Rolex 24 hits halfway point

January 28, 2018

Rolex 24 hits halfway point

January 28, 2018

The Rolex 24 at Daytona is past the halfway point, with 12 hours complete and 12 hours to go in the season opener for the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing has controlled the pace in the GT Le Mans class from the outset, with the No. 66 Ford GT leading the majority of the race in the hands of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais. The team’s second car, the No. 67 Ford driven by Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon, runs second and only a handful of seconds back.

Ganassi is the race’s grand marshal and the team seeks its overall 200th victory if one of its two cars can bring home the win. Outside of the brief rain shower in the sixth hour, the Fords have not been headed at the front.

While the GTLM class is usually renowned for how tight it is, it’s been a surprise to see the pair of Fords more than a lap clear of the rest of the field.

Corvette has hung in for podium contention with its No. 3 C7.R driven by Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller third and the second Corvette of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fassler fourth.

Of course, with Corvette having won this race in 2015 and 2016 before Ford won in 2017, you can never count out this team as it begins its 20th season of sports car competition.

Garcia said this car’s air conditioning wasn’t fully working during his stints, so he said he was more tired than normal once they ended.

Neither Porsche 911 RSR, the closest pace rivals to Ford in Daytona’s testing and practice sessions, has been able to mount a serious challenge. The No. 912 Porsche runs fifth, while the No. 911 Porsche fell out of contention when Nick Tandy ran wide through the Bus Stop and knocked the rear wing off. The Porsche GT Team made quick repairs to ensure Tandy’s return to competition.

Risi Competizione Ferrari and both of the new BMW M8 GTEs continue to run at the halfway point, several laps back of the leaders.

Up front, the overall fight in Prototype has seen the pair of Action Express Cadillacs battle the two Penske Acuras. Graham Rahal was leading in his No. 7 Acura just before halfway, prior to a lockup at Turn 1 and spin, before restarting. He’s fallen to fourth as a result, with teammate Simon Pagenaud in the sister No. 6 Acura now up front at halfway.

Last year’s winners Wayne Taylor Racing, along with Patron ESM Nissan, Spirit of Daytona Cadillac and United Autosports have been some of the marquee Prototype teams to go behind the wall. The Spirit of Daytona entry is the race’s lone retirement.

Land Motorsport’s near unassailable run in GT Daytona came undone in the tenth hour with IMSA assessing a stop and hold plus five minute penalty for a Balance of Performance violation. Team principal Christian Land told IMSA Radio this was due to the refueling time being deemed out of compliance.

With the No. 33 Riley Mercedes-AMG also receiving a drive-through penalty, it brought a pair of Lamborghinis from Paul Miller Racing and GRT up to the lead positions along with Michael Shank’s No. 86 Acura.

The overall leaders have completed more than 400 laps, with the GTLM leaders nearly at 390 laps run and the GTD leaders over 370. There have only been two full course cautions.

Of note, the lap record in the current 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway configuration is 762 laps, set in 1962.

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