Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona after 6 hours — 18 hours remain

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Our next update will be after 9 hours (12:30 a.m. ET).

We’re one-fourth of the way through the 56th annual Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

After six hours, the leaders are:

PROTOTYPE:

  • No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing, Cadillac Dpi, Mike Conway
  • No. 7 Acura Team Penske, Acura Dpi, Helio Castroneves
  • No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing, Cadillac Dpi, Christian Fittipaldi

GTLM:

  • No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Ford GT, Sebastien Bourdais
  • No. 911 Porsche GT Team, Porsche 911-RSR, Patrick Pilet
  • No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Ford GT, Scott Dixon

GTD:

  • No. 29 Montaplast by Land Motorsport, Audi R8 LMS GT3, Kelvin van der Linde
  • No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports, Mercedes-AMG GT3, Jeroen Bleekemolen
  • No. 93 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian, Acura NSX GT3, Mario Farnbacher

There’s still another 18 hours remaining in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway.

Since our last report after the first two hours, a number of things have transpired. Here are some of the most notable events:

RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY:

Rain wasn’t expected to impact the race until the overnight hours heading into Sunday’s early-morning hours.

But everyone was caught off-guard when a light rain began to fall around 7:15 p.m. ET, followed by a heavy downpour around 7:30 p.m. ET.

Several cars spun out in the rain, including the No. 48 GTD Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Paul Miller Racing, as well as the No. 14 GTD Lexus RC F GT3 of 3GT Racing.

The weather also impacted the No. 63 GTD Ferrari 486 GT3, which suffered shifting problems as the rain. Repairs were made, but the car got back on-track 8 laps down.

Also, just about the same time, the No. 25 GTLM BMW M8 of BMW Team RLL, blew a right front tire and suffered significant suspension damage. The team took the car to the garage for repairs, but it appeared it could be a lengthy fix time.

Thankfully, the rain stopped after about 40 minutes of both light and heavy downfalls.

And the No. 25 team was able to repair its damage and brought the car back out on-track.

FUEL ISSUE BRINGS OUT FIRST FULL-FIELD CAUTION

The first full-field caution of the race came out with 21:30:37 left in the 24-hour event.

The No. 38 Oreca LMP2 appeared to have a fuel issue heading into Turn 1 on Daytona’s high banks, bringing out the yellow.

The caution lasted nearly 16 minutes until racing went back to green flag conditions with 21:14:54 remaining.

WHAT’S UP WITH DOOR LATCHES?

It’s rare when teams have door latching issues, yet two teams had issues early on.

First, Ricky Taylor had just taken over from Helio Castroneves when the door would not shut on the No. 7 Acura Team Penske prototype, prompting Taylor to take the car back to pit road for repairs.

The car dropped a lap down as a result, but Graham Rahal was able to get the car back on the lead lap during his stint behind the wheel.

Then the No. 62 GTLM Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE suffered a door latch issue that caused it to drop off the lead lap in the race’s third hour, as well.

TEQUILA PATRON STRUGGLES WITH TIRE ISSUES

Something appeared out of whack on the No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM. It suffered a punctured tire early in the race and then again in the third hour.

The second incident was worse, as the car had to limp much of the front stretch before being able to get to pit road for repairs.

The car suffered significant damage to the right rear firewall as the tire continued to fall apart, taking much of the fender with it.

The car fell three laps down as a result.

Even worse, the radiator suffered some damage, prompting team engineers to be concerned whether the car will be able to make it to the finish.

“It blew up in the kink in the middle of the track before Turn 5,” driver Pipo Derani told FS2. “Unfortunately, the tire is completely destroyed and I had to come back in.

“It’s a real pity because I’m not sure if the car is okay. The tire was hitting the radiator so we’re just hoping we can fight back.”

RICKY TAYLOR FEELING BETTER

After three days in bed with a bad case of the flu, Ricky Taylor was back and in much better health as the race kicked off.

“I think the race car is the best medicine,” Taylor told FS2. “I feel great. Helio (Castroneves) and Graham (Rahal) did all the work and let me rest for three days to get healthy.”

As for the door latch issue on the No. 7 Acura Team Penske prototype, Taylor was disappointed but took it in stride.

“It’s so awkward when everything is going good and you’re in a rhythm and then the door opens,” Taylor told FS2. “You hear all different noises coming out of the exhaust and it throws you off.

“I wish the series would have let us run because I was just getting used to it. I was pulling on it as much as I could, but unfortunately we had to pit for it. The good news is Graham (relief driver Graham Rahal) is back on the lead lap. I think we’re P8 and we’ll try to hold on to the lead lap till about 4-5 hours to go.”

NOTES:

* Scott Pruett, competing in the last race of his career and hoping to become the Rolex 24 all-time winner (he currently is tied for first with five wins), is preparing to go out in the No. 15 3GT Racing GTD in Hour No. 7. He’s expected to run three segments in the remaining part of the race.

* The lights at both Daytona International Speedway and on most of the cars came on around 5:25 p.m. ET and will likely remain on until Hour 17 of the race.

* The No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R GTLM of Corvette Racing went roughly the first three hours of the race with radio and telemetry issues.

Drivers and team engineers could not communicate with each other, leaving the drivers to run the race by their own devices.

