56th Daytona 24

  • 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona: 10 Hour Report

    As the halfway point looms closer, it is the #5 Mustang Sampling Motorsport leading the way, as it has since the green flag started the race. Ford Chip Ganassi have found their footing in the GT Le Mans class and have steadily been increasing their lead over the Corvette Racing cars who round off the top three. It had been the #29 Montaplast GT Daytona car dominating the scene, but a long stop/go penalty just a few hours ago has handed the advantage to Mercedes-running #33 Team Riley Motorsport.

    Cadillac and tyres were the talk of the opening ten hours of racing at the 56th Rolex 24 at Daytona, with both aspects dominating the race. Cadillac had shown the pace over the week, but within the first hour the manufacturer had locked out the top four. Helio Castroneves and the #7 Team Penske have been the only non-Cadillac running Prototype to put in any sort of challenge for the overall victory, currently running second to the Mustang Sampling car.

    It was drama from before the green flag as the #58 Wright Motorsport Porsche suffered damage. On cold tyres, the car was lost on the formation lap and spun, hitting heavily into the barriers. The car limped back to the pits, unable to make the start. It returned to the track two and a half hours into the race, currently running in last place.

    The battle for the prototype/overall lead of the race originally looked to be a battle between the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing and the #5 Mustang Sampling, but a puncture saw the #10 drop down the grid with a lot of work to do if they wished to repeat their successes from last year. Punctures would quickly become the talk of the race as car after car made an unscheduled pit stop to replace damaged tyres.

    The battle was actually between #5 and #7 as the Team Penske crew fought hard to overcome the pace deficit they had on the Cadillac-running cars. Pit stop cycles keep swapping the cars, but at the time of publishing it’s the #5 Cadillac controlling the race.

    The only change to this came in the sixth hour of the race. The rain had started to fall, and Mike Conway pitted his #31 Whelen Engineering Racing at the perfect time to swap for wet weather tyres. He was rapid off the bat, blasting into the lead of the race with superior pace and skills on the damp track. Unfortunately, this only lasted until the rain stopped and the track began to dry. After that, normal proceedings of Mustang Sampling vs Team Penske returned.

    Fernando Alonso’s 24-hour race debut got off to a strong start as he finished his first hour stint in ninth place overall. His team mates Lando Norris and Phil Hanson continued his good work to get the #23 United Autosports placed eighth overall as the highest placed LMP2 car on track. However, just before publishing the #23 was taken behind the wall for repairs and has yet to return to the circuit.

    Only two full course yellows have hindered the racing in the first half of the race, with significantly better weather conditions this year compared to last. The #38 Performance Tech Motorsport was making an impressive debut at the IMSA Rolex 24 at Daytona when, in the third hour, it ran out of fuel at the oval.

    The second full course caution came in the early stages of the morning. The #52 Mathiasen Motorsport came out of the pits on cold tyres and pushed too hard. The result was a big spin into the barrier with a lot of debris to clean up. The second full course caution lasted about twenty minutes.

    GT Le Mans has been dominated by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing since the third hour. It had looked like Corvette Racing were going to put in a decent fight for the lead, but the two Ford GTs have disappeared into the distance with a competitive 1-2 in class.

    The Porsche 911 RSRs have started to come to life in the last few hours. The #911 Porsche GT Team car was competitively fighting for the last spot of the podium in hour six and seven; and is still in contention now as they battle with the #62 Ferrari Risi Competizione. They are still within a big chance of taking a podium finish in their first race of the year.

    James Calado had some misfortune in the #62 which dropped the car down to fourth in class. A loose door saw him have to take an unscheduled pit stop during the first full course caution, meaning that he lost time in his stop. The Ferrari team are currently in a close battle with the two Porsches holding the positions in front and behind them.

    The GT Daytona class looked to be in the hands of the #29 Monatplast, with the promise of a to-the-line battle with the #33. But race stewards dashed that hope when they handed the GTD leader a 5 minute stop and go penalty for a violation of the balance of Performance. Monatplast team boss thought the issue was to do with the fuel flow rate, but nothing further has been said on the matter.

    The Ferraris have dropped back a bit in GTD, leaving the lead to be taken and extended by the Mercedes #33. It had looked like the Ferraris were going to be a threat to the front runners, but such pace has not been seen since around the third hour of the race.

