With under four hours to go, just three Prototype-division cars remain in the running for an overall win at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Despite multiple maladies plaguing the LMP-2 eligible entries during the overnight hours, the No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Ligier-Honda avoided trouble and thanks to the amazing efforts of Pipo Derani, had built a 30-second lead on the field by 10 a.m. eastern time Sunday morning.
Things however, would change once Derani got out of the car. With Johannes van Overbeek now behind the wheel, Wayne Taylor Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP driver Max Angelelli started to gain large amounts of time until ultimately taking over the lead at 10:45 a.m., ironically at the completion of the 600th lap of the event.
At 11:15 a.m., Max Angelelli held a narrow lead over Van Overbeek by about three seconds at the time of press, with the Visitflorida.com Racing Corvette of Marc Goossens the lone remaining car on the lead lap. While two of the Corvette DPs are in contention, Action Express Racing’s pair of Coyote-designed racers have hit trouble. During the overnight hours, the No. 31 Whelen-backed entry lost time due to a broken drive shaft, while the sister No. 5 Mustang Sampling entry went straight to the garage while leading the race at around 11:10 a.m. due to the same malady.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s hopes for a repeat win at the Rolex 24 are also out of play, after mechanical woes delayed the No. 02 Riley-Ford DP, while overheating issues have cost time for the sister No. 01 entry.
In GT Le Mans, there are still five cars with a realistic chance of claiming the Rolex chronometers this afternoon. At time of press, the No. 3 Corvette Racing C7.R of Mike Rockenfeller held a six second lead on the No. 68 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE of Daniel Serra. Corvette had its cars 1-2 at sunrise this morning, but the No. 4 entry was relegated back to fifth place just before press time due to leaving the pit lane under yellow when the red stoplight at pit exit was activated. This issue has caught out several teams in multiple classes throughout the race, including the ESM Ligier-Honda.
Due to the penalty box visit by the No. 4 Corvette, Porsche North America’s Michael Christensen jumped up to third, with BMW Team Rahal’s Bruno Spengler running fourth. Both of those teams have lost a car overnight, however. The No. 100 BMW M6 GTLM with Lucas Luhr driving, suffered a major mechanical failure in the tri-oval sending the car into the barriers at turn one. Luhr suffered no injuries in the shunt. The No. 911 Porsche RSR was also a contender for the first three-quarters of the race, but was forced to the garage just after sunrise due to a broken drive shaft, losing many laps as a result.
Equally intriguing at Daytona International Speedway has been the battle in GT Daytona, where seven cars were on the lead lap at time of press. At 11:20 a.m., Alex Job Racing’s Leh Keen had the No. 22 WeatherTech Porsche 991 on top, despite the fact the attack for AJR is down to one car after an broken undertray forced the No. 23 Team Seattle Porsche to the garage area.
The lead for Keen is not secure though, Porsche factory driver Patrick Long was second for Black Swan Racing, with Prodrive Aston Martin Racing’s Pedro Lamy in third. Including the Magnus Racing Audi R8 of Andy Lally in fourth place, the lead quartet at time of press were separated by less than ten seconds.
While action has been competitive for the most part, the storyline has been relatively quiet since 3 a.m. in the Prototype Challenge division, where the JDC-Miller Motorsports has dominated the proceedings. With lead driver Stephen Simpson behind the wheel, the No. 85 yellow and green-liveried ORECA FLM09 is six laps ahead of the next closest class challenger: the PR1-Mathiasen Motorsports car driven by Jose Gutierrez.
Stay tuned to OnPitRoad.com for a final Rolex 24 at Daytona update following the checkered flag.