Cadillacs Strong Through First Six Hours of Rolex 24, But Plenty Others Still in Hunt
Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Cadillac DPi-V.R race cars have led a vast majority of the laps through the first six hours of the 56th Rolex 24 At Daytona. However, with 18 hours still remaining, plenty of race cars – including both of the new entries from Acura Team Penske and the United Autosports Ligier LMP2 team led by two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso – are still very much in the hunt.

Mike Conway held the lead at the six-hour mark in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi, securing the maximum five points toward the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup for himself, co-drivers Felipe Nasr, Eric Curran and Stuart Middleton, and Action Express Racing. The team – with its No. 5 entry – has won every Patrón Endurance Cup to date in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype class.

Conway held a 7.705-second lead over Helio Castroneves in the No. 7 Acura ARX-05 DPi, the car’s debut race with Acura Team Penske. The No. 7 battled back after losing a lap early when defending race and series champion Ricky Taylor had to bring the car back to the pits when the door would not properly latch. The No. 7 team, which also includes IndyCar Series star Graham Rahal, earned four points toward the Patrón Endurance Cup.

The No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R driven by Christian Fittipaldi, was third at the six-hour mark after leading the majority of the first quarter of the race. Fittipaldi and teammates Joao Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque earned three Patrón Endurance Cup points at the first of four scoring intervals throughout the race.

In the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class, the story throughout the first quarter was Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, and more specifically, the No. 66 Ford GT of last year’s Rolex 24 winners Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais. After leading nearly all of the first six hours – including at the six-hour mark with Bourdais behind the wheel – the No. 66 team earned the maximum five Patrón Endurance Cup points.

Running second at six hours was the other Ford Chip Ganassi Racing entry, the No. 67 Ford GT co-driven by Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon. While it’s been smooth sailing for the No. 66 team, the No. 67 fell down the order early on with a suspected brake issue before rebounding to return to the lead pack. Dixon trailed Bourdais by 8.349 seconds at the end of the first quarter.

Running third in GTLM at six hours was the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE shared by Toni Vilander, Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Davide Rigon.

In GT Daytona (GTD), the battle for the first six hours centered mostly on the No. 29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 and the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3.

The No. 29 machine led at six hours with Kelvin van der Linde at the wheel, one spot ahead of Jeroen Bleekemolen in the No. 33 Mercedes. As a result, the No. 29 team of van der Linde, Jeffrey Schmidt, Christopher Mies and Sheldon van der Linde earned the five Patrón Endurance Cup points, while Bleekemolen and No. 33 teammates Ben Keating, Adam Christodoulou and Luca Stolz scored four points.

Mario Farnbacher was third in the No. 93 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 to score three points for his team, which also consists of Justin Marks, Lawson Aschenbach and Come Ledogar.

Notes:

- The No. 23 United Autosports Ligier LMP2 car of Alonso and co-drivers Lando Norris and Phil Hanson was running sixth in the Prototype class at the six-hour mark. Alonso led his first Rolex 24 laps – a total of two – just prior to the two-hour mark in the race.

- The top eight cars in the Prototype class were still on the lead lap after six hours. The race had just one full-course caution period in the first six hours, when the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA LMP2 car stopped on course.

- Both Corvette Racing entries and both Porsche GT Team machines were top-five runners in GTLM for most of the first six hours. The new BMW M8 GTLMs fielded by BMW Team RLL also showed some speed early, but the No. 25 machine encountered a puncture from debris late in the fifth hour of the race with Bill Auberlen at the wheel, which temporarily sent the car to the garage.

- Wright Motorsports’ day ended before it even began. During the pre-race formation laps, Robert Renauer went off-course in Turn 5 and made contact with the wall at driver’s left, resulting significant damage to the left front of the No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 R and bringing the car to the garage before the green flag. The team was heavily favorited to finish on the podium with Porsche factory driver Patrick Long in the seat with two-time and defending GTD champion Christina Nielsen and Mathieu Jaminet. The car eventually made its way out to the track but remains last on the leaderboard.

- After a strong start, the pair of 3GT Racing Lexus RC F entries lost some momentum. At one point, the two cars were second and third in class, with Daniel Baumann in his first American race, leading the charge in the No. 14. However, an electrical issue brought the No. 14 to the garage for a lengthy stay. It eventually returned to track several laps down. The team’s No. 15 entry, which includes sports car legend Scott Pruett competing in his final race, was 10th in the GTD class after six hours.

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