Finally, after a pit stop near the end of the third hour, the team was able to repair the radio and telemetry issues and things were back to normal.

* Stewart Middleton got aggressive and spun Simon Pagenaud in the No. 6 Acura Team Penske prototype late in the third hour.

Middleton was forced to take a stop-and-go penalty.

F1 Preview: 2018 German Grand Prix

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The German Grand Prix continues its biennial presence on the Formula 1 calendar – it’s hosted F1 events in even numbered years since 2014 – as Formula 1 returns to the Hockenheimring this weekend.

The German fans will undoubtedly be joyful in Sebastian Vettel entering his home race in the championship lead, by nine points over Lewis Hamilton. Yet, somewhat surprisingly, Vettel despite being one of the most successful and decorated drivers of his generation, Vettel has won in Germany only once (2013, at the Nurburgring) and he has never won at Hockenheim.

Conversely, Hamilton has won in Germany three times, including twice at Hockenheim (2008 and 2016).

As such, Vettel will hope to add to his points lead over Hamilton with a win on home soil, though Hamilton may be equally as motivated after watching Vettel his own home race at Silverstone two weeks ago.

Nevertheless, their 2018 championship duel will most certainly continue to be closely fought.

Talking points ahead of the German Grand Prix are below.

A Different World in 2018 vs. 2016

Nico Rosberg during the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 31, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany. Photo: Getty Images

The Formula 1 landscape looked completely different back in 2016, the last time Formula 1 visited the Hockenheimring. Bernie Ecclestone was still the chief executive of Formula 1.

Nico Rosberg was partnering Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes team, and was on his way to a driver’s championship that year.

Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen were in the midst of a slump as Ferrari went winless in 2016.

The world was still getting to know a then 18-year-old Max Verstappen, the young Dutchman having won the Spanish Grand Prix in May that year.

And the cars looked completely different, with skinnier and taller rear wings and taller rear tires highlighting the appearance differences.

In 2018, Vettel and Ferrari might be the strongest combination. Rosberg is long from Mercedes, and Valtteri Bottas is doing his best to shine in the wake of Hamilton’s enormous shadow.

Verstappen is still a rising star, though he has come under fire at times for overly aggressive driving and his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo has garnered more headlines this year, with a pair of race wins alongside his status as an F1 free agent after 2018.

In short, the Formula 1 landscape is hardly recognizable from what it was back in 2016. And even though Hamilton won that year, followed by Ricciardo and Verstappen in second and third, very little will carry over from that race two years ago.

Hamilton, Mercedes Look to Take Back Momentum from Vettel, Ferrari

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JULY 08: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9 leads Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 8, 2018 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

The seesaw championship fight has tilted back in the favor of Ferrari, with Vettel leading Hamilton after finishes of third and first in Austria and England. Hamilton, meanwhile, DNF’ed in Austria and came home second in England after spinning on Lap 1.

Hamilton trails by nine points, but this is hardly an unfamiliar position for Hamilton in 2018 – he started the year trailing Vettel until he took the championship lead for the first time after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Both teams have had multiple swings of momentum this year – Vettel won the opening two races before finishes of eighth in China (he spun after contact with Verstappen) and a pair of fourth place efforts in Azerbaijan and Spain before getting two more wins in Canada and England.

Hamilton, meanwhile stumbled out of the gates somewhat with finishes of second and third before taking a fortuitous win in Azerbaijan and two dominant wins in Spain and France before the misfortune in Austria.

All told the ebb and flow of the 2018 season seems to change with every race, and while Vettel now leads Hamilton again, things could change this weekend.

Raikkonen Trying to Fend off Ricciardo, Bottas

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JULY 06: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H on track during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 6, 2018 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Kimi Raikkonen is somewhat of a forgotten man this Formula 1 season, but he does rank third in the championship at the moment, 10 points ahead of Ricciardo and 12 points ahead of Bottas.

However, both Ricciardo and Bottas are likely thought to have had better seasons – Ricciardo has the aforementioned wins (at China and Monaco) and the only thing that has kept Bottas from the top step of the podium is a string of horrendous luck.

However, Raikkonen, to his credit, has picked up the pieces whenever others around him have faltered, and he has six podium finishes through 10 races.

However, in order to fully silence any critics, and maybe even keep his Ferrari drive, Raikkonen would do well to get a win in 2018.

Misc.

  • The driver challenging Raikkonen’s position within Ferrari is Sauber’s Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari junior driver has five points finishes, and that could have been six if not for a pit stop error at Silverstone that caused him to leave his pit stall with a loose wheel – it forced him to retire. Leclerc’s star is on the rise, and he could shine again in Germany.
  • Nico Hulkenberg is the “other” German driver on the grid. And though he has a 24 Hours of Le Mans win to his name, he is yet to finish on the podium in an F1 race. The Renault package may not be a podium threat in usual circumstances, but if he stays clean and others falter, he could sneak in there…and doing so in his home race would make that overdue podium even sweeter.
  • After a pair of eighth place finishes, Fernando Alonso has helped McLaren at least stop the bleeding after a dismal stretch of races from Monaco through France in which the team scored zero points. However, the team still has a long way to go, and Germany could be another weekend of struggles.

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