IWSC: ESM Honda Leads At Midway Point

Photo Credit: IMSA

Attrition and errors have started to eliminate some contenders and also has brought some hurt by trouble earlier in the Rolex 24 at Daytona back into the game, as the event has reached the halfway mark. Most of those heartbreaks have occurred in the headliner Prototype division, the most notable being the retirements of Michael Shank Racing’s Ligier-Honda coupe and the elimination of the second and final Mazda Motorsports entry.

While leading with Oswaldo Negri behind the wheel, the No. 60 Tire Kingdom-backed entry suddenly slowed down just before the end of hour number ten at the kink in the infield section and pulled off course, causing a full course caution. Despite demanding a quick tow back to the garage, the news for Negri and the rest of the team was not good. As evidenced by the trail of oil left by the car, the Honda V-6 turbo engine had expired ending their quest to claim their first overall win at Daytona since 2010.

Mazda has also seen their hopes for a high finish come to a close, after a valve train failure caused an onboard fire on their sole remaining No. 55 entry just after 2 a.m. eastern time. The sister No. 70 fell out during the opening four hours due to engine failure.

While the majority of mechanical woes have struck the LMP-2 eligible prototypes, the last hope for victory is leading at the midway point. Just prior to 3 a.m. local time, the No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Ligier-Honda coupe with Pipo Derani driving had just taken over the lead from Action Express Racing’s Scott Pruett in the No. 5 Chevrolet Corvette DP. The last four hours have also been eventful for ESM. The team was assessed a one-minute penalty for leaving the pit lane under yellow while the red light at pit exit was on, a major violation of the regulations. After Scott Sharp fought valiantly to stay on the lead lap, the team was saved by a caution flag allowing them to catch up. Once Derani took over around 1:45 a.m., the entry began to quickly move through the field, taking the lead just over an hour later.

Behind Derani and Pruett, Action Express’ sister entry with Simon Pagenaud was in third overall, with two more Corvette DPs belonging to Max Angelelli of Wayne Taylor Racing, and Ryan Dalziel of Visitflorida.com Racing respectively rounding out the top five.

The large number of full course caution flags has also changed the shape of the fight in Prototype Challenge. After suffering mechanical issues around the five hour mark, JDC-Miller Motorsports have made up a three-lap deficit to reclaim the lead in PC. Stephen Simpson completed the comeback around 2:45 a.m., when he overtook PR1-Mathiasen Motorsports’ Nick Boulle entering turn one. Last year’s Rolex 24 PC champions held onto second place at the time of press.

In GT Le Mans, a new challenger has joined the potential winners’ list at the midway point. After gaining their lap back, Scuderia Corsa’s Alessandro Pier Guidi put the team’s Ferrari 488 GTE upfront for the first time in the event. Porsche North America’s pair of 911 RSRs, currently in the hands of Nick Tandy and Frederic Makowiecki were second and third respectively at time of press. The CORE autosport-run entries have been upfront for a majority of the distance, as has the BMW Team Rahal M6 GTLM of Lucas Luhr, which was running fourth as well as the pair of Corvette Racing C7.Rs, which with Antonio Garcia and Marcel Fassler were fifth and sixth at the halfway point.

Finally in GT Daytona, the domination of the Lamborghini Huracan GT3s has been put on hold, following contact in turn one around 1:30 a.m. that severely hampered the efforts of both Paul Miller Racing and Change Racing, who were running 1-2 in the division at the time of the accident. The incident involved Bryce Miller of PMR and Justin Marks of Change, when Marks clipped Miller in an attempt to take over the class lead. Both teams have managed to repair the damaged machines and have returned to the race, but both are out of contention for victory.

With the Lamborghini challenge out of play, Rolex 24 at Daytona debutante Frikadelli Racing with Frank Stippler at the controls had their No. 30 Porsche 991 GT3-R in the top spot, with TRG Aston Martin’s James Davison in the number two position. After suffering through gearbox problems during the fifth hour, Turner Motosport’s No. 97 BMW M6 has surged back into contention, with Jesse Krohn holding the number three position in GTD. Alex Job Racing’s Porsche with Cooper MacNeil and Spirit of Race Ferrari’s Marco Cioci round out the top five at the halfway mark.

Stay tuned to OnPitRoad.com for our next update after sixteen hours.