The 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona finally went green again after more than 100 minutes under yellow but teams were cautious about pushing any harder as dawn started to break over Florida.
With the caution from hour 15 now extending into hour 17, the Audi safety car had to tap out and be replaced by a Porsche Cayenne because it was running out of fuel. However, a quick fuel stop later and the R8 resumed its position at the front of the field.
Ten minutes in and the Prototype leaders jumped into the pits with the Taylor brothers swapping for each other in the Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi with Ricky jumping in and immediately suffered a problem with the car refusing to fire. Thankfully, a quick push by the mechanics saw it fire back into life.
That did though allow Filipe Albuquerque in the Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac, who pitted at the same time, to jump ahead of the Taylor machine as that had a clean stop.
Both of them pitting allowed Marc Goossens in the VisitFlorida Racing Multimatic/Riley to jump into the lead of the race at the quarter way mark in this hour and put a bit of a gap on the Cadillacs behind.
Even though the yellow flags notionally slow down the cars, that didn’t stop James French in the Prototype Challenge leading Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09 from looping the car round at the International Horseshoe, he had such a lead though that this little faux pas didn’t affect his position at all.
A worse crash was to come though as the #8 Starworks Motorspor car crashed going towards the West Horseshoe and damaged the right-rear quite a bit with the car having to come into the pits.
Halfway through the hour and one of the most surprising things happened – the race went green again after almost two hours under caution.
Not much would change though, as an earlier pitstop for Goossens meant Albuquerque was back at the front and after so long under caution the majority of the grid decided it was better to play it safe when getting back into a race rhythm rather than go too hard too early.
Just as the hour ended there were more issues for the #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac of Seb Morris as he went slow through the West Horseshoe with an as yet undiagnosed issue, but could be an evolution of the troubles that struck the car overnight.
In GTLM, it was very much a Porsche show as the #912 of Richard Lietz managed to keep itself just ahead of the #911 of Frederic Makowiecki which had opened up a handy gap over Mike Rockenfeller in the #3 Corvette Racing C7.R.
However, a raft of pitstops just as the hour ticked to it’s close meant Rockenfeller moved up to second and Giancarlo Fisichella in the Risi Competizione Ferrari could move up to third as Makowiecki pitted and came back out in fifth.
GT Daytona saw Jeroen Bleekemolen keep his cool in the Riley Motorsports-Team AMG Mercedes AMG GT3 to keep 20 seconds in hand over Andrew Davis in the Stevenson Motorsport Audi R8 LMS as that car was fending off Ryan Hunter-Reay in the Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3. A late stop for the Audi though meant Hunter-Reay could claim second and Graham Rahal could join the podium positions in the second Acura.
The quietest class was Prototype Challenge as James French in the Performance Tech Motorsports car survived his earlier spin to hold a two lap lead over the #20 BAR1 Motorsports entry of Buddy Rice.
Top 3 in each class after 17 Hours
5 Mustang Sampling Racing – Joao Barbosa, Filipe Albuquerque, Christian Fittipaldi
10 Wayne Taylor Racing Konica Minolta – Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor, Max Angelelli, Jeff Gordon
90 VisitFlorida Racing – Marc Goossens, Renger van der Zande, Rene Rast
38 Performance Tech Motorsports – James French, Patricio O’Ward, Kyle Masson, Nicholas Boulle
20 BAR1 Motorsports – Don Yount, Buddy Rice, Mark Kvamme, Chapman Ducote, Gustavo Yacaman
26 BAR1 Motorsports – Tom Papadopoulos, Johnny Mowlem, Adam Merzon, Trent Hindman, David Cheng
912 Porsche GT Team – Kevin Estre, Laurens Vanthoor, Richard Lietz
3 Corvette Racing – Mike Rockenfeller, Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen
62 Risi Competizione – James Calado, Toni Villander, Giancarlo Fisichella
33 Riley Motorsports – Team AMG – Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Mario Fernbacher, Adam Christodoulou
86 Michael Shank Racing – Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ton Dyer, Ozz Negri Jr., Jeff Segal
93 Michael Shank Racing – Graham Rahal, Andy Lally, Katherine Legge, Mark Wilkins