Rolex 24 at Daytona – the first hours

This year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona was started on a half-chilly temperature and cloudy track.

14 degrees Celsius isn’t what you would expect from Florida weather, but it was the case for the 47 starting teams

Mazda Team Joest #77 had taken Pole Position in the DPi category, while DragonSpeed #81 took Pole in LMP2. Porsche #911 was the Polesitter in GTLM, and last but not least Via Italia Racing Ferrari #13 was the best GTD car in the qualifying.

There was already drama before the start, when Juncos Racing Cadillac #50 drove to the pits already after the first warm-up lap due to technical problems.

When the race got started, Mazda Team Joest #77 had a really good start, while Acura Team Penske #6 and #7 fell a little behind.

Rolex 24 At Daytona 2019 start
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

The sharp elbows were out in the LMP2 field, where DragonSpeed #18 squeezed past PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports #52 in the International Horse Shoe, where Roberto Gonzalez in #18 showed Gabriel Aubry in #52 that he shouldn’t even think about retaliating.

Oliver Gavin in Corvette Racing #4 got a fantastic slipstream on the oval and he was actually on the way to overtake both Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66 and Risi Competizione Ferrari #62, but he chose to pull back, since three wide on the oval – on the first lap in a 24-hour race was maybe a bit too much…

Agustin Canapino luckily got Juncos Racing Cadillac #50 back on the track and stayed on the lead lap, but he must work hard to get past the entire GT field.

Seven minutes into the race, Jan Magnussen took the lead in the GTLM class, when Corvette Racing #3 swept past Nick Tandy in #911 over the finish line, on the way to Turn 1.

Riley Motorsports – Team AMG #33
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Michael L. Levitt

NGT Motorsport Porsche #99 drove to the pits with technical problems after less than fifteen minutes of racing, and after the mechanics had tried to repair the car in the pitlane, they chose to drive the car back to the garage to do a further repair.

Riley Motorsports – Team AMG #33 with Ben Keating took the lead of the GTD class, when he overtook Marcos Gomes in Via Italia Racing Ferrari #13.

DragonSpeed #18 had to pit when Roberto Gonzalez had a contact with another car, which damaged the front of the car, so huge smoke was coming from the car. After a quick nose change, they were back on the track again. Could it be the damage following the contact with Aubry on the first lap…?

#13 took the lead in GTD again but it went back and forth between them and #33.

DragonSpeed #18 & Performance Tech Motorsports #38
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Michael L. Levitt

Porsche #912 had to pit after half an hour drive, when Earl Bamber complained about brake problems, so the team changed the front of the car and it cost him a bit of extra time before he could come back to the track.

Both Mazda Team Joest cars and Acura Team Penske pitted after half an hour and shortly afterwards, out on the track, Juan Pablo Montoya in Acura #6 went past Oliver Jarvis in Mazda #77. Not long after that, Ricky Taylor in Acura #7 was also past the Mazda.

Juncos Racing Cadillac #50 was in trouble again after 35 minutes, when Canapino did a tour over the grass.

DragonSpeed #81 had a bit too many people over the wall during their first pitstop and they got a drive-through penalty for that.

BMW Team RLL #24 Alex Zanardi
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Richard Dole

Performance Tech Motorsports #38 also got a drive-through penalty when they used electric tools while the car was refuelled.

Porsche #912 was back in the pits after 40 minutes, where the car once again got a new front. Now they had lost four laps to the leading GTLM cars.

Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48 got a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 with Ryan Briscoe drove directly back to the garage due to a technical problem with the car. It costed him three laps before he was back on the track.

Precision Performance Motorsports Lamborghini #47 got a drive-through for driving away from the pits with some tools still attached to the car.

P1 Motorsports Mercedes #71
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

After both Acura Team Penske cars finally pulled away from the field, everyone was pushed together again after exactly an hour of racing, and the Mazda cars as well as both the Action Express Cadillacs (Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 & Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31) came up behind them and also drove past #7, while Montoya in #6 built a gap to the followers.

