave up the lead to pit under green just before the 12-hour mark, handing the lead to Scott Dixon in the Ganassi No. 02. Tony Kanaan is slated to take over for Dixon at the next opportunity. The other Action Express machine, the No. 9 of Burt Frisselle, was second.

Also leading at 12 hours were Porsche North America’s No. 911 and 912 in GTLM, CORE autosport’s No. 54 in PC, and Level 5 Motorsports’ No. 555 Ferrari in GTD.

UPDATE (12:45 a.m. ET): It’s past midnight, but it’s not quite the 12-hour mark yet. Since we last checked in…

Sebastien Bourdais called some of the gentlemen drivers “terrorists” when it came to lapping them.

Scott Dixon is hunting down Joao Barbosa like a scalded cat.

Both SRT Vipers had issues that took them out of contention.

And RSR Racing’s No. 09 and Starworks Motorsport’s No. 78 have reached the end of the road.

Otherwise, it’s still rolling here in Daytona.

UPDATE (10:10 p.m. ET): It’s 10:10 p.m. in Daytona, and the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP leads overall. It’s in the hands of the young man with the mullet, Jordan Taylor.

Other class leaders are the No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR (GTLM), No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA FLM09 (PC) and No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 (GTD).

More than eight hours are in the books, officially one third of the 24-hour race. It’s dark, it’s cool, there’s been a number of contact incidents and a handful of yellow flags.

The top eight overall and prototypes and top seven in GTLM are all still on the same lap. The PC and GTD classes are a little more spread out.

UPDATE (9:02 p.m. ET): James Sofronas has been released from the infield care center after having the entire front end of his No. 32 GMG Racing Audi R8 ripped off in a multi-car incident that also caused then-race leader Max Angelelli to spin while avoiding the debris.

Sofronas appeared to be turned into the wall that separates pit road from the track in the infield section. Shortly after safety teams arrived on the scene, he climbed out of the wrecked Audi under his own power.

Angelelli managed to come through unscathed despite his spin, but wound up losing the lead. He has now been replaced in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP by Jordan Taylor, his 2013 GRAND-AM championship partner.

Mike Rockenfeller currently leads overall in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP. Other class leaders are the No. 3 Corvette (GTLM), No. 8 Starworks ORECA (PC), and No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi (GTD).

UPDATE (8:42 p.m. ET): IMSA has confirmed that Memo Gidley and Matteo Matucelli, the two drivers involved in this afternoon’s horrific accident during the third hour, are “awake and communicating and undergoing further observation” according to a tweet from its official account. IMSA adds that they will have more updates as they become available.

UPDATE (8:24 p.m. ET): NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie Kyle Larson and four-time Champ Car World Series champion Sebastien Bourdais have taken control of two of the top contending cars in this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. However, Larson has had an inauspicious start to his sports car racing debut in the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley/Ford Ecoboost.

Before the six-hour mark, Larson took over for 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan, who had been running second overall. But right after getting into the car, Larson got popped for speeding on pit road and had to come back to serve a stop-and-go penalty.

Shortly after that episode, the caution came out for debris with Larson having fallen to eighth while Bourdais was up to second in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP behind new leader Max Angelelli in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP. Before the yellow had come out, Angelelli had leapfrogged the AXR No. 5 in the pits while Christian Fittipaldi was making way for Bourdais.

After the green flag came out with 17 hours, 57 minutes remaining, Bourdais was dispatched by another IndyCar driver, Justin Wilson, now the current runner-up in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Riley/Ford Ecoboost.

Another NASCAR driver, veteran Jamie McMurray, has entered Ganassi’s No. 01 sister car to take over for Memo Rojas. Fox Sports reported that McMurray will be in the No. 01 for a triple stint.

Other class leaders include the No. 93 SRT Viper in GTLM, the No. 8 Starworks ORECA in PC, and the No. 555 Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari.

UPDATE (7:15 p.m. ET): Back under yellow past the five-hour mark for an incident involving the No. 09 RSR Racing PC car, which stopped off course. The former class-leading No. 08, in the hands of Alex Tagliani, Conor Daly, Chris Cumming and Rusty Mitchell, was assessed a controversial three-and-a-half minute penalty for what was deemed an illegal pass-around. Wayne Taylor’s done his stint aboard his own No. 10 Corvette DP; Max Angelelli has climbed aboard that car. Class leaders are Action Express Racing (No. 5, Corvette DP, P); SRT Motorsports (No. 91, SRT Viper GTS-R, GTLM); Starworks Motorsport (No. 7, ORECA FLM09, PC); and Level 5 Motorsports (No. 555, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, GTD).

UPDATE (6:27 p.m. ET): Green-flag conditions have resumed in the Rolex 24 at Daytona after a short period of running under the yellow flag. An official update has not yet come in on Memo Gidley and Matteo Malucelli, both confirmed by IMSA to have been transported to Halifax.

UPDATE (5:34 p.m. ET): Multiple reports from Daytona state that both Memo Gidley and Matteo Malucelli are being transferred to nearby Halifax Health Medical Center, skipping the at-track medical center. Their conditions remain undisclosed at this time.

UPDATE (5:17 p.m. ET): A vicious accident involving the oncoming Memo Gidley in the pole-sitting No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP and a slowing Matteo Malucelli in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia has marred the third hour of racing at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The incident took place near the kink in the infield section of the road course and has brought out the red flag, stopping the race.

Safety crews are now on the scene at this time, with Fox Sports reporting that Malucelli has been removed from his car and put into an ambulance. Fox also relayed word of a conversation between Malucelli and a Risi Competizione team member, in which Malucelli said he had lost all engine power and was slowing down.

No word has been given on the condition of either Malucelli or Gidley. As soon as we get it, we’ll pass it along to you.

START, 3:30 p.m. ET: The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship is officially underway. One accident, for the GTD class No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsport Audi R8 driven by Charlie Putman, brought out the first yellow flag. Despite heavy contact from an apparent tire issue, Putman emerged out of his car OK.

GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing’s polesitting No. 99 Corvette DP, started by Alex Gurney, led the majority of the opening hour overall. Other class leaders included RSR Racing (No. 09) and Starworks Motorsport (No. 8) in PC, the SRT Vipers (No. 93 and 91) in GTLM and a Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 (No. 48) and SMP/ESM Racing Ferrari 458 GT3 (No. 72) in GTD.

But at the one-hour mark, Action Express Racing (No. 5 Corvette DP) led overall with Joao Barbosa driving before the car needed to serve a drive-through penalty. SRT’s No. 93 (GTLM), Starworks’ sister No. 7 PC and the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America (GTD) were other class leaders.

The big mover was Starworks’ DP driver Brendon Hartley, who advanced as high as second overall in the No. 78 Dinan Riley after starting 64th overall.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.