Rain has struck the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona and it’s forced a scramble for the strategists, as to whether to stay on either Continental or Michelin dry-weather slicks or switch to rain tires. This is an important time of the race to figure out what tire to be on.
At the six-hour mark, the first points are handed out in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup. Filipe Albuquerque leads overall in the No. 5 Action Express Cadillac DPi-V.R, with other class leaders Patrick Pilet in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR (GTLM), Kyle Masson in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09 (PC) and Shane van Gisbergen in the No. 50 Riley Motorsports-WeatherTech Racing Mercedes AMG-GT3 (GTD).
But van Gisbergen’s lead quickly went away in the seventh hour with a likely brake change required to his car, following a switch to Cooper MacNeil behind the wheel of the WeatherTech-backed Mercedes. The No. 991 TRG Porsche 911 GT3 R also pitted shortly thereafter with a right front tire issue, which Mike Hedlund limped back to the pits.
In Hour 7, Jack Hawksworth moved to the lead of GT Daytona in his No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3, which means both the Lexus and new Acura NSX GT3 have led on their worldwide debuts.
Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon have both stepped aboard their respective Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs, with Bourdais into the No. 66 Ford and Dixon into the No. 67 Ford.
James Hinchcliffe also has had interrupted running in his No. 70 Mazda RT24-P, thanks to clutch issues.
Conor Daly will step aboard his No. 88 Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09 following repairs (see below), while his 2016 Dale Coyne Racing teammate RC Enerson’s first race laps in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson come on the damp, worsening track with the car down 40 laps. This is how different endurance racing is, in comparison to Verizon IndyCar Series racing.
This leaves the pair of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal yet to turn their first race laps in the Acura NSX GT3s. Hunter-Reay will take over the No. 86 car from Tom Dyer and Rahal the No. 93 car from Mark Wilkins within the next hour or so.
Rahal noted a left rear wheel issue has caused a bit of a delay for that car, which led earlier in class in the hands of Andy Lally and also features Katherine Legge as part of the quartet.
We’re up to five full-course cautions. The fourth flew as contact occurred between James Dayson in the No. 88 Starworks car and Eric Curran in the No. 31 Cadillac on NASCAR Turn 2, which sent the Starworks car to the garage for repairs. Curran sought to pass Dayson on the high side of the banking but made contact with Dayson, whose car’s nose was hit.
Then a fifth full-course caution flew when Marcel Fassler lost power in his No. 4 Corvette C7.R exiting NASCAR Turn 2. That likely ends that car’s shot at a repeat victory, with the team noting it had changed a lower control arm.
With both Starworks cars being repaired, there’s only five official retirements. The GTD polesitting No. 51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3 joins the No. 14 Lexus, No. 24 BMW and Nos. 59 and 73 Porsches.