IMSA: Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona after 17 hours — less than 7 hours remain

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Our next update will be around 10:30 a.m. ET. Please check back then.

The Rolex 24 at Daytona is 17 hours in, with seven hours remaining, and the overnight hours saw a major shift in fortunes for some heavy hitters.

Currently, Christian Fittipaldi leads overall in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi, with teammate Mike Conway running second in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac, making it an Action Express Racing 1-2 as the race enters its final seven hours.

The class leaders for Prototype, GTLM and GTD are below.

Prototype

No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi, Christian Fittipaldi

No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing DPi, Mike Conway

No. 32 United Autosports Ligier LMP2, Hugo de Sadeleer

GTLM

No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Ford GT, Richard Westbrook

No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, Joey Hand

No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R, Antonio Garcia

GTD

No. 48 Paul Miller Racing, Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Andrea Caldarelli

No. 86 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian, Acura NSX GT3, Katherine Legge

No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, Adam Christodoulou

 

Below is a report on notable happenings from the overnight hours.

Troubles for Acura Team Penske

Both of the Acura Team Penske ARX-o5s have hit major problems after running in the top five. The No. 6 machine was the first Penske entry to be bitten as Dane Cameron brought the car back to the garage with an alternator problem.

The car did return to the race, but sits 24 laps down to the race leader.

The sister No. 7 entry, with Helio Castroneves behind the wheel, was running a strong second, the only other car on the same lap as the leader, but contact with the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac did significant damage to the car, forcing Castroneves to take it behind the wall.

Both cars currently running outside the top ten in the Prototype class, 11th for No. 7 (13th overall) and 12th for No. 6 (15th overall) and are down 23 laps and 24 laps to the leader.

Alonso, United Autosports Suffer Brake Problems

While the No. 32 Ligier from United Autosports sits a strong third, the sister No. 23 Ligier encountered major brake problems overnight. Fernando Alonso was forced to bring the car in for an unscheduled pit stop after initially reporting the issue, with the team eventually going behind the wall for repairs.

The car, with Alonso back behind the wheel, sits 26 laps off the lead in 13th (17th overall).

Tequila Patron ESM, Spirit of Daytona Both Out

A couple of strong dark horses in Prototype suffered major mechanical problems overnight that forced them to retire from the race.

The No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Cadillac, which led early and was running strongly among the frontrunners, suffered an engine problem that forced them to the garage. A short time later, the team announced they would be unable to continue, citing a misfire.

Similarly, both of the Tequila Patron ESM entries were running strong, marching their way forward after both cars started at the back of the Prototype class. But, both cars suffered terminal mechanical problems, a gearbox failure on the No. 2 and an engine problem on the No. 22, and both retired in the early morning hours.

Fords Dominating GTLM

The Ford GTs from Ford Chip Ganassi Racing have dominated the GTLM running so far, leading much of the way since the race began. Both cars sit 1-2 at the time of writing, with the No. 67 of Richard Westbrook now leading the No. 66 of Joey Hand. However, Corvette Racing continues to lurk behind them, with Antonio Garcia sitting third in the No. 3 C7.R.

GTD Still Close As the Final Seven Hours Begin

The GT Daytona class is still a wide-open contest with the top six cars all running on the same lap as the final seven hours begin.

The GTD leader is now Andrea Caldarelli in the No. 48 Lamborghini for Paul Miller Racing.

Running second is Katherine Legge in the No. 86 Acura NSX for Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian. Adam Christodoulou runs third in the No. 33 Mercedes for Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports.

Of note, the No. 29 Monteplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 had been the dominant car in GTD through the first half of the race, but a “nuclear penalty” for a balance of performance violation saw them serve a five-minute penalty that dropped them from the lead. They currently sit eighth in GTD.

Live timing can be found here.

Hour 16 standings

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Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds