As compared to last year, the 57th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona has been quite a bit more incident-strewn. There have already been six full course cautions so far, as opposed to four in the entire race in 2018.
The Mazda Team Joest entries were strong early with Oliver Jarvis leading from pole. However, the speed advantage that the Mazdas had in single-car runs seems to have disappeared. Instead, the Cadillacs and Acuras are every bit of the equal of the Mazdas.
Acura Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya was able to snatch the lead away from Jarvis 30 laps into the race, but a number of teams rotated through the overall lead. For Wayne Taylor Racing, some of their best moments of the race came when Fernando Alonso took over the Konica Minolta Cadillac, then proceeded to run through the pack and take the overall lead.
Mazda Team Joest’s chances at overall victory ended very suddenly in the seventh hour due to fuel leaks. First, the No. 55 stalled on course. Olivier Pla had to coax the car back to the garage for repairs. He would be able to rejoin the race and currently sits in seventh, only one lap down. The No. 77 team was not so lucky. Timo Bernhard was in second overall when the car suddenly caught fire on the backstretch. The car is now retired from the race.
At the eight hour mark, Acura Team Penske’s No. 6 shared by Montoya, Dane Cameron and Simon Pagenaud was leading by 12.8 seconds over Action Express Racing’s No. 31 shared by Eric Curran, Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr. The No. 7 Acura of Ricky Taylor, Hélio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi was third, followed by Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Cadillac. CORE autosport’s No. 54 Nissan DPi came back from a lap down to run in fifth.
LMP2 has been relatively close as all four entries have held the class lead at one point. DragonSpeed’s two entries have been the class of the field. The No. 81 has led a substantial amount of the race, while the No. 18 had to charge back from an unscheduled stop to change the nose in the first 30 minutes.
PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports’ chances of victory ended when Mark Kvamme spun in Turn 1. He was then hit by the JDC-Miller MotorSports No. 84 Cadillac DPi-V.R. driven by Juan Piedrahita in the right rear corner. The team spent a substantial amount of time in the garage before resuming 70 laps down.
At one-third distance, DragonSpeed’s No. 18 for Roberto González, Ryan Cullen, Pastor Maldonado and Sebastian Saavedra were in the lead and running eighth overall despite a spin for González exiting the bus stop chicane. Their lead was more than half a lap over the No. 81.
GT Le Mans saw Porsche continue up front early, but their advantage was short-lived. A number of teams have rotated to the front as others have had problems. The No. 3 Corvette with Jan Magnussen at the wheel had right front damage. The No. 912 Porsche had damage and lost laps early.
Risi Competizione kept themselves out of trouble and managed to put themselves up to the class lead at eight hours. Their margin was 3.7 seconds over the No. 911 Porsche. BMW Team RLL’s No. 25 BMW was third, followed by the No. 912 Porsche and the No. 4 Corvette.
GT Daytona saw pole-sitter Marcos Gomes lead for much of the first stint of the race, but the team quickly fell out of contention once Chico Longo got in the car. Cautions have affected the race significantly. Trent Hindman was forced to make an emergency stop for fuel out of the lead during a yellow. Dominik Farnbacher had somewhat similar issues in his Scuderia Corsa Ferrari. Both of those teams are still in the hunt.
GRT Grasser Racing Team was leading the class when they were given a stiff stop and 220 second penalty for an improper waye-around. That got them a lap ahead of the pack. The penalty dropped them nearly to the back of the class and forced the defending champions to play catch-up.
At eight hours, Riley Motorsports’ Wynn’s-sponsored Mercedes was leading by 3.6 seconds over Meyer Shank Racing’s No. 86. Montaplast by Land-Motorsports’ No. 29 Audi was third, followed by the GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini, which has made up their deficit thanks to legal wave-arounds. AIM Vasser Sullivan’s No. 14 Lexus was fifth.