Joao Barbosa continued to build the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac‘s lead at the end of hour three of the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Despite having a previous lead being wiped out by the race’s first caution, Barbosa made a great restart and continued to build the gap over the #22 ESM Nissan of Pipo Derani.
The hour began with Fernando Alonso pitting from the lead and handing the #23 United Autosports Ligier over to Phil Hanson.
Despite lacking the speed of the front-runners, the United Autosports Ligier was proving to be the most economical of the prototype runners and Hanson finished the hour in an impressive 7th.
The long-time Cadillac podium lock-out was being threatened by the rapid Derani and was in second place and closing in on Barbosa when the race’s first caution period was called.
The #38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA had been making an making a very impressive debut in the Prototype class, having run as high as fifth in the hands of Patricio O’Ward in the first hour.
Yet the car ground to a halt on the oval, as James French ran out of fuel while trying to pursue an over ambitious fuel strategy .
Despite having a comfortable four second lead being wiped out by the caution, Barbosa had the advantage of the two lapped Jackie Chan Jota Racing cars between him and Derani on the restart.
This enabled him to sprint away and quickly re-build his lead, despite Derani quickly clearing the lapped cars.
Behind him the battle for third was hotting up as the Cadillacs of Ryan Hunter-Reay, Matt McMurray and Stuart Middleton and the #6 Acura of Simon Pagenaud traded places.
McMurray in the #90 Spirit of Daytona car had held the position at the restart, but within one lap he had dropped to sixth as first Hunter-Reay and then Pagenaud and Middleton forced their way past the Cadillac.
Middleton was impressing in his first prototype race in the #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac, a drive he won due to winning the Sunoco Challenge, mixing it with some of the best sports car drivers in the world and ended the hour in fifth.
The new Mazda Team Joest partnership endured more problems as the #77 of Tristan Nunez suffered a puncture and the #55 was slowed several times with electrical issues.
In GTLM, the #66 Ford GT of Dirk Muller still leads ahead of the two yellow Corvettes of the #3 of Antonio Garcia and the #4 of Tommy Milner.
James Calado was delayed as a loose door of the #62 Risi Competitizone Ferrari forced him to pit under caution to have it changed but remained in touch with the leaders.
In GTD Luca Stolz lead in the #33 Mercedes Team Riley car ahead of former leader Christopher Mies in the #29 Audi with Katherine Legge rounding out the podium in the #86 Michael Shank Racing Acura.
The #11 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan continued its charge from the back of the field as Rik Breukers powered the lime green Lambo at the edge of the podium by hour’s end.
During the caution period both Lexuses experienced problems as they both moved off the circuit and slowed slip road.
Their problems dropped the former class front runners to 11th and 12th in class.
The #58 Wright Motorsports Porsche which crashed on the formation lap finally reappeared but was 58 laps behind the leaders.
TOP 3 AFTER 3 HOURS
5 Mustang Sampling Racing – Joao Barbosa, Filipe Albuquerque, Christian Fittipaldi
22 Tequila Patron ESM – Pipo Derani, Nicolas Lapierre, Johannes Van Overbeek
10 Wayne Taylor Racing Konica Minolta – Renger van der Zande, Jordan Taylor, Ryan Hunter-Reay
66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing – Dirk Mueller, Joey Hand, Sebastien Bourdais
3 Corvette Racing- Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Mike Rockenfeller
4 Corvette Racing- Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Marcel Fassler
33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley- Luca Stolz, Ben Keating, Adam