There was a bit of pushing in the GTD class. Via Italia Racing Ferrari #13 and Turner Motorsport BMW #96 had a contact with each other when #13 did a little weird manoeuvre. Luckily, both could continue.

NGT Motorsport Porsche #99 ended up in the tire wall in the Western Horse Shoe after 75 minutes, and it took a bit of time before Jürgen Häring could drive the car backwards and moved on.

Via Italia Racing Ferrari #13 went off the track and did a wild tour over the grass. Luckily he could brake on time, before he would slide crosswise on the Western Horse Shoe.

DragonSpeed #81
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Richard Dole

While #13 was on the way back to the track, Ebimotors Lamborghini #46 flew off the track in the same spot, but the car got back to the pits to get repaired.

The driver change from John Edwards to Alex Zanardi in BMW Team RLL #24 didn’t go as planned, when he couldn’t get his specially customised steering wheel mounted. It was only after the mechanics changed the steering wheel that there was connection in all the buttons and he could drive the car to the track, in the pure hand-operated version that only Zanardi used. While his teammates drove with the normal pedals.

Jarvis in #77 took the lead of the race after 85 minutes, when he flew past Montoya in #6. A few laps afterwards, the Mazda was blocked by a slower GTD car and #6 retook the lead.

One and  a half hours into the race, CORE autosport Nissan #54 pitted with a puncture on the right rear tire. Jon Bennett then came out and got swapped to Romain Dumas. BMW Team RLL #25 was unlucky to collect the carcass, that was trapped under the splitter on the M8 GTE car, so they had to pit to remove it.

Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac #10
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

#54 got a 20-second Stop & Go penalty for speeding 27 miles too fast in the pits!

The first Safety Car of the day came when NGT Motorsport Porsche #99 had a huge engine failure on the way to Turn 1 and spilled oil over the whole corner. It caused Risi Competizione Ferrari #62 to spin around, but James Calado could quickly recover. There was so much oil that the race director chose to send out the Safety Car, since it was way too dangerous to have oil on the oval.

There were big problems at Corvette Racing when they pitted under the SC period. When #4 came in to refuel, it hit the front of #3 so hard that the steering wheel was damaged on #3, and the mechanics had to fix it. Luckily, the Safety Car was still on the track, but it costed them a lot of time before they could come back – actually three laps!

Acura Team Penske #6 was leading, ahead of Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31 and Mazda Team Joest #77. In LMP2, it was DragonSpeed #81 who led, in front of their teammates in #18, as well as Performance Tech Motorsports #38.

Mazda Team Joest #77
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66 was leading the GTLM class, ahead of Corvette Racing #4 and Porsche #911, while GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini #11 led the GTD class, followed by AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus #12 and Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi #29.

Christina Nielsen had taken over Heinricher Racing w/Meyer Shank Racing Acura #57, and was driving in 15th place, in GTD after two hours drive, but they had a pitstop more than most of the competitors.

Shortly afterwards there was an explanation for why #11 was leading – they overtook the Safety Car illegally and thus got a three minutes and 40 seconds Stop & Go! That was why, AIM Vasser Sullivan #12 was leading GTD with Townsend Bell behind the wheel.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 had made the same mistake as #11, and they got a three minutes and 28 seconds Stop & Go. They were already behind in the GTLM class after the problems earlier in the race.

#11 got an additional drive-through penalty for not driving correctly in the pitlane.

Meyer Shank Racing Acura #86 & AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus #14
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Richard Dole

Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 had a spin in the International Horse Shoe and missed about 15 seconds, before Christian Fittipaldi turned the car around. The problems got bigger and bigger for the team. Earlier in the race they had to change the rear of the car, since the lights didn’t work. They had to repair something in the rear of the car again. It ended up with the car being pushed back to the garage where they could get it fixed.

Corvette Racing #4 got a drive-through penalty when they jumpstarted at the restart after the SC period. It costed them the lead in GTLM and sent Porsche #911 in front.

