The Rolex 24 at Daytona has passed the one-quarter mark and things seem to be stabilizing – that said, we're well past a normal race distance for a Grand-Am Rolex Series event. Here are some of the highlights:
WIDE OPEN IN DP – It's easier to count the cars who aren't in contention in DP through six hours of racing at the Rolex 24 at Daytona than aren't. All but one of the top 11 cars is still on the lead lap (the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Lola) the exception, and several teams – both Starworks entries, Chip Ganassi's No. 01, the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings and Spirit of Daytona Corvettes and No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley have all had a shot at the lead.
Incidentally, the one car that should have figured in the outcome but didn't was SunTrust Racing – which retired only a little more than a half hour into the race with terminal engine issues. Team principal Wayne Taylor said the car had a problem in the valve train, and efforts to fix the car as Ryan Briscoe related were futile.
“We've never had a problem with a Chevrolet engine product before,” Taylor said. “And to anyone who suggested it was Max (Angelelli) over-revving the engine, that wasn't it at all. This was the first 24-hour race, we thought going in, we weren't concerned with reliability; we felt concerned about traffic.”
GAINSCO's entry mistimed a pit stop thinking a caution would occur for a spun GT car, but the caution never happened, and the car lost a lap as a result. The team rebounded to get back on the lead lap, but almost immediately entered the pit after the latest caution thanks to a hole in the radiator. The team sent the car back out but has lost several laps.
STARWORKS' DAY OF INTEREST – Starworks led from the outset with Ryan Dalziel taking care of business from pole. But once he departed the No. 8 car, things got interesting when he handed off to Enzo Potolicchio. The Venezuelan dropped down the order from the lead, but the car still stayed within a minute of the leaders – leaving it to Lucas Luhr and Allan McNish to make up the difference.
Meanwhile, the team's sister No. 2 car came to the fore with Ryan Hunter-Reay mixing it in among the leaders, even taking the car to the top. Michael Valiante performed a similar feat in his first running in a DP car since last year's race at Homestead. And past 9 p.m. ET, Marco Andretti arrived at the track and made his first laps ever in a DP car during the race – a true trial by fire for the latest member of the Andretti clan.
Valiante explained his “rideless to riches” early part of the race, and dismissed the suggestion the previous generation Riley chassis was the better car, even though its reliability issues shouldn't be too much of a factor.
“The new car has more downforce and more aero, so they should be better with a 5mph advantage,” Valiante said. “I just had a good run on Scott.”
Pruett addressed the difference, saying, that based on how Valiante was running, the other car might be the best bet. “It's slipperier on the straights; I was in the lead and he had no problem going by,” he said.
How the gen-two versus gen-three cars stack up will be interesting to follow the rest of the race.
PORSCHE POWER IN GT – With a few exceptions, Porsche has largely dominated the early portion of the race in the stacked GT class. The No. 23 Alex Job, No. 59 Brumos, No. 44 Magnus, No. 17 FOAMETIX/Burtin and No. 45 Flying Lizard entries all had their turn at the head of the queue earlier in the race, and TRG's ace entry, the No. 67 which features Jeroen Bleekemolen, Marc Goossens, Spencer Pumpelly and Wolf Henzler in its lineup, has come to the fore past the six-hour mark. Stevenson's No. 57 and Autohaus's No. 88 Camaro GT.R have taken turns nearing the Porsches, as has the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda, but largely the Porsches have had the pace. Both the Brumos and TRG cars turned a lap sub 1:49 around the 3.56-mile circuit, interesting to note considering the pole time was 1:49.3.
Interestingly, neither of the two major new cars in class – the Ferrari 458 or Audi R8 – has figured much into the equation. It's been a fraught day for Risi's No. 62, having been through a drive-through, a puncture and an unscheduled stop within an hour, and then ending with an engine failure in the sixth hour. The team's sister car is slowly progressing up the top ten to eighth in class. Meanwhile, Anthony Lazzaro attempted an overly ambitious passing maneuver in the AIM Autosport Ferrari at the bus stop, nearly taking out two other Ferraris in the fracas.
Both Audis hit early clutch issues and have returned to the track, but well off the pace. The singular Ford Mustang and Dodge Viper in the field haven't played much of a role either. The Mustang still circulates in 30th in class, while the Viper hit the garage after 74 laps.