Race Weekend Central

Rolex 24 Halfway Recap: Acura Team Penske Leads on Debut

The Prototype class saw a number of teams fall victim to cut tires.  Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10, Action Express Racing’s No. 31 and Tequila Patron ESM’s No. 22 are just three examples of teams that cut right rear tires.  That led teams to believe that the tires were just not up to the challenges of Daytona.  Not so fast, says Continental Tire.

A couple of contenders were struck down for the count.  The Spirit of Daytona No. 90 Cadillac driven by Matt McMurry retired with a misfire caused by overheating.  At the same time the No. 90 went to the garage, the Wayne Taylor Racing No. 10 went to the garage with significant damage after Renger van der Zande cut a right rear tire.  Tequila Patron ESM’s Ryan Dalziel was also forced to retire due to a broken gearbox.

The second full course caution came out at the beginning of the 11th hour when AFS/PR1-Mathiasen Motorsports’ Roberto Gonzalez nosed into the tires at the International Horseshoe on cold tires.  That resulted in a split strategy.  Action Express Racing’s No. 5 had more than half a minute on the field, but chose to make a brake pad/brake rotor change.  That allowed Acura Team Penske’s Graham Rahal to take the lead and hold it through halfway.

Rahal’s lead was 11.886 seconds over teammate Dane Cameron.  Action Express Racing’s Mike Conway was 19.6 seconds behind in third, followed by Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.  Tequila Patron ESM’s Nicolas Lapierre was a lap down in fifth.

The GT Le Mans class in the first quarter of the race was dominated by Ford.  Thaings were no different during the second quarter.  The Fords pulled away from the rest of the class, consolidating their advantage, while others had problems.  Porsche GT Team’s Nick Tandy spun and hit the tires in the Bus Stop chicane.  While he drove away, Tandy took the car directly to the garage and spent 14 laps getting repairs.

For the vast majority of the race, the No. 66 Ford of Joey Hand has led.  At halfway, it was still the No. 66 out front, but Dirk Müller was out in front.  Ryan Briscoe in the No. 67 Ford was less than a second back.  Corvette Racing’s Mike Rockenfeller was a lap down in third, while Marcel Fässler was fourth.  Porsche GT Team’s Laurens Vanthoor was fifth.

In the GT Daytona class, the big story of the second quarter of the race was a huge penalty assessed to Montaplast by Land-Motorsport’s No. 29 Audi.  Officially, the team was judged to have violated Attachment No. 2 of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Sporting Regulations.

For the uninitiated, Attachment No. 2 refers to Balance of Performance.  That can apply to fuel capacity, engine power, weight, fuel rig restrictor and more.  An interview with Christian Land of Montaplast by Land-Motorsport by IMSA Radio indicated that IMSA officials were unhappy with the team’s refueling rig.  Essentially, the team could refill their Audi quicker than the rules allowed.

As a result, the No. 29 was forced to enter the pit for a stop and five-minute hold penalty as part of what’s become known as the “anti-sandbagging rule.”  This is the first time that IMSA has applied a Balance of Performance penalty in the middle of a race.  Previously, the only time that the rule has been applied was after the Rolex 24 in 2016.  A post-race review revealed that the Lamborghinis did not show their full hand.  As a result, all of the Lamborghinis were given a retroactive stop and five-minute hold that was added to their total race time.

Despite the penalty, the No. 29 Audi was still seventh in class.  However, another long stop dropped the team out of the top 10.  They have since recovered to ninth in class, four laps out of the lead.

The penalty ultimately put six cars on the lead lap in GT Daytona.  Much of the race since then has been a race between Riley Motorsports’ No. 33 Mercedes, Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian’s No. 86 Acura and Paul Miller Racing’s No. 48 Lamborghini.

At the halfway point, the No. 86 Acura driven by AJ Allmendinger was leading the class by 2.3 seconds over Rolf Ineichen in the No. 11 GRT Grasser Team Lamborghini.  Andrea Caldarelli in the No. 48 Lamborghini was third in class followed by Andrew Davis in the Magnus Racing Audi.  Sam Bird in Scuderia Corsa’s No. 64 Ferrari was fifth in class.

Running Order of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Rolex 24 at Daytona After 12 Hours

After 12 hours, there have been only two full course yellows for minor incidents.  Attrition has been low as well.  At the halfway point, only Dalziel and McMurry’s car had retired.

Coverage continues on FOX Sports GO (requires cable/satellite/telco carriage and FOX Sports 1 authorization) until 8 a.m.  At that point, the race moves back to FOX Sports 2 until 10:30 a.m.


About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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