IMSA: Michael Shank Racing Owns Early Stages of Rolex 24; Leading at Six Hour Mark

Jacob Seelman Road Racing, Southeast, WeatherTech 0 Comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Report by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — F. Peirce Williams/LAT photo courtesy of IMSA —

Through the first quarter of the 54th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona, the story of the race has been Michael Shank Racing, who leads the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic at the six-hour benchmark.

Shank’s No. 60 Honda-HPD Ligier JS P2 — co-driven by full season drivers Ozz Negri and John Pew, along with NASCAR Sprint Cup Star A.J. Allmendinger and French sports car ace Olivier Pla — was not the fastest car early on, slotting in second behind the Tequila Patron/ESM No. 2 Ligier for the opening stint before the exotic DeltaWing Coupe dominated from hours two through four, but came on strong at the four hour mark after passing the No. 55 Mazda Prototype for the top spot and has not been seriously threatened out front since that time.

Jonny Adam holds second currently for the No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Action Express Racing Corvette DP, with third going to the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing/Ford Ecoboost Riley DP being piloted by Brendon Hartley.

Class leaders behind the Shank entry (which leads overall) include:

PC:  No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA FLM09 of Tom Kimber-Smith, Robert Alon, José Gutierrez and Nicholas Boulle

GTLM:  No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911-RSR of Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Kevin Estre

GTD:  No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, Bryce Miller and Mirko Bortolotti

The race has seen numerous moments, both exciting and disastrous, early that have shaped the battles for the lead across all four classes. Among the highlights:

— Five full-course caution flags have slowed the pace through the six-hour mark. The first flew just 20 minutes into the race when the No. 70 Mazda/Speedsource Prototype slowed to a stop in the infield with transmission issues that were later traced to a broken flywheel, and was followed by a stall for the No. 66 Ford GT in the tri-oval that drew the second yellow of the day.

— Safety car period No. 3 completely altered the course of the race and the battle for the overall lead, as the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Prototype stalled in the middle of the track entering road course turn one. Despite the fact that it could not refire, no full-course caution was called for nearly a minute and a half, leading to a massive collision when the race-leading DeltaWing entry (being driven by Andy Meyrick) plowed into the back of the PC machine. The crash damage retired both cars, and was a heartbreak for the DeltaWing, which had led more laps (29) in one race than its entire IMSA career combined to that point.

“It was very unfortunate. The car was in a blind spot with no lights on and it was unavoidable,” said Meyrick after the crash. “The radio was intermittent and unfortunately the combined situation resulted in an accident that caused a very successful day to end too soon. I was catching back up with the leader and it’s a real shame we weren’t able to get back up there and enjoy the result we should have had.”

“It’s just unfortunate with all the hard work and preparation that went into it that it had to come down to this,” added DeltaWing team manager Tim Keene. “I feel bad for Andy as IMSA should have thrown a full course caution long before we got there. We will regroup and move onto Sebring.”

— The night’s fourth caution came out moments before the five-hour mark, occurring when the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports PC entry of NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Brandon Gdovic spun on the entrance to the bus stop chicane, and the fifth and most recent slowdown to date flew seven minutes ahead of the quarter-distance mark after problems for the No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports entry forced the double yellow flags back out over the speedway.

— Aside from the DeltaWing crash, major players in both PC and GTLM encountered massive issues in the early stages. Both Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs saw their hopes for victory dashed, with the No. 67 falling 16 laps down due to an electrical issue and two right-rear tire failures, while the No. 66 became stuck in first gear at the three hour mark and also spent an extended period of time behind the wall before returning to the track. Five-time PC class champions CORE autosport went out of the event around 8 p.m. with a “catastrophic” engine failure, as described by team driver Martin Plowman.

With one quarter of the race complete, the class leaders were also awarded the maximum of five points in the first segment of Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup. Second in each class received four points, third three points and fourth on back two points apiece.

The 54th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway continues into the Florida night, with the broadcast switching from FOX Sports 2 to IMSA.tv at 10 p.m. ET. The live television broadcast will resume at 7 a.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

 

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: speed77radio@gmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @Speed77Radio or @JacobSeelman77

Email Race Chaser Online: news@racechaseronline.com

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