DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s coming down to it at Daytona and it’s looking like Action Express Racing will have to take the battle to the Porsches by themselves.
The Chip Ganassi Racing team was forced to retire from the race in the 14th hour after the car died on Renger van der Zande. Electronics were to blame.
Both BMWs also ran into trouble. Dries Vanthoor stalled the No. 24 and brought out a yellow. The No. 25 had an eight-lap stint in the garage as well.
The issues more or less have narrowed the contenders for the win to just three teams despite six being on the lead lap. Jack Aitken spent hours with Porsche Penske Motorsport’s Mathieu Jaminet giving chase. Matt Campbell was not too far behind the both of them.
Jaminet was able to eventually take the lead away and drove into the distance. However, trouble was not far away.
At the end of six hours, Aitken was once again in front with the No. 7 Porsche of Matt Campbell giving chase, 1.432 seconds back. Jaminet in the second Porsche was third, but was in the process of serving a stop and 10-second penalty for violating energy parameters. It was the third such penalty of the race for the team.
The LMP2 class saw an exciting battle for the lead between CrowdStrike Racing by APR’s Malthe Jakobsen and Era Motorsport’s Connor Zilisch. The two drivers battled hard for the lead with Zilisch setting picks that allowed him to keep the advantage.
The battle only ended when the two drivers pitted at the same time. Zilisch got out of the No. 18 in favor of Ryan Dalziel while Jakobsen remained in his car. Jakobsen won the race off pit road to take the class lead. Despite that, Zilisch was very happy with his stint.
Jakobsen led at the 18-hour mark by 5.070 seconds over Dalziel. Inter Europol Competition with PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports’ Pietro Fittipaldi was third, then Riley Motorsports’ Josh Burdon and United Autosports’ Nico Pino.
In GTD Pro, the No. 3 Corvette was very quick and seemed to command the race from the front. Their main rival was the Risi Competizione Ferrari driven by Davide Rigon. The Risi team then made a error on a pit stop. The fire extinguisher man was not in his proper position, which led to a drive-through penalty that dropped the No. 62 back.
As the race continued on, the No. 3 Corvette suffered damage to the right rear corner. The right taillight fell into the bodywork and the car began to smoke. Flashes of fire could be seen at times. Slowly but surely, Alexander Sims dropped back into the clutches of Paul Miller Racing’s Neil Verhagen. Once Verhagen took the lead, he pulled away in the No. 1 BMW
Verhagen continued to hold the lead over Corvette Racing with Pratt Miller Motorsports’ Nicky Catsburg with six hours to go. Rigon was third, then Sims in the smoking second Corvette. AO Racing’s Laurin Heinrich was fifth.
In GTD, Inception Racing spent the first half of the race in contention for the win. However, mechanical issues struck in the 16th hour, forcing the team behind the wall.
The issues dropped them to 15th in class, 15 laps down.
New contenders have risen to the front like Triarsi Competizione and Lone Star Racing. Neither squad has ever won a race in WeatherTech competition.
With six hours to go, Triarsi Competizione’s Alessio Rovera led by 48.849 seconds over Lone Star Racing’s Scott Andrews in the middle of a round of stops. Winward Racing’s Daniel Morad was third, then Iron Dames’ Michelle Gatting was a lap down in fourth. Wright Motorsports’ Jan Heylen was fifth.
Through 18 hours, there had been 12 official retirements. Only the aforementioned Ganassi Cadillac in GTP, but four different LMP2 teams. The trouble-prone High Class Racing No. 20 joined the three that dropped out in the first six hours.
In GTD Pro, the Iron Lynx No. 60 has retired, as has the SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes. The No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus is out after additional issues developed after their earlier crash.
In GTD, Magnus Racing is out after getting hit by the High Class Racing No. 20, while Gradient Racing has retired their quick Acura. Proton Competition has retired their privateer Ford Mustang GT3, while The Heart of Racing’s No. 27 Aston Martin is also out with mechanical issues.
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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