An hour into the 2019 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona and it’s not the #77 Mazda leading the way from pole, rather the #6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 of Juan Pablo Montoya.
In what was a rather uncharacteristically quiet and clean opening hour for the Rolex 24, the lead changed following the first round of pit stops after 30 minutes of racing, Montoya muscling past pole-sitter Oliver Jarvis on his outlap.
Jarvis, who led the opening phase of the race (but was unable to create a healthy gap up front) then slipped down to third place overall, the #7 Acura of Ricky Taylor also getting by to make it an early Acura 1-2. There is of course, plenty of time left, and the events so far continue to fit the narrative that it’s all turning around for the Mazda DPi programme, its #77 leading the opening laps, having not led a single tour in the 2018 edition.
Outside the top four was the first of the Cadillac DPis, the #31 Action Express example, which led briefly when the Acuras and Mazdas pitted for the first time.
Behind, the #5 Action Express Cadillac is sixth, ahead of the #10 Wayne Taylor Cadillac in seventh. The sole Nissan DPi in the field, is down in 10th, ahead of only the Juncos Racing Caddy which started from pit lane and spent the first 15 minutes fighting past the GTD, GTLM and LMP2 pack before getting onto the tail of the DPis.
In LMP2, it’s the #18 DragonSpeed ORECA which leads, despite having to pit early for the front-left tyre smoking and rubbing against the tyre after contact on Lap 1 with the PR1 ORECA.
The Performance Tech and second DragonSpeed 07 Gibsons meanwhile, were both handed penalties during the hour, the former for using tools while refuelling during the first stop, and the latter for having too many men over the wall during its stop.
GTLM has been tight up front, with the #911 Porsche of Nick Tandy and #3 Corvette Racing C7.R of Jan Magnussen battling for the lead. The #3 managed to get past on the banking early on, before leading the majority of the hour. After the stops though, the #911 regained teh top spot.
Third and fourth are the two BMW Team RLL M8s which to this point haven’t challenged for the lead.
Two cars in the class suffered issues in the hour, the #912 Porsche which pitted twice for brake issues, having fought its way to third on the opening lap. The #67 Ford also went behind the wall in the closing minutes after contact with the wall following a spin on cold tyres. It did get back out before Hour 2 began, not before dropping three laps down though. The #912 is also three laps off the class leader now too.
GTD saw plenty of movement in the hour, with the #86 Acura leading the class after the stops heading into Hour 2 with Trent Hindman aboard.
Second on the road is Ben Keating in the Riley Mercedes, the Texan did lead a good portion of the hour though, after getting past Marcos Gomes in the pole-sitting Via Italia Ferrari which did eventually claim the place back after a long battle before the pit stops.
After the stops, the Via Italia Ferrari is down to 14th in class, Chico Longo now at the wheel.
This left the #11 Grasser Lamborghini is up to third, with the #44 Magnus and #46 Ebimotors Lamborghinis fourth and fifth.
The pace of this so far has been blistering. Like last year, Hour 1 ran fully green, though this year the cars on the lead lap have all done an additional lap, and last year’s pole time was beaten on Lap 3 of the race.
23 to go…