After a bit over one and a half hours of red flag due to heavy rain at Daytona International Speedway, the year’s first round of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was restarted. There were five hours and 36 minutes left of the race when the cars left the pits.
Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac #10 was leading the DPi class, DragonSpeed #81 in LMP2, Risi Competizione Ferrari #62 in GTLM and Meyer Shank Racing Acura #86 in GTD.
After two warm-up laps the race was officially restarted.
While it went well for the prototypes and GTLM cars, things went wrong in the GTD class. Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48 spun around in the middle of the field, which forced Ebimotors Lamborghini #46 to brake. When they did, Taylor Proto in #46 spun and Pfaff Motorsports Porsche #9 hit the side of his car in full force. Luckily all the drivers were okay, but neither cars could make it back to the asphalt.
With four hours and 48 minutes left, Acura Team Penske #6 came into the pits with huge smoke out of the exhaust. The mechanics quickly removed the bonnet but they used more time to looked into the engine compartment than to actually repair the car. After a few more minutes of examination, they chose to push the car back to the garage.
Earl Bamber spun around by himself behind the Safety Car in the middle of the oval. He had problems with coming back to the track and had to take the longer shortcut before he could get the car back on the right direction.
He wasn’t the only one messing up on the track. Richard Westbrook in Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 had a tour over the grass – exactly after he came out of the pits… He could regain control of the car and continue without further problems.
After a long repair, Acura Team Penske #6 was back to the track, but they were 18 laps behind the leading DPi cars.
After almost two hours behind the Safety Car, the race got restarted. The first lap went well, but when the cars got to Turn 1 for the second time, there were many drivers who didn’t manage to stop the car in time.
Porsche #911 and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66 spun around in Turn 1, when Frederic Makowiecki completely lost control of the Porsche under braking. It sent both cars on a spin, and #66 lost its rear wing after the contact. CORE autosport Nissan #54 was millimetres away from being hit by the two spinning GTLM cars but luckily made it past.
PR1 Mathiasen Motorsport #52 also had an off track tour, but Matt McMurry quickly recovered.
Jordan Taylor in Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac #10 was flying and drove past Pipo Derani in Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31, as if the latter was staying still.
Christopher Mies in Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi #29 had a spin on the straight and had to take a shortcut through the pitlane.
Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #63 with Dominik Farnbacher had a spin in Bus Stop, while Black Swan Racing Porsche #540 made the same mistake a few minutes afterwards. Marco Seefried in #540 couldn’t make it back by himself, so it deployed another Safety Car period.
Just before it happened, CORE autosport Nissan #54 with Romain Dumas behind the wheel backed into the wall and lost the rear wing. But he could restart the car and get moving again.
The leading #10 had an exciting moment in Turn 1, just before the Safety Car was out, when Magnus Racing Lamborghini #44 with Spencer Pumpelly spun right in front of Jordan Taylor. Taylor tried to drive one way around the spinning car, but the limited grip caused him to almost lose control of the car, and instead he had to take the other way around. Fortunately, the two cars didn’t hit each other, and Taylor kept the lead.
After 20 minutes of Safety Car, the field got released again.
Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #63 got a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane.
DragonSpeed #18 spun on the way to the International Horse Shoe, while Juncos Racing Cadillac #50 had a tour over the grass.
AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus #14 had a spin on the way to the oval, but he spun off and could avoid getting hit by the other cars.
JDC-Miller Motorsports #85 spun in Turn 1 but could get back when the traffic had passed.
Dirk Werner in Black Swan Racing Porsche #540 had a solospin – but when he couldn’t restart the car, there was a short period of Safety Car to get the car removed. Werner could eventually breathe life into the car again before a marshal could reach him, so it didn’t take long for the race to get restarted.
The two Cadillacs from Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing #10 and Whelen Engineering #31 had an intense duel for the lead, where Nasr in #31 won and overtook the lead one more time.
Augusto Farfus in BMW Team RLL #25 was right behind the leading GTLM, James Calado in Risi Competizione Ferrari #62, with Earl Bamber in Porsche #912 at the tail of the BMW.
Fernando Alonso got into #10 with two hours and 53 minutes left of the race. It meant that the Spaniard could in theory drive to the finish – but it could feel like a really long time under the difficult conditions. But if anyone can do it, it’s Alonso.
The race’s 15th Safety Car period came when Precision Performance Motorsports Lamborghini plowed through an advertising banner, that ended up in the middle of the track. Luckily, it was made of cardboard so nothing happened to the Lambo, but it was enough to interrupt the race again, since the banner must be removed for safety reasons.
