The Prototype battle started to come to a boil at the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona as Max Angelelli started to bring the fight to Joao Barbosa in the Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac around the Daytona banking.
The final six hours, the length of a standard FIA World Endurance Championship race, started under caution after the bodywork from David Cheng’s BAR1 Motorsports Prototype Challenge car made a bid for freedom coming out of the Western Horseshose and needed a full course caution to allow the weather-beaten marshals to come out and clear up the debris.
Thankfully it was only a short caution perio and the race went green again with three-quarters of the hour left, but that twenty minutes of rest seemed to rot the brain of some Prototype Challege drivers as both the Starworks cars span going into the International Horseshoe on consecutive laps.
At the front there was no such dramas as Max Angelelli in the Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac was keeping the pace of race leader Joao Barbosa in the Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac and doing his best not to let the Portuguese racer drive off into the distance.
The battle would be helped in Angelelli’s favour as Barbosa got baulked in traffic, but the Italian couldn’t make the most of the opportunity and would finish the hour roughly an hour behind.
In GT Le Mans the hour developed into a good one for the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Sebastien Bourdais, which is not the first time that has been said. Just after the halfway mark Bourdais stretched out more than seven seconds over Toni Villander in the Risi Competizione Ferrari who himself was getting bothered by Laurens Vanthoor in his first race as a Porsche factory driver in the #912 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
As the hour finished, Vanthoor would play a bit of swapping game with teammate Patrick Pilet in the in the #911 but he would keep the podium position as the clock ticked down to five hours still to go.
Prototype Challenge was a lot less interesting, apart from the spins for Starworks, as the Performance Tech Motorsports #38 of Patricio O’Ward had a cushion of 14 laps over Johnny Mowlem in the #26.
GT Daytona saw a Ryan Hunter-Reay masterclass in the Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX as the IndyCar driver kept calm at the front of the mammoth class field and opened up a handy gap over Adam Christodoulou in the Riley Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT3 who was finding himself under increasing pressure from Matt Bell in the Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS who was running a strong stint in that car.
This would be how they stayed as the hour finished, with Hunter-Reay half-a-minute ahead of the Mercedes – that Acura still loving the ability to exploit the still damp track better than the cars behind.
Top 3 in each class after 19 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
66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing – Sebastien Bourdais, Joey Hand, Dirk Muller
62 Risi Competizione – Toni Villander, Giancarlo Fisichella, James Calado
912 Porsche GT Team – Kevin Estre, Laurens Vanthoor, Richard Lietz
86 Michael Shank Racing – Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ton Dyer, Ozz Negri Jr., Jeff Segal
33 Riley Motorsports – Team AMG – Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Mario Fernbacher, Adam Christodoulou
57 Stevenson Motorsports – Andrew Davis, Lawson Aschenbach, Matt Bell, Robin Liddell