2015 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona: Hours 17-20 – Sunrise

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The sun rose at the Daytona International Speedway for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona as the drama of the night fell away and the usual suspects kept their strong positions heading into the final four hours.

At the front of the pack, the Daytona Prototypes proved to be a battle between four protagonists with the #5 Action Express Corvette DP in the hands of Joao Barbosa and later Christian Fittipaldi joined the leading trio of both the #01 and #02 Chip Ganassai Riley DP’s and the #10 Corvette DP from Wayne Taylor Racing.

With the help of several full course cautions caused first by the long time GTD star, the #33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT, that came to a stop as Sebastiaan Bleekemolen tried in vain to continue.

Oil spillage an hour later showed the benefits of the flags, as many dived into the pits. The stop-start nature didn’t disrupt the race, but forced the leading pack close to the backmarkers and made sure that most classes treated a 24 hour race like an all out sprint.

However it wasn’t the case for the Prototype Challenge class, as the order started the new day with the #54 Core Autosport ORECA FLM09 led the #52 and #16 ORECAs of the PR/Mathlasen Motorsport and the #16 BAR1 Motorsports car respectively.

It was a demonstration of the procession that even the #16’s off and brief struggle on the grass failed to cost the team a position.

The GTLM class has proven to be just as hotly contested as the Prototype class throughout the night and day and the Corvette’s return to prominence after Jan Magnussen and Oliver Gavin clashed in the #3 and #4 Corvette C7.R earlier in the race demonstrated the ever changing positions of the class.

While Magnussen led the way for most of the four hours after Ryan Briscoe’s impressive stint behind the wheel, he was put under pressure by the #25 BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE.

Thankfully for the Corvette man, Bruno Spengler managed to steer the BMW wide and across the grass. With clear damage to the rear of the car, the time lost in the pits for repairs and driver change meant their challenge for the GTLM lead soon evaporated and Gavin was the man to pounce for second in class ahead of the BMW.

While the infield had seen plenty of mistakes, including Rene Rast’s off into the wall in the #48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS as well as the smoking #44 Magnus Racing Porsche, the pits also saw a damaging mistake.

With the prototype class often pitting at similar times, Barbosa’s work to get into the lead took a dent figuratively and literally as the #02 Riley DP clipped the #5 at the entrance of the pits.

It was a move that allowed the #10 Corvette DP into the 24 Hours of Daytona lead ahead of the #5 of Fittipaldi as the race heads into the final four hours of the event.

GTD ended the four hours with the class wide open after the #33 Dodge retired. The #22 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America had not been running regularly in the top three, but it found itself in the right place at the right time to lead the class.

In second, the #93 gave Riley Motorsports some hope of a Daytona victory as the #33 retirement caused the sister car to move up to second in the class and in with a chance of the class lead. In third, the #63 Scuderia Corsa 458 Italia rounded off GTD’s top three after the sister #64 car retired earlier on.

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About author
A second year sports journalist at the University of Huddersfield, Tom Errington has spent over a year in the motorsport industry. He spent the 2014 season with SRO on British GT and British F3, even helping out with Blancpain in the Spa 24 Hours, before later becoming a freelancer with the Lotus F1 Team helping with PR and website content.
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