IMSA: Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona after 9 hours — less than 15 hours remain

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Our next update will be around 7:30 a.m. ET. Please check back then.

We’re nine-plus hours down and 15 more hours to go in the 56th annual Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

Ricky Taylor, who was questionable whether he’d be able to race after being bed-ridden the previous three days with a bad case of the flu, has come out of sick bay in a big way.

Taylor, driving Team Penske’s No. 7 Acura DPI, leads Joao Barbosa and Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 6 Team Penske Acura Dpi.

After nine hours, which came at 11:30 p.m. ET, the leaders are:

 PROTOTYPE:

  • No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac Dpi, Whelen Engineering Racing, Cadillac Dpi, Joao Barbosa
  • No. 7 Acura Team Penske, Acura Dpi, Ricky Taylor
  • No. 6 Acura Team Penske, Acura Dpi, Simon Pagenaud

GTLM:

  • No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, Joey Hand
  • No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Ford GT, Scott Dixon
  • No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, James Calado

GTD:

  • No. 29 Montaplast by Land Motorsport, Audi R8 LMS GT3, Christopher Mies
  • No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports, Mercedes-AMG GT3, Adam Christodoulou
  • No. 86 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian, Acura NSX GT3, Katherine Legge

There’s still another 15 hours remaining in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway.

Since our last report after the first six hours, here are some of the more notable things that transpired between hours seven through nine:

SLIP SLIDING AWAY

Don Yount crashed into the tire wall early into Hour No. 7. Yount was entering the bus stop when his No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 got away from him.

The car didn’t suffer much damage, but then when Yount got going and headed for pit road, he overshot his pit stall. IMSA officials forced team members to push the car back into the pit stall, costing about 30 seconds.

The car was examined, some adjustments were made to the front end suspension and Yount was back on-track.

TANDY WRECKS HARD, SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE TO NO. 911 PORSCHE GTLM

Just a few minutes into the ninth hour, Nick Tandy and the No. 911 Porsche 199 RSR GTLM of the Porsche GT team hit hard into a tire wall.

The car spun around and hit the wall again, then kept spinning after bouncing off the rubber, suffering significant damage.

After the car came to a stop, Tandy quickly hustled the car to the garage for repairs. But given the damage to the front and rear of the Porsche, it’ll be a while before it gets back on-track – if it gets back on-track.

FROM FASTEST TO SLOWEST IN A POOF

The fastest car on the track at times became the slowest on the track when the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac Dpi-V.4 Prototype of Wayne Taylor Racing, driven by Renger Van Der Zande, blew a right rear tire and had to limp to the pits.

Unfortunately, damage caused by the shredded tire was extensive, prompting the team to push the car back to the garage after attempting to make fixes on pit road.

Several cars have lost right rear tires to punctures and blow outs across all three classes – Prototype, GTLM and GTD.

The No. 10, which had Zande, IndyCar star Ryan Hunter-Reay and Jordan Taylor, was among the strongest of the race, but it’ll have to come back a long way to make up for lost time as the race moves into the middle part of the race from Hours 9 to 18.

It’s the third tire failure for the team in the first nine races – all in the same area – and this one was by far the worst.

“This is now the third failure and it’s not even as if the tires are well-worn,” team owner Wayne Taylor told FS1. “It’s something I certainly have no idea of what’s going on.”

The car went back on-track just three minutes before the start of the ninth hour, but was scored 10 laps down to the leaders.

CADDY CATASTROPHE

The No. 10 wasn’t the only Cadillac that suffered problems.

The No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Cadillac Dpi Prototype suffered a serious mechanical failure.

The car was brought back to the garage for repairs, when the following bad news occurred a short time afterward:

ALONSO TAKES OVER 3 LAPS DOWN

The No. 23 United Autosports Liger LMP2 suffered a tire issue in the eighth hour that caused significant damage, dropping it three laps off the pace.

The incident occurred just before Phil Hanson turned the car over to 2-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso. While three laps down is significant, Alonso has the talent to make up a lot of ground, especially if issues happen to other Prototypes running ahead of him.

Alonso is expected to drive at least two, maybe even three more segments in the remainder of the event.

KEEP FIGHTING, NO MATTER HOW MANY LAPS YOU’RE DOWN

Wright Motorsports’ No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 R day started off with a bang – but not in a good way.

The No. 58 made contact with the Turn 5 wall on the driver’s side on the pre-race lap, sustaining heavy damage.

In fact, it was already in the garage to begin repairs before the green flag even dropped. It ultimately returned to the track, but 106 laps behind the GTD leader.

The team had been heavily favored to potentially capture the GTD title, given the driver lineup of Patrick Long (who had been behind the wheel when the wreck occurred), two-time and defending GTD champion Christina Nielsen and Mathieu Jaminet.

