DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Report by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Richard Dole/LAT photo courtesy of IMSA —
A battle between two sports car veterans — five-time Prototype class champion Scott Pruett and two-time titlist Max Angelelli — headlined the run up to halfway in the 54th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.
However, it was the Tequila Patron/ESM No. 2 Honda-HPD Ligier JS P2 of Brazilian Luis Felipe Derani who stormed to the overall lead on a restart five minutes prior to the 12-hour mark and holds command at the head of the field with 50 percent of the opening race of the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship officially complete.
Derani took the lead from the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Pruett on lap 349 and stormed out to a 1.867 second lead over the California veteran at lap 352 as the crossed flags were displayed — a run made even more impressive by the fact that the car was nearly a full lap down (due to a pit road penalty) just two hours prior.
In the overall standings, Pruett’s team car — the No. 31 Action Express entry of Simon Pagenaud — rides in the final podium spot in third. The No. 10 Konica Minolta/Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP of Angelelli sits fourth and the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona mount with Ryan Dalziel at the controls rounds out the top five, with six Prototypes in all still on the overall lead lap.
A chaotic run of (six) additional full-course cautions and disaster for two of the dominant cars of the race highlighted the second quarter of the race (8:40 p.m. to 2:40 a.m.).
The sixth full-course yellow flew at the seven hour mark as the No. 88 Starworks PC entry looped and stalled at the bus stop chicane, sparking a series of three incidents in a half-hour as Joao Barbosa (No. 5 Action Express DP) and the No. 93 Dodge Viper entry in GTD also experienced problems in the infield — the latter drawing a caution with seven hours and 38 minutes complete.
The next major issue broke loose at the eight-and-a-half hour point, when the defending race winners — Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 02 Ford-Riley Prototype — pulled to the garage area with loss of brakes while Tony Kanaan was behind the wheel. The entry lost 10 laps in the paddock making repairs, and returned with Kyle Larson behind the wheel, but their quest for a second-straight overall win taking a massive hit under the lights.
“We lost the rear brakes all of a sudden,” Kanaan said after climbing from the car. “I didn’t feel anything wrong until I got to Turn 1 — then the pedal went to the floor. … It’s a shame because we were having a pretty good battle with the Corvette, but we didn’t have anything for the P2 cars.”
Lap 286 was the second major turning point of the race for the win, following the DeltaWing’s massive crash in hour four.
Ozz Negri, driving the then-race-leading and dominant No. 60 Honda-Ligier P2 for Michael Shank Racing, went abruptly off-track at the west horseshoe with nine hours and 31 minutes of race time complete, leaving an unnerving trail of fluid behind as he came to a stop and pounded on the steering wheel in frustration.
The car was towed back to the garage in agonizing fashion, where both team owner Michael Shank and a Honda spokesperson confirmed that the fastest car in Daytona had suffered a terminal engine failure.
That elevated the Tequila Patron/ESM No. 2 Ligier of Scott Sharp briefly to the race lead, but it would last only seven laps as he was called to the pit road penalty box from the lead at the nine hour, 53 minute mark after blowing through the red signal light at pit exit.
As Sharp’s machine sat silent, Pruett’s Action Express Corvette DP roared to the point for the first time all night and paced the field for the next 16 laps — crossing the lap 300 benchmark in the process — but he was trailed closely by Angelelli as the two veterans waged war for the overall lead in Daytona Beach.
Though Angelelli would wrest the top spot away at lap 309 and hold it until the race’s 13th full-course caution at 11 hours and five minutes complete, the five-time Rolex 24 champion stayed right with him and resumed the lead on lap 331 after pit stops. Pruett would then bring the field back to the green flag and lead until the 14th and most recent Safety Car period just 20 minutes prior to halfway — sparked by the spinning No. 50 Highway to Help Prototype — that set up Derani’s pass for the lead.
Other class leaders at the halfway point — who also received the maximum five points in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup standings for segment two — included the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry of Nicholas Boulle in Prototype Challenge (PC); the No. 68 Scuderia Corsa Ferarri 488 GTE led by former Prototype class champion Memo Rojas in GT Le Mans (GTLM); and the No. 23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R in GT Daytona (GTD).
While the AJR squad led the GTD battle at the halfway mark, the complexion of that class’s race changed at the 10 hour, 16 minute mark of the race — when the top two in class, the Lamborghini Huracan GT3s of Bryce Miller and Justin Marks, crashed entering turn one of the road course racing for the class lead.
While the wounded No. 16 Change Racing car of Marks was able to roll away from the crash site, Miller could not refire after the rear axle of his No. 48 Paul Miller Racing entry broke in the crash, forcing him to the paddock for extensive repairs.
“It’s a real shame and it’s really unnecessary that our contention for this race is done at the halfway point,” Miller said via a team release after climbing from the car. “The other car really rammed into us; it wasn’t contact that you could attempt to recover from. I was committed to a full braking zone, pulling downshifts and setting up for turn one, and he came from a distance back and did a banzai maneuver. The contact he made with the left-rear corner was really significant, enough to completely spin the car down the inside pit wall.”
“It really chewed the car up and we lost a lot of time in the garage. I feel really disheartened, I feel bad for the team and my co-drivers. This is going to be a really hard one to get over, knowing that we had such a good car.”
Both cars have continued in the race, but are more than 50 laps behind the race leaders.
Notable retirees from the race’s earlier stages included the DeltaWing, an early-race favorite that led nearly 30 laps overall before crashing out in hour four, and the No. 70 Speedsource Mazda Prototype — which suffered a flywheel failure that forced it pitside after just 20 minutes of race time on Saturday afternoon.
The television broadcast of the 54th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona continues at 7 a.m. on FOX Sports 1.
RUNNING ORDER: IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship; 54th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona; Daytona International Speedway; Jan. 31, 2016
- #2 Tequila Patron/Extreme Speed Motorsports Honda-HPD Ligier JS P2 (Derani/Sharp/Van Overbeek/Brown)
- #5 Mustang Sampling/Action Express Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP (Pruett/Barbosa/Fittipaldi/Albuquerque)
- #31 Whelen Engineering/Action Express Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP (Pagenaud/Cameron/Curran/Adam)
- #10 Konica Minolta/Wayne Taylor Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP (Angelelli/R. Taylor/J. Taylor/Barrichello)
- #90 VisitFlorida.com/Spirit of Daytona Chevrolet Corvette DP (Dalziel/Goossens/Hunter-Reay)
- #01 Ford EcoBoost/Chip Ganassi Racing Ford-Riley DP (Hartley/Stroll/Wurz/Priaulx)
- #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09 (Boulle/Alon/Kimber-Smith/Gutierrez)
- #85 Red Line Oil/JDC Miller Motorsports Oreca FLM09 (Simpson/Miller/Koch/Goikhberg)
GT Le Mans
- #68 Scuderia Corsa Ferarri 488 GTE (Serra/Premat/Rojas/Pier Guidi)
- #911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR (Tandy/Pilet/Estre)
- #23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R (James/Farnbacher/Riberas/Henzler)
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network. Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 21-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for both the United Sprint Car Series and the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
Email Jacob at: [email protected]
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