A 20 minute caution period at the start of the ninth hour of the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona allowed teams to catch their breath as issues and punctures befell cars in all four IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship classes.
The hour started with the seventh caution period of the race as the #16 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Brett Sandberg went off at the bus stop and led to a lengthy yellow flag period as the rain started to get heavier.
Just a fraction before the yellows came out, the GT Daytona Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi R8 LMS of Connor De Phillippi had to pit with a right-rear puncture as the usual debris that accumulates over the course of a 24 hour race managed to shred the leader’s wheel and made them come in for a pitstop annoyingly close to the start of the full course caution – where they could have got away with losing less time rather than pitting under full green conditions.
After 20 minutes under caution Daytona was bathed in green once again and, with the handy split between the prototype and GT fields because of late stops for the GTs, Ricky Taylor was relatively undisturbed as his Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi pulled five seconds on the Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi of Brendon Hartley.
In GT Le Mans, the cycle of pitstops under caution benefitted the BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTE of Bill Auberlen found himself in second place and trying to bring the fight to Sebastien Bourdais in the #66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT but he was having to keep one eye looking backwards. That’s because Jan Magnussen closed in rapidly in the #3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R.
Auberlen tried his best to hold on, but Magnussen and then Tony Kanaan in the #69, the second of the four Ford GTs, got past the BMW. After that, the BMW M6 slipped quite dramatically down the order and found himself languishing in seventh place in class.
As the hour ended, Kanaan managed to get past the Corvette and ensure the Fords continued their dominance at the front of GTLM.
In the Prototype class, another car experiencing an alarming fall was the #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac driven during the hour by Dane Cameron found itself in seventh overall and struggling to keep pace with the JDC-Miller Motorsports’ Oreca 07, a legacy of earlier damage coming back to haunt the Action Express Racing team.
Prototype Challenge saw the masterful drive of the Performance Tech Motorsport Oreca FLM09, driven by James French, continue as the BAR1 Motorsports cars started to swap places as the #26 of Johnny Mowlem claimed second in class from the #20 of Don Yount.
In GT Daytona, the leaders kept changing with increasing regularity but praise must be given to a mega hour-long stint from the 3GT Racing Lexus RCF of Dominik Farnbacher who stretched the fuel load of that car longer than anyone imagined to keep the Porsche 911 GT3Rs of Alegra Motorsports and CORE autosport behind for much of the ninth hour.
There was late drama though as six minutes before the hour ended, Farnbacher started crawling round the bottom of the banking at NASCAR turns three and four with major damage to the right-hand side as the rear-right tyre explosively punctured and tore the right corner off the car and became the subject of quite major work by the team’s mechanics as they replaced the right-hand door and taped up chunks of the rest of what was left on that side.
That allowed the CORE Porsche of Colin Braun to inherit the class lead in the face of a hard challenge from the Acura NSX GT3s of Michael Shank Racing with Graham Rahal leading from Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Top 3 by class after 9 hours
10 Wayne Taylor Racing Konica Minolta – Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor ,Max Angelelli, Jeff Gordon
22 Tequila Petron ESM – Bruno Senna, Brendon Hartley, Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek
5 Mustang Sampling Racing – Joao Barbosa, Filipe Albuquerque, Christian Fittipaldi
38 Performance Tech Motorsports – James French, Patricio OWard, Kyle Masson, Nicholas Boulle
26 BAR1 Motorsports – Tom Papadopoulos, Johnny Mowlem, Adam Merzon, Trent Hindman, David Cheng
20 BAR1 Motorsports – Don Yount, Buddy Rice, Mark Kvamme, Chapman Ducote,Gustavo Yacaman
66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing – Dirk Mueller, Joey Hand, Sebastien Bourdais
69 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing – Tony Kanaan,
3 Corvette Racing – Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Mike Rockenfeller
54 CORE Autosport – Jonathan Bennett, Colin Braun, Nic Jonsson, Patrick Long
93 Michael Shank Racing – Andy Lally, Katherine Legge, Mark Wilkins, Graham Rahal
86 Michael Shank Racing – Jeff Segal, Ozz Negri Jr., Tom Dyer, Ryan Hunter-Reay