    Amid all the damage and issues the cars have been having, particularly the two Mazda prototypes that hav been in and out of the pits for repairs and electrical issues througout the first half of the race, only one car has officially retired from the race. The #90 Spirit of Daytona Cadillac was forced to park in the garage as a misfire issue plauged the car in the ninth hour and was not repairable. A maximum of 49 cars will take the chequered flag.

    Images courtesy of imsaphoto.com

  • Wayne Taylor Racing claim Rolex 24 Pole

    A staggering lap from Renger van der Zande gave last year’s overall winners, #10 Wayne Taylor Racing, pole position ahead of the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona. It was a very close battle in the Prototype Class, with less than 100th of a second splitting the top two. Corvette Racing took glory in the GT Le Mans class, whilst the Spirit of Race/AF Corse #51 crew took pole in the GT Daytona class.

    Helio Castroneves was favourite to claim pole ahead of the first 24 hour race of the year after the #7 Penske Acura had been the pacesetter throughout practice sessions. He started the session strong, taking the ARX-05 to provisional pole with a 1:36.090. However, the session was far from over and a late surge from Dutch-driver van der Zande put him 0.007 seconds faster than the #7 Penske to steal pole position.

    Cadillac continued to prove their strength in the new DPi era, with Filipe Albuquerque placing the #5 Action Express Racing car third on the grid. He was close to the top two fight, but fell 0.111 seconds off fellow Cadillac driver van der Zande at the chequered flag.

    With the top three locked out by DPi runners, Pato O’Ward could only place his LMP2 ORECA fourth fastest. The #38 Performance Tech Motorsport car set a 1:36.318, two tenths off the top three times. But it was a close battle for O’Ward to hold onto fourth as the Spirit of Daytona #90 pressured for a second-row start.

    After a year away from Cadillac, Spirit of Daytona have returned to the manufacturer this season, away from the LMP2 chassis and back to a DPi one. It looks to have been a good decision as the team were only 0.154 seconds off fourth place. It should mean the team can have a competitive season ahead of them, starting off very strong.

    Robin Frijns in the #37 Jackie Chan DCR JOTA qualified sixth while Felipe Nasr made it two Action Express cars in the top ten, taking seventh. #54 CORE Racing will start the race from eighth place.

    Jonathan Bomarito was the only Joest-run Mazda driver to set a time in qualifying, putting the #55 ninth. The Tristan Nunez/Rene Rast/Oliver Jarvis sister car did not take part in qualifying. Despite setting the fastest time in the first practice session, an undisclosed technical issue side-lined the car from the start of qualifying. The #2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi also did not take part in qualifying.

    Fernando Alonso set a 1:37.008 in his first 24-hour race qualifying session. Alonso described the qualifying session as the “least important qualifying session” he would ever take part in, referencing to the fact that in a 24-hour race, starting on pole is not that crucial. Along with team mates Lando Norris and Phil Hanson, he will start from P13 for Saturday’s race.

    In their 20th year of racing, it was the best start for Corvette who claimed GT Le Mans pole position. Jan Magnussen set a lap time of 1:42.779 in the #3 that was unchallenged by any of the other competitors. However, it was not a calm drive to pole as Joey Hand in the #66 Ford GT piled the pressure on. At the chequered flag, however, Hand was not able to find the extra 0.019 seconds needed to take pole from the Dane.

    Porsche locked out the second row with their two 911 RSR entrants, with Laurens Vanthoor piping Patrick Pilet for the top-three position in the closing stages of the session. The second Ganassi Ford could place no higher than fifth in class, but beta the second Corvette to the line, holding them down in sixth.

    The sole GTLM Ferrari #62 Rizi Competizione settled for seventh on the grid, ahead of the two new BMW M8 GTEs. It was not the strongest start to the weekend for the team who were hopeful they could get a good result from the Rolex 24 at Daytona, but a 24-hour race is not over until the chequered flag.

    Daytona’s GT class was led by the #51 Spirit of Race/AF Corse Ferrari with a lap time of 1:46.049. The strong driver line up of Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda has proven very successful in the last few years. The addition of Daniel Serra (who set the pole time) will only make the line up stronger. Serra was four-tenths faster than Miguel Molina in the #82 Rizi Competizione Ferrari who took second on the grid.

    Grasser Racing’s Mirko Bortolotti had qualified third, but after failing a stall test in post-qualifying tech inspections it has been demoted to the back of the grid. The #15 3GT Racing Lexus has been promoted up into the top three.

    Images courtesy of imsaphoto.com