The first four hours of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona featured plenty of exciting racing, as the teams strove to develop an early edge over their rivals.
Panoz DeltaWing Racing controlled much of the opening stanza, with Katherine Legge producing a memorable first stint to reach the head of the field in the first 60 minutes.
Legge had to come from the back of the Prototype pack after the DeltaWing team opted to miss qualifying, but the much improved DWC13 was able to pick through the DP and LMP2 runners at a remarkable pace.
Fellow Briton Andy Meyrick then took over for the dusk stint and continued his team-mate’s good work, but a hefty collision with a PC machine at the four hour mark immediately forced the car into retirement.
The start of the race was dominated by Pipo Derani in the ESM Ligier JS P2-HPD, but later contact with the Michael Shank Racing Ligier of John Pew set the team back.
Chip Ganassi Racing cycled to the lead after 95 minutes when Scott Dixon stayed out at the second full course yellow. The Kiwi then drove an impressive stint to hand the #02 Riley-Ford over to Jamie McMurray, who also had a spell at the front of the field.
Jonathan Bomarito held the overall lead at four hours, driving the #55 Mazda Prototype. Jonny Adam was second at the cut-off in the #31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP, while Max Angelelli sat third for Wayne Taylor Racing.
GTLM started as many had predicted, with the two Porsche 911 RSRs leading a train of Corvettes, BMWs, Ferraris and Fords. Nick Tandy and Fred Makowiecki established some daylight between themselves and the BMWs in the early running, but the gap did not last long when the pit stops came into effect.
An aggressive opening stint from Joey Hand briefly put the #66 Ford GT into the class lead as he battled with the two Porsches. Hand’s determination came at a cost, however, as his car was pushed behind the wall after slowing at the bottom of the banking. The other Ford fared even worse with Ryan Briscoe bringing the car in after only a few minutes with a driveline issue.
At the four hour mark it was Antonio Garcia (#4 Corvette C7.R) leading the way in GTLM from Patrick Pilet (#911 Porsche) and Davide Rigon (#68 Ferrari 488).
Despite being a spec category there was a clear leader in Prototype Challenge during the firs four hours of running. PR/1 Mathiasen Motorsports led at the milestone under caution, but so far the race had been all about the JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca FLM09 which had dominated under the command of Stephen Simpson.
Similarly, the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 led much of the GT Daytona category, but trailed the identical #28 Konrad Motorsport machine in the pits as the race entered its fifth hour. Third in class was the #6 Stevenson Motorsport Audi R8, which had moved up during the fourth caution.
You can follow live coverage of the Rolex 24 at Daytona here, courtesy of The Checkered Flag.