SuperMotocross: Ken Roczen urgently needed change

Roczen change
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
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Change can be frightening, but it is often exhilarating and Ken Roczen, a rider in his ninth season on a 450 bike, it was urgently needed.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with his worst performance in five years. After finishing outside of the top five in seven of his last eight rounds in the stadium series, well down the points’ standings in ninth, he decided to put that season on hold.

How it ended was in stark contrast to how it began. Roczen’s 2022 season got off to the best possible start. He won the Supercross opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California by more than seven seconds over the 2021 champion Cooper Webb.

That would be his last podium and he scored only one more top-five in the Glendale, Arizona Triple Crown.

MORE: Ken Roczen sweeps top five in Anaheim 2 Triple Crown

Before 2022, Roczen was a regular challenger for the championship despite being plagued by major accidents that required surgery in 2017 and 2018. On his return, he was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, which presents with symptoms of heavy fatigue, muscle weakness and loss of appetite and last year he tested positive for COVID-19.

Against those odds, he finished second in the outdoor season in 2019 and third in 2020. In the Supercross series, he finished third in 2020 and second in 2021.

But the abbreviated season of 2022 signaled a need for change for Roczen.

“I needed the change urgently,” Roczen said in last week’s post-race press conference at Angel Stadium. “I did a pretty big change in general.”

Those comments came three races into the 2023 with him sitting among the top three finishers for the first time in 10 Supercross rounds. It was the 57th podium of his career, only six behind 10th-place Ryan Villopoto. It was also the first for Suzuki since 2019 when Chad Reed gave them one in Detroit 63 rounds ago.

Taking time off at the end of the Supercross season had the needed effect. He rejoined SuperMotocross in the outdoor season and immediately stood on the podium at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. Two rounds later, he won at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado. The relief was short lived and he would not stand on the podium again until this year.

Roczen Motocross Round 3
Ken Roczen won Round 3 of the outdoor season in 2022 at Thunder Valley after finished second in Moto 1 and first in Moto 2. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Winds of Change

Roczen’s offseason was dramatic. Citing differences over his announcement to compete in the World Supercross Championship, he split with Honda HRC and declared himself a free agent. It wasn’t a difficult decision; Roczen was signed only for the Supercross season.

That change had the desired effect. Roczen won the WSX championship in their two-race, pilot season. More importantly, he proved to himself that he could compete for wins.

Late in the offseason, Roczen announced he would also change manufacturers with a move to HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki. He won the 2016 Pro Motocross title for Suzuki with nine wins in 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second. He easily outran the competition with an advantage of 86 points over second-place Eli Tomac.

“I just think change overall made it happen – and these overseas races – it’s really just a snowball,” Roczen said. “You start somewhere and you feel like something works out and I got better and had more fun doing it. Working with the team as well and working on the motorcycle to get better and actually see it paying off. It’s just, it’s just a big boost in general.”

The return to Suzuki at this stage of his career, after nearly a decade of competing on 450 motorcycles, recharged Roczen. He is one of three riders, (along with Cooper Webb and his former Honda teammate Chase Sexton), with a sweep of the top five in the first three rounds of the 2023 Supercross season.

But last week’s podium really drove home how strong he’s been.

“I think we’re all trying to take it all in,” Roczen said. “I wouldn’t say it came out of nowhere really, but before the season starts you think about – or I thought of how my whole last season went – and it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium.”

Roczen’s most recent podium prior to Anaheim 2 came at Budds Creek Motocross Park in Mechanicsville, Maryland last August in Round 10 of the outdoor season. His last podium in Supercross was the 2022 season opener that raised expectations so high.

Supercross Round 1 results
Ken Roczen raised expectations with his season opening win at Anaheim but did not stand on the box again in the Supercross series. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

The change Roczen needed was not just a different team and bike. More importantly, he needed the freedom to set his own schedule and control his training schedule.

“It’s long days, but I’m really into it at the moment,” Roczen said. “Overall, I felt [that] throughout this off season and now my health has been really well, really good, so that helps. It’s needed to get to the top. I’m pretty confident that we’re, we’re doing the right thing – that I’m doing the right thing.

“I’m doing all my training on my own and I’m planning out my entire week. And I feel like I have a really good system going right now with recovery and putting in some hard days. Right now, I don’t really have anybody telling me what to do. I’m the best judge of that.

“It’s really hard to talk about how much work we’ve put in, but we’ve been doing some big changes and riding a lot throughout the week, some really, really late days. And they’re paying off right now; we’re heading in the right direction. We’re all pulling on the same string, and that helps me out big time.”