We’ve reached the quarter mark at Daytona and there’s plenty of storylines developing up and down the order, though with the sun down, rain expected and 18 hours to go, staying in the hunt is, of course, the priority, and the running order means little.
Out front, it’s now Cadillac leading the race, Fernando Alonso steering the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing DPi V.R. to the lead three and a half hours into the race, up the inside at Turn 1, breezing past Rene Rast in the #77 Mazda.
From there the Spaniard controlled proceedings during his lengthy stint, before handing over to his Toyota WEC teammate Kamui Kobayashi, who held station comfortably.
“The first stints in 24 hour races are always difficult, you do two to three hours in the car after doing 7-10 lap runs in practice,” said Alonso after his stint. “It’s a moment to discover small things here and there on the comfort side and emotional side.
“It was fun, with people you know, racing against them. The car felt good, the balance was good, we saw at the test that on a cooler track we perform better. The conditions this weekend have been cooler than the Roar, which has helped a little bit. Tomorrow it may rain again, which may change everything.”
The top three currently, in a lengthy FCY period at the end of Hour 6 (we’ll get to that in a moment), shuffled just before Hour 7 began though, Pipo Derani taking the lead in a flurry of stops during the caution in the #31 Action Express Cadillac, the team staying out instead of pitting, promoting the car to the lead, leaving Kobayashi down to second after a lengthy spell out front.
“It was a very long time in the car for me, I had a couple of yellows that extended my time in the car, and we decided not to pit with the others. We stayed out and tried to hold the lead at the six hour mark for the Endurance Cup points. It’s a first victory in this race.”
Montoya in the #6 Penske Acura which led the race earlier on, is third, ahead of the first of the Mazdas – the #77 – which is now down to fourth but still very much in the hunt.
The aforementioned FCY was caused by a shunt at Turn 1 involving two members of the prototype pack. Mark Kvamme spun the #52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsport ORECA at the exit of the sharp left-hander, and before he could get the car out of harms way was hit hard by Simon Trummer in an out of control #84 JDC Miller Cadillac, which was already sideways .
Back to the subject of Mazda’s Rolex 24, the #55 was delayed in the fifth hour. Harry Tincknell was tapped into a spin by the #57 MSR Acura of Katherine Legge at the exit of the West Horseshoe shortly after passing Alex Rossi in the #7 Penske Acura for second overall.
The spin left Tincknell frantically trying to get the car fired up and back on the road. The car dropped down the order to eighth after losing over 30 seconds. The car now sits sixth, with Jonathan Bomarito aboard.
In LMP2, with one car now out of the running, it’s a straight fight for the podium spots, the two DragonSpeed ORECAs – the #18 leading the #81 – sitting pretty first and second, ahead of the #38 Performance Tech ORECA.
GTLM has been close up front, with plenty of racing action since Hour 3 ended.
At the moment it’s the #4 Corvette that leads after the FCY stops at the end of Hour 6. Prior to that Porsche’s #911 911 RSR was out front, in front of the #25 BMW that had climbed up to second through the past two hours.
But with the top five on the lead lap, and a pit cycle changing the order, the #62 Risi Ferrari is up to second and still very much in the mix despite the team’s pre-race BoP concerns. The #911 is now third, with the #25 down to fourth.
The only other car on the lead lap was the #66 Ford as the race to the halfway mark began.
GTD too has been a lottery at times through each stint, though contenders are beginning to emerge.
Leading the class is the #33 Riley Motorsports Mercedes, with Felipe Fraga behind the wheel, continuing the team’s run since Ben Keating’s superb opening stint. The Land Audi, which has led for lengthy periods is second, with the #71 P1 Motorsports Mercedes third.
Outside of the top three, the #73 Park Place Porsche is fourth, just ahead of the #57 MSR Acura.
As it stands the top 14 in the class are on the lead lap in GTD. It’s anybody’s game!