BMW Team RLL #24 stalled in the pit exit, when Jesse Krohn had just overtaken the car from Alex Zanardi. The Finnish driver could restart the car but it stalled again and again, before he could drive a whole lap.

JDC-Miller Motorsports #84
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Richard Dole

The Safety Car was deployed, since the car was parked in a dangerous spot. Krohn got it back to the garage, where the mechanics went to repair the car.

When the race was restarted, Helio Castroneves in Acura Team Penske #7 drove past two cars – from the outside in Turn 1. There was Mazda Team Joest #77 leading the class, with Rene Rast behind the wheel.

Corvette Racing #3 got a penalty for not pitting correctly under the Safety Car period. Here you have to refuel in five seconds, so you don’t run out of fuel. When the race is restarted, you have to pit and refuel again, and something went wrong. It meant 20 seconds Stop & Go for Antonio Garcia.

Three hours and 20 minutes into the race, Fernando Alonso in Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac #10 led the race when he overtook Rene Rast on the way to Turn 1.

Heinricher Racing w/Meyer Shank Racing Acura #57
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Michael L. Levitt

Juncos Racing Cadillac #50 got a drive-through penalty for driving 1 mph too fast in the pitlane.

Precision Performance Motorsports Lamborghini #47 scored a Stop & Go for driving 13 mph too fast in the pits.

After less than four hours of the race, there was another SC when Juncos Racing Cadillac #50 stayed still on the track. It neutralised the race for almost half an hour, since they needed to clean up the track here and there.

Porsche #912 got a penalty because they pitted wrong under the SC period. The team got a 10 seconds Stop & Go for it.

JDC-Miller Motorsports #85 was awarded a drive-through for driving 1 mph too fast in the pitlane.

There was drama after 6 hours, when PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports #52 spun around in Turn 1. While Mark Kvamme stayed still there, he was hit by Simon Trummer in JDC-Miller Motorsports #84. While #84 had to retire on the spot, the mechanics managed to repair #52 after an hour work.

Acura Team Penske #6
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Richard Dole

The Polesitter Mazda Team Joest #77 was in trouble after only 7 hours of racing. Timo Bernhard stopped the car in the Bus Stop chicane, and even though the mechanics looked at it, the car couldn’t be repaired, since it was the engine that went off. What a shame for the team, who had done really well to start with.

Spirit of Race Ferrari #51 and Precision Performance Motorsports Lamborghini #47 had a contact in the International Horse Shoe. After seeing the episode a few times in a video, the stewards decided to give #51 a drive-through penalty.

It was also #47 that deployed the next SC, when they stalled and had to get help to get towed back to the pits.

Juncos Racing Cadillac #50 got a drive-through penalty for driving 1 mph too fast. They were, however, so far behind in the field, after all the problems in the first hours of the race.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 also got a drive-through, but it was because the car was in gear when they lifted it on the airjacks in the pits, so that the wheels were spinning.

Corvette Racing #3
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Richard Dole

After about 10 hours, #50 had another problem when they lost a wheel on the track. So they had to get help to come back to the pits – which deployed another SC period.

JDC-Miller Motorsports #85 managed not to get just one but two drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane – both times 2 mph too fast. Actually they did a hattrick with penalties in the span of an hour, since they also drove 1 mph too fast under the next pitstop…

The race took a dramatic turn in the GTLM class, when Corvette Racing #3, that had fought hard to be back in the lead, actually went still on the track. They had problems with the fuel pressure, and Antonio Garcia couldn’t drive the car back to the pits and the car had to be towed back, and it meant another Safety Car. The car got pushed back to the garage, where the mechanics went to repair it straight away, which costed the team around ten extra minutes, before sending it back to the track. The most of it was luckily under the SC, so they didn’t lose as much time.

There is a guarantee of more drama in the second half of the race, since the rain is forecasted in the morning in Daytona.

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