2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona: 10 Hour Report

As the halfway point looms closer, it is the #5 Mustang Sampling Motorsport leading the way, as it has since the green flag started the race. Ford Chip Ganassi have found their footing in the GT Le Mans class and have steadily been increasing their lead over the Corvette Racing cars who round off the top three. It had been the #29 Montaplast GT Daytona car dominating the scene, but a long stop/go penalty just a few hours ago has handed the advantage to Mercedes-running #33 Team Riley Motorsport.

Cadillac and tyres were the talk of the opening ten hours of racing at the 56th Rolex 24 at Daytona, with both aspects dominating the race. Cadillac had shown the pace over the week, but within the first hour the manufacturer had locked out the top four. Helio Castroneves and the #7 Team Penske have been the only non-Cadillac running Prototype to put in any sort of challenge for the overall victory, currently running second to the Mustang Sampling car.

It was drama from before the green flag as the #58 Wright Motorsport Porsche suffered damage. On cold tyres, the car was lost on the formation lap and spun, hitting heavily into the barriers. The car limped back to the pits, unable to make the start. It returned to the track two and a half hours into the race, currently running in last place.

The battle for the prototype/overall lead of the race originally looked to be a battle between the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing and the #5 Mustang Sampling, but a puncture saw the #10 drop down the grid with a lot of work to do if they wished to repeat their successes from last year. Punctures would quickly become the talk of the race as car after car made an unscheduled pit stop to replace damaged tyres.

The battle was actually between #5 and #7 as the Team Penske crew fought hard to overcome the pace deficit they had on the Cadillac-running cars. Pit stop cycles keep swapping the cars, but at the time of publishing it’s the #5 Cadillac controlling the race.

The only change to this came in the sixth hour of the race. The rain had started to fall, and Mike Conway pitted his #31 Whelen Engineering Racing at the perfect time to swap for wet weather tyres. He was rapid off the bat, blasting into the lead of the race with superior pace and skills on the damp track. Unfortunately, this only lasted until the rain stopped and the track began to dry. After that, normal proceedings of Mustang Sampling vs Team Penske returned.

Fernando Alonso’s 24-hour race debut got off to a strong start as he finished his first hour stint in ninth place overall. His team mates Lando Norris and Phil Hanson continued his good work to get the #23 United Autosports placed eighth overall as the highest placed LMP2 car on track. However, just before publishing the #23 was taken behind the wall for repairs and has yet to return to the circuit.

Only two full course yellows have hindered the racing in the first half of the race, with significantly better weather conditions this year compared to last. The #38 Performance Tech Motorsport was making an impressive debut at the IMSA Rolex 24 at Daytona when, in the third hour, it ran out of fuel at the oval.

The second full course caution came in the early stages of the morning. The #52 Mathiasen Motorsport came out of the pits on cold tyres and pushed too hard. The result was a big spin into the barrier with a lot of debris to clean up. The second full course caution lasted about twenty minutes.

GT Le Mans has been dominated by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing since the third hour. It had looked like Corvette Racing were going to put in a decent fight for the lead, but the two Ford GTs have disappeared into the distance with a competitive 1-2 in class.

The Porsche 911 RSRs have started to come to life in the last few hours. The #911 Porsche GT Team car was competitively fighting for the last spot of the podium in hour six and seven; and is still in contention now as they battle with the #62 Ferrari Risi Competizione. They are still within a big chance of taking a podium finish in their first race of the year.

James Calado had some misfortune in the #62 which dropped the car down to fourth in class. A loose door saw him have to take an unscheduled pit stop during the first full course caution, meaning that he lost time in his stop. The Ferrari team are currently in a close battle with the two Porsches holding the positions in front and behind them.

The GT Daytona class looked to be in the hands of the #29 Monatplast, with the promise of a to-the-line battle with the #33. But race stewards dashed that hope when they handed the GTD leader a 5 minute stop and go penalty for a violation of the balance of Performance. Monatplast team boss thought the issue was to do with the fuel flow rate, but nothing further has been said on the matter.

The Ferraris have dropped back a bit in GTD, leaving the lead to be taken and extended by the Mercedes #33. It had looked like the Ferraris were going to be a threat to the front runners, but such pace has not been seen since around the third hour of the race.

Amid all the damage and issues the cars have been having, particularly the two Mazda prototypes that hav been in and out of the pits for repairs and electrical issues througout the first half of the race, only one car has officially retired from the race. The #90 Spirit of Daytona Cadillac was forced to park in the garage as a misfire issue plauged the car in the ninth hour and was not repairable. A maximum of 49 cars will take the chequered flag.