ROLEX 24: Cadillac leads into the night hours, Acura join fight up front


Christian Fittipaldi in the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi leads the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona as the race settles into the night time hours.

Fittipaldi inherited the lead when he took over from co-driver Jaoa Barbosa in the most recent round of pit stops after co-driver Felipe Albuquerque punched his way to the top in the opening stints.

The #66 Ford GT of Dirk Mueller leads GTLM, while a feisty GTD class is currently under control of Kelvin van der Linde in the #29 Land Motorsport Audi who recently re-gained the lead from the #33 Mercedes of Luca Stolz.

As it happened:

In the third round of pit stops just before the end of the second hour, things didn’t go so well for Mazda Team Joest when their #77 car of Tristan Nunez lost it’s right rear wheel out on track after just after leaving the pits.

Nunez hobbled the car back to pit lane on three wheels and eventually returned to the track, this time, with all four boots on properly.

The #77 Mazda continued to have dramas minutes after re-joining the circuit and the sister #55 car suffered it’s own problems as they both plummeted down the order.

Acura Team Penske also struck trouble in the stops when Ricky Taylor, who’d just climbed aboard the #7, had his door come open out on track, having to return to pit lane and losing a lot of time in the process as they dropped from fourth to 12th.

The order shifted in the GTD class as Stolz took over the lead in the #33 Mercedes – courtesy of an incredible triple stint by Ben Keating in the opening hours – from Sheldon van der Linde’s #29 Audi who lead early on, while at the same time Rolf Ineichen steered his way up the field in the #11 Grasser Racing Lamborghini.

As Hour 2 ticked over, things hotted up in pit lane when the #82 GTD Risi Ferrari burst into flames in it’s pit box. Fire crews were quick to extinguish the flames, which were caused by fuel fumes in the engine bay, though the car was left covered in extinguisher dust.

Pipo Derani in the #22 ESM Nissan was on a charge as he snatched third from Ryan Hunter-Reay in the #10, and before long the Brazilian had second place as Barbosa continued to lead up front.

The #58 Wright Motorsport Porsche re-joined the race, 58-laps off the GTD class leader, after spending nearly 2 Hours and 30-minutes behind the wall following a crash for Robert Renauer on the formation lap.

Shortly after, the first Full Course Yellow intervention came when the #38 of James French stopped on track at NASCAR Turn 3, believed to have run out of fuel.

Barbosa lead away on the restart from Derani and Matt McMurray in the #90 Spirit of Daytona Cadillac, before Hunter-Reay made short work of McMurray to grab third in the #10.

Simon Pagenaud in the #6 Team Penkse Acura carved his way up to third, pulling the #5 of Stuart Middleton with him which ultimately demoted McMurray to sixth.

Meanwhile, the second placed #22 of Derani struck trouble with a right rear puncture at the 3 Hour mark, forcing them down the order to 17th as Derani limped back to the pits, handing the car over to Johannes van Overbeek in the stop.

Middleton in the #31 picked up a drive-through-penalty after contact with Pagenuad in the #7 at the Horseshoe, pitting the latter into a spin as night descended over Daytona.

In GTD, the battle for the lead re-ignited as Christopher Mies in the #29 Audi closed up on Stolz’s Mercedes, while only a few seconds back sat Rik Breukers aboard the #11 Grasser Lamborghini.

Stolz and Mies came into the pits together just after the 4 Hours 30-minutes mark, with the Audi team opting to plug Kelvin van der Linde into the #29 as Stolz stayed onboard the AMG.

Before long, van der Linde had the lead and started to pull away from Stolz in second while Lawson Aschenbach held onto third place in class in the #93 Acura NSX.

Just as the fifth hour came to a close, second placed Jordan Taylor suffered a left rear puncture in the #10, forcing him to pit and drop down to eighth.

Ryan Dalziel now sits second outright in the #2ESM Nissan ahead of theĀ #7 Acura Team Penske of Graham Rahal and Dane Cameron fourth in the second of the Acuras

In GTLM, Mueller in the #66 Ford holds the better part of 23-seconds over the #911 Porsche of Fred Makowiecki and Scott Dixon in third behind the wheel of the #67 Ford.

The best of the BMWs is the #25 car of Phillip Eng, who sits eighth in class and a lap down on the class lead.