Wayne Taylor Racing’s Ricky Taylor is leading the 2015 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona as the race heads into its ninth hour.
Taylor (driving the #10 Minolta WTR Corvette DP) inherited first place half an hour before the eight-hour mark after erstwhile leader Sebastien Bourdais missed his braking spot at the chicane in the #5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP.
Three full course cautions kept the racing tight as Daytona became shrouded in darkness, with a heavy collision involving the #007 TRG-Aston Martin and the GTLM class #51 AF Corse Ferrari causing the most significant interruption.
The fourth hour began with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Sage Karam (#01 Riley-Ford DP) setting an unprecedented pace at the head of the field, stretching his legs to create a 15 second gap ahead of Christian Fittipaldi in the #5 Action Express car.
At the same time Wayne Taylor Racing’s Max Angelelli was closing in on the leading duo, and managed to pass Fittipaldi heading into the chicane. Angelelli then inherited the lead from Karam, which he maintained until a stray GTD Porsche prompted a full course caution.
Angelelli’s advantage was quickly usurped by the Chip Ganassi Racing cars of Joey Hand (#01) and Tony Kanaan (#02) after the Italian veteran made a pit stop under a closed pit apron. The #10 car then had to serve an inevitable stop and go penalty, which demoted it to fifth.
The next 45 minutes were characterised by another period of Ganassi supremacy, as Hand and Kanaan surged ahead of the field together. However, this position of control didn’t last long. A fluid leak on Kanaan’s car confined it to the Chip Ganassi Racing pit garage, and only after a hasty splitter change was the Riley-Ford DP permitted to rejoin the race, two laps behind the leader.
An unscheduled stop for the sister car then pushed Chip Ganassi Racing back down the order, allowing the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing and #5 Action Express DPs to make their mark at the head of the field. Ricky Taylor’s pass on Bourdais saw the lead change hands again, with the #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP of Michael Valiante discretely moving up to third.
Taylor was then able to forge a comfortable six second lead thanks to an efficient display of traffic management. The 2014 runner up was in firm control of the race heading into the ninth hour.
In GTLM a clear leader is still yet to be uncovered, although several protagonists have emerged in the form of the #3 Magnussen/Garcia/Briscoe Corvette, the #25 Auberlein/Werner/Farfus/Spengler BMW Team RLL entry and the #911 Porsche North America 911 RSR driven by Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Marc Lieb.
In the seventh hour the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari (that had recovered from two off-track excursions) joined in on the action, with Olivier Beretta doing his best to deter Jan Magnussen. Corvette regular Magnussen was able to hold his track position in spite of Beretta’s assault, but the duel allowed Tandy and DTM star Augusto Farfus to close in and provide the fans with a thrilling GT dogfight that is set to continue into the night. At present, Porsche factory driver Tandy is holding the lead in GTLM after issuing a green flag overtake on Magnussen’s Corvette with minutes to spare in the eighth hour.
The PC class has been the most spread out of the four, but not without plenty of drama. The #54 CORE Autosport Oreca FLM09 of James Gue held a clear advantage in the fifth hour, but as the race progressed past the six hour mark the #8 Starworks Motorsport entry emerged as the car to beat. A left-rear puncture for CORE Autosport’s Colin Braun posed a further setback, enabling Alex Popow to pilot the Martini-liveried #8 car to a one lap advantage.
The lead battle in GTD was initially a Ferrari-exclusive affair, with the #49 AF Corse 458 GT3 and the #63 Scuderia Corsa entry setting the pace in the fifth hour. A full course caution just after the six hour mark for an errant Starworks Motorsport DP bunched up the GTD field so that the top six entries were all on the lead lap. The #93 Dodge Viper of Kuno Wittmer was heading the field between cautions until an unscheduled stop allowed the #63 Ferrari of Jeff Segal to re-inherit the lead.