Polesitter Ricky Taylor could be grateful for being well clear of the fracas at the start, as Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kevin Magnussen, after fending off the Action Express Racing Cadillac of Derani, found himself drawing along the inside of Olivier Pla’s Meyer Shank Racing Acura.
Magnussen mounted the inside curb to avoid running into the Acura, but contact was inevitable, and it spun the Acura into the runoff area on the outside of Turn 1.
The muddle forced both Derani and Magnussen to lose enough momentum to allow Harry Tincknell’s Mazda RT24-P to steal through into second. And while the Wayne Taylor Racing Acura had led the race by 1.5sec at the end of Lap 1, by Lap 5 Tincknell was right up with him, although there the gap held.
Magnussen passed Derani after 10 laps and immediately tried to hack down the two-second gap to the leaders. Derani then stopped early, on Lap 12, yet Loic Duval stopped the JDC-Miller MotorSports Caddy just two laps later.
By Lap 20, the top three were covered by just 2sec, with Tincknell looking particularly eager to get by Taylor as they picked their way through traffic. At that point, Magnussen fell 4.5sec off their tail and at the end of Lap 23, he pitted the Ganassi Cadillac. A lap later, Taylor and Tincknell – and Pla, now running 40sec adrift – pitted. Taylor handed over to Filipe Albuquerque, but Tincknell stayed aboard the Mazda. Pla handed off to Dane Cameron.
Derani, who had been charging since his very early stop, took full advantage of Albuquerque on cold tires to slip the AXR Cadillac into the lead. Tincknell had to wait another 10 laps before he could pounce on Albuquerque as they tackled traffic, to pass the WTR Cadillac around the outside into Turn 1.
Once he’d done that, he zoomed away, and cut Derani’s advantage from 10sec to 7.5sec in the space of two laps – helped by the AXR briefly struggling through GT runners. At this point, Magnussen was five seconds down on Albuquerque in fourth, who was 12sec ahead of Duval. The apparently damaged MSR Acura was 65sec off the lead in sixth.
Tincknell took over the lead on Lap 34 when AXR pitted the leader, Derani handing the car to Nasr.
This looked a genius strategy – emulated by Duval next time by – when the Full Course Yellow flew on Lap 36, for Grasser Racing Team’s GTD Lamborghini coming to a halt at the Bus Stop chicane. However, their advantage was shrunk by a heavy downpour which would mean all the leaders would need to stop again for rain tires.
Then with 1hr04min run, the race was red-flagged and the cars trickled into pitlane, due to lightning in the area.
The race went back to Full Course Yellow with 50mins to run, the cars rolled off and they all pitted as soon as the pits opened. Taking only a splash of fuel having stopped so recently, the #31 AXR Cadillac and #5 JDC-Miller Cadillac (now driven by Tristan Vautier) emerged first and third, split by Albuquerque. Renger van der Zande was fourth in the CGR Cadillac ahead of Oliver Jarvis who had taken over the Mazda.
Like all Prototype drivers, Jarvis had taken on more slicks despite the wet track surface, and he spun under yellow at Turn 8 but got going again apparently without damage, but then van der Zande stopped again, so the Mazda moved up to fourth.
The green flag came with 36mins to go, but within a lap there was a yellow flag to retrieve some bodywork from the GTD Lexus of Jack Hawksworth.
With 28mins to go, the race got underway again, and while Nasr broke away, Vautier deposed Albuquerque for second, as Albuquerque had to face a challenge from first Jarvis and then a van der Zande, who took advantage of the two cars ahead restricting each other’s momentum. He took just a few corners to also depose Albuquerque for third and then pass Vautier for second.
Meanwhile, as Jarvis attempted another attack on Albuquerque, he lost out to the Meyer Shank Acura, now with a new nose and tail, in the hands of Dane Cameron.
Nasr and van der Zande swiftly stretched a lead over their fellow Cadillac runner Vautier, who was having to protect his third place from Albuquerque with 20mins to go. Cameron and Jarvis, meanwhile, had fallen off the back of this pack but were engaged in their own duel for fifth.