DragonSpeed #81 broke its suspension and stopped in the middle of the track. The car unfortunately couldn’t be repaired, which was a shame for the team that was pretty much in 1-2 position through the most part of the race.
CORE autosport Nissan #54 got a drive-through penalty for speeding up in the pitlane.
With two and a half hours left, the race got restarted. The two former Formula 1 drivers Nasr and Alonso fought for the lead and quickly distanced themselves from the rest of the field.
The cars hadn’t even completed a whole lap when Toni Vilander in Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #63 drove into the rear of Black Swan Racing Porsche #540 with full speed. It damaged not only the rear part of the Porsche, but the front of the Ferrari was also smashed. Dirk Werner could drive back to the pits by himself, but Vilander retired on the spot. The mistake was clearly Vilander’s. He should’ve slowed down more, since everyone knows the field is lumped together in the Bus Stop chicane.
Just 10 minutes later, the race got another restart.
Once again there was a problem on the second lap, where Filipe Albuerquerque in Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 had an off track tour, losing control of the car under braking. While he was making his way back, CORE autosport Nissan #54 with Loic Duval lost control and cruised directly towards #5. Luckily he managed to steer the car to the side and they could avoid each other.
Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi #29 took the lead in the GTD class, with Daniel Morad behind the wheel.
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 had taken the lead in GTLM, after having problems earlier in the race. James Calado in Risi Competizione Ferrari #62 was still second.
There was drama in GTD when #29 drove too far into Turn 1, and Morad lost the lead to GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini #11 with Christian Engelhart.
Starworks Motorsports Audi #8 had a spin on the way to the Bus Stop chicane, but he could make it back to the track.
Nasr lost the lead of the race to Alonso, when the #31 driver braked too late into Turn 1.
Riley Motorsports – Team AMG #33 spun on the way out to the oval, while Porsche #911 spun on the way out of the Bus Stop chicane.
Augusto Farfus in BMW Team RLL #25 came up to second place in GTLM and was four seconds behind the leading Ford #67.
JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac #85 spun off in The Kink, and at the same time, Sebastian Saavedra in DragonSpeed #18 drove into the tire wall in Turn 6.
With two hours left of the race, the race director chose to send the Safety Car out on the track again, since there was a lot of standing water and the cars were sailing left and right.
The standing with two hours left was Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing #10 leading the DPi class, DragonSpeed #18 in LMP2, BMW Team RLL #25 in GTLM, and GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini #11 in GTD.
Shortly afterwards, the race got redflagged again due to the extreme weather conditions. All the cars were parked on the pitlane, and the mechanics put some cover on them.
The race was never restarted, and officially ended 10 minutes before the 24 hours were passed.
Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac #10 with Renger van der Zande, Jordan Taylor, Kamui Kobayashi, and Fernando Alonso won the race, ahead of Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31 with Felipe Nasr, Eric Curran, and Pipo Derani, while Acura Team Penske #7 with Alexander Rossi, Ricky Taylor, and Helio Castroneves finished P3.
DragonSpeed #18 with Roberto Gonzalez, Pastor Maldonado, Ryan Cullen, and Sebastian Saavedra won LMP2, followed by Kyle Masson, Kris Wright, Cameron Cassels, and Robert Masson in Performance Tech Motorsports #38, and DragonSpeed #81 with Henrik Hedman, Ben Hanley, James Allen, and Nicolas Lapierre.
BMW Team RLL #25 with Augusto Farfus, Connor De Phillippi, Colton Herta, and Philipp Eng won a very emotional race, after Charly Lamm’s sudden passing earlier in the week, while Risi Competizione Ferrari #62 with James Calado, Davide Rigon, Miguel Molina, and Alessandro Pier Guidi, and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 with Richard Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe, and Scott Dixon finished second and third.
GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini #11 with Christian Engelhart, Rolf Ineichen, Mirko Bortolotti, and Rick Breukers won GTD, ahead of Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi #29 with Daniel Morad, Christopher Mies, Ricardo Feller, and Dries Vanthoor, while AIM Vasser Sullivan #12 with Jeff Segal, Townsend Bell, Aaron Telitz, and Frankie Montecalvo was third.
So that was the ending of a very special Rolex 24 at Daytona. There were less than 14 hours of racing under green flag, more than three hours of red flag, and a whole lot of Safety Car periods.
The next race in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be run at Sebring International Raceway on 16 March marts, which also counts towards Michelin Endurance Cup – the championship for the four longer races in the series.
Update – two teams have been declassified. Read more here.