The deep overnight hours produced some big changes, especially in the lower classes. However, at the very front of the field, not too much changed.
Over the previous 12 hours, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing‘s No. 02 had been making up many of the ten laps that were lost when Tony Kanaan was forced to pull into the garage for new brakes on all four corners. Unfortunately, the brake issues returned once again, forcing the team back to the garage for more brake work.
With the various retirements, Tequila Patron ESM‘s Ligier is the only P2 car left that can challenge the Corvette DP’s. The team still has a lot of speed, but has had to charge multiple times. One of the things to look out for over the final few hours is whether the Ligier can keep out of trouble.
At the end of 18 hours, Action Express Racing‘s No. 5 Chevrolet Corvette DP was leading overall, but was being pressured heavily by the Tequila Patron ESM Ligier JS P2-HPD. Wayne Taylor Racing‘s No. 10 was giving chase in third, while a somewhat sickly No. 31 for Jonny Adam was fourth, but starting to smoke. VisitFlorida.com Racing‘s No. 90 Chevrolet Corvette DP rounded out the top 5.
In Prototype Challenge, JDC/Miller MotorSports took the class lead from PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports just after the race reached the halfway point. Shortly afterwards, both Jose Gutierrez in the No. 52 and Ricardo Vera in the BAR1 Motorsports No. 20 went behind the wall for repairs. With the two nearest competitors temporarily incapacitated, the No. 85 stretched out their lead all the way up to 19 laps.
However, at 5:42 a.m., Kenton Koch spun the No. 85 into the tires at the exit of the infield section, significantly damaging the yellow ORECA FLM09-Chevrolet. The team spent more than 16 minutes making repairs to the front end of the car. Even with those issues, Koch exited the pits with a multiple-lap lead. By the end of the 18th hour, JDC/Miller MotorSports maintained a nine-lap lead over BAR1 Motorsports‘ No. 26, and ten laps over BAR1’s No. 20.
GT-Le Mans provided the most spectacular moment of the third quarter of the race. Lucas Luhr stomped on the brake pedal to slow for turn 1, only for a brake rotor to explode. Pieces of the rotor hit the No. 3 Corvette. The failure resulted in the complete loss of control and Luhr ended up hard in the outside wall. Luhr walked away from the crash, but the car was finished for the night, as Graham Rahal shows us here.
Probable brake rotor explosion, made the car turn hard right and ruined our day. Damn. pic.twitter.com/Itata9zrDf
— Graham Rahal (@GrahamRahal) January 31, 2016
In addition to Luhr’s crash, the third quarter saw the first real issues affect teams in the class other than the Ford GT’s. Risi Competizione lost ten laps in the garage making repairs to their Ferrari F488 GTE. However, the top 8 drivers remained on the lead lap at the end of the 18th hour.
At that point, Corvette Racing had a 1-2 with the No. 3 leading the class over the No. 4. Porsche North America‘s No. 912 was third, followed by the Scuderia Corsa No. 68 and the remaining BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM. The five cars were running nose-to-tail at the time in a great scrap for position. SMP Racing‘s No. 72 was a couple of seconds back and the No. 911 of Kevin Estre from Porsche North America was seventh, less than ten seconds back.
GT-Daytona continued to be quite the toss-up. The elimination of Paul Miller Racing‘s Lamborghini from contention due to their crash opened things up for a number of teams. Frikadelli Racing led laps during the nighttime hours. However, during this period of the race, Magnus Racing came alive and plonked themselves at the front of the field. They were never particularly comfortable out front as both of the Alex Job Porsches put the pressure on.
An incident in the bus stop chicane resulted in the retirement of both Konrad Motorsport‘s No. 21 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 and TRG-Aston Martin Racing North America‘s Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3. In TRG’s case, they claimed that their car had internal damage that could not be fully ascertained. The Konrad Lamborghini had already been through the wringer a couple of times even before the race started and was likely too damaged to continue.
At the end of the 18th hour, Magnus Racing continued to lead in their No. 44 Audi R8 LMS GT3. 2.3 seconds back was the No. 97 BMW M6 GT3 for Turner Motorsport. Alex Job Racing/Team Seattle‘s No. 23 was third with the No. 98 Aston Martin Racing V12 Vantage GT3 right behind. Alex Job Racing‘s No. 22 was fifth. The top 10 entries in the class were still on the lead lap.