Albuquerque finally muscled by Vautier to claim third with fewer than 10mins to go, ending GM’s hopes of a Cadillac 1-2-3. With three minutes to go, Jarvis limited the damage to Mazda’s title hopes, by moving ahead of Cameron, but Vautier was three seconds up the road. That didn’t stop Jarvis, who charged onto the tail of Vautier, but came up probably just one lap short.
Up front, Nasr held on to win by 1.473sec over van der Zande, with Albuquerque a further nine seconds behind, while Vautier just staved off Jarvis by 0.4sec.
Class wins for PR1/Mathiasen, Riley, Corvette
In LMP2, PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports’ Ben Keating held off Steven Thomas (WIN Autosport) and John Farano (Tower Motorsport) at the start, and teammate Mikkel Jensen did the rest.
Thomas’s teammate Tristan Nunez was spun on a restart and dropped to third but charged hard and passed Gabriel Aubry’s Tower Motorsport car with two laps to go to claim second.
LMP3 again saw fortunes swing back and forth. Polesitter Matteo Llarena of Performance Tech Motorsports had already lost the lead to Andretti Autosports’ Jarett Andretti when the news came through that he was being penalized for not holding the right side of the grid at the start of the race and would have to endure a drive-through penalty.
Andretti remained in front before handing off to Oliver Askew, but the open-wheel ace made a last minute top-up of fuel under yellow following the race stoppage and dropped to the back of the pack. That became fourth when Colin Braun’s CORE autosport car tagged the Performance Tech car – now driven by Rasmus Lindh – into a spin.
That was as far as his hopes went. Up front, Felipe Fraga and Dylan Murry ran 1-2 for Riley Motorsports to the checkered flag, although Murry remained under hard pressure from Braun for the duration of the race.
In GT Le Mans, polesitter Jordan Taylor held the lead at the start of the race in the #3 Corvette C8.R but teammate Nick Tandy deposed him on Lap 6. However, Taylor stayed within 3sec of the #4 Corvette, and pitted a lap earlier to hand over to Antonio Garcia, while Tandy relinquished the leading ’Vette to Milner next time by.
After the race stoppage and second restart, Garcia moved the #3 car ahead of the #4 and pulled out a three-second lead, eventually crossing the line 1.9sec ahead of Milner.
Matt Campbell in the WeatherTech/Proton Porsche was up near them for the race restart but was penalized for a pitlane infraction by the crew.
Lexus gets 1-2 in GTD
The GT Daytona class served up a thriller, as ever. Frankie Montecalvo in the #12 Lexus RC F of Vasser Sullivan Racing and Richard Heistand in the Carbahn Peregrine Racing Audi R8 both passed Madison Snow’s pole-winning Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan at the start of the race.
In fact, the pair of them had pulled 7sec on Snow by Lap 8, leaving him to fend off Roman De Angelis in the Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage, the second Lexus of Aaron Telitz and the two Acura NSXs of Gradient and Compass Racing respectively.
By the time De Angelis and Telitz did make it through to third and fourth, ahead of Snow, they were just under a dozen seconds behind Montecalvo.
Montecalvo pitted on Lap 32 – just before the full-course yellow – to hand over to Zach Veach, and Hawksworth took over the second Lexus in fourth from Telitz, the pair separated by Heistand and Ross Gunn, who’d taken over the HoR Aston Martin.
Hawksworth’s good work didn’t stop there, and following the restart, he demoted not only Gunn but also teammate Veach to take the lead of the class, and lead home a very close Lexus 1-2.
Gunn just about held onto the final podium spot ahead of Jeff Westphal, who’d replaced Heistand in the Carbahn Audi. Daniel Morad drove well to claim fifth for Alegra Motorsports, while Gradient Racing won the battle of the Acura NSXs, after Compass Racing’s similar car ended its race early with damage to a brake line – according to IMSA Radio, possibly after running over the debris from Hawksworth fractured front bumper.
Regular GTD stars Turner Motorsports lost 19 laps soon after the start when the BMW M6 suffered steering issues.