Acura Team Penske’s Dane Cameron led the race from teammate Ricky Taylor at the start with Action Express Racing’s Felipe Nasr third in the Cadillac DPi-V.R chased by the Mazda RT24-Ps of Harry Tincknell and Tristan Nunez, and the Wayne Taylor Racing of Ryan Briscoe.
In LMP2 Patrick Kelly of PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports led Hodes in the Inter Europol Competition entry.
In GT Le Mans, the two Rahal Letterman Lanigan-run BMW M8s of Connor De Phillippi and John Edwards surged to the front, with the Porsche 911 RSR of Laurens Vanthoor also deposing class polesitter Antonio Garcia in the #3 Corvette C8.R.
In GT Daytona, Jeff Westphal steered the Ferrari 488 of Scuderia Corsa into the lead ahead of Frankie Montecalvo in #12 Lexus RC F of AIM Vasser Sullivan, Madison Snow in Paul Miller Racing’s Lamborghini Huracan, and polesitter Shinya Michimi’s Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX which had started on pole.
The 10-hour race was initiated by Don Panoz in 1998, and has featured some breathtaking action in recent years, especially given there are four classes, the fastest of which – the DPi Prototypes – are capable of lapping the beautiful undulating 2.54-mile course in under 70sec.
Of the teams starting today’s race, only one – Wayne Taylor Racing – has won it twice, in 2014 with the Chevrolet Corvette DP and ’18 with the car it still uses today, the Cadillac DPi-V.R. Full-timers Ryan Briscoe and Renger van der Zande are joined this weekend by five-time (soon to be six-time) IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, with whom they won January’s Rolex 24 Hours.
The similar car of Action Express Racing won last year’s race with Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani and Eric Curran at the wheel. This year the #31 Whelen Engineering car started from third on the grid but with Filipe Albuquerque replacing the retired Curran.
It was the Acura ARX-05s that locked out the front-row – reigning champion Dane Cameron took pole in the #6 car he shares full-time with Juan Pablo Montoya, and on this occasion with one of Penske’s current IndyCar ace Simon Pagenaud. Alongside them is their Acura Team Penske teammates, Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves joined by one of Honda’s favorites, Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport IndyCar fame.
There are four LMP2 Orecas in the race, with three regular entrants – PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports, Performance Tech Motorsports and Tower Motorsport by Starworks – joined by series debutant Inter Europol Competition from Poland.
The GT Le Mans competition is between six cars, with the mid-engined Corvette C8.R of Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg – which has won five races this year – starting from pole ahead of the two BMW M8s and two Porsche 911 RSRs.
In GT Daytona, the Balance of Performance geeks appear to have done their job to perfection, with five different marques populating the top five spots on the grid Acura NSX (Meyer Shank Racing), Ferrari 488 (Scuderia Corsa), Lexus RC F (AIM Vasser-Sullivan), Lamborghini Huracan (Paul Miller Racing), BMW M6 (Turner Motorsports).
With the GTD field also containing Audi R8, Porsche 911 GT3 R, Aston Martin Vantage and Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3 entries, there are a total of 31 cars in the race.