From the point on it was a battle of the Corvette DPs as Action Express Racing, both the #5 and the #31, and the #90 Visit Florida Racing machine started swapping for the lead.
For a while it was Joao Barbosa who had a handy lead in the #5 Action Express liveried car, but Dane Cameron in the Whelen Engineering backed machine wasn’t going to let his team mate get too confident.
The resulting battle saw the sister cars swapping places both on track and in the pits with neither car enjoying a massively long stint in the lead of the race.
That continued for a time, but the field was neutralised quite a while after Lucas Luhr in the #100 Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM suffered what must have been a very scary incident after a suspected brake failure ripped most of the right front corner from the car going into turn one. Luhr was thankfully unscathed in the incident but he did become the first GTLM car to retire.
When the track returned to green, the two Action Express cars found itself with the Visit Florida car of Marc Goossens to play with and the three proceeded to scrap with each other to see who could take their turn leading for a bit.
The #31 was well involved until an incident in the pitlane towards the final hour of this stint. While being refuelled a rather large fire ball engulfed the rear left of the car and left the car smoke filled for poor Dane Cameron who had initially clambered out before being ushered back in. When the issues were finally resolved, the car found itself in sixth place.
That meant during hour 16, Brendon Hartley in the #01 Chip Ganassi Ford-Riley was elevated to a podium position and proceeded to hassle the #90 – now piloted by Ryan Hunter-Reay – for second place. That continued until a round of pitstops close to the end of hour 16 where Ricky Taylor took over third place and the charge for second.
At the end of hour 16, Christian Fittipaldi was leading the race for the Action Express Racing team in the #5.
In Prototype Challenge it was a lot calmer as the JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca FLM09 driven by both Chris Miller and Kenton Koch during this stint had 18 or so laps over its rivals, which saw both the #52 and the #20 go behind the wall for various issues. It should have been an easy drive for Koch but he went into the tyre wall at turn one – the car made it back to the pits to fix bodywork damage but lost a few laps of its continuing lead.
GTLM saw a number of cars still on the lead lap all battle for position with Porsche, Corvette and BMW all taking their turns at the front of the category. Taking most of the time were both Oliver Gavin in the #4 Corvette Racing C.7R and Nick Tandy absolutely beasting the track in the #911 Porsche 911 RSR he was sharing during this stint with Patrick Pilet. Apart from the above incident with the #100, the only other issue was with the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 which went behind the wall to fix a number of issues.
There were no such issues for Tandy though, who completed a late round of pitstops in the lead of the race.
Finally GTD and the biggest incident to befall the class during hours 13-16 was an incident involving Antonio Perez in the #007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage and a Konrad Racing Lamborghini Huracan which collided at the Bus Stop. The Lamborghini managed to make it back on track after a stint in the garage to fix damage but the #007 had to retire because of its injuries.
At the front of the class Rene Rast was showing why he is an Audi master as he sent the #44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS (this time not a lego one!) to the lead of the GT3 based category.
He’s not having it all his own way though as both the Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche and the #97 Turner Motorsports BMW M6 of Markus Paltalla were keeping Rast honest in second and third place.
To keep track of the race, follow #TeamTCF’s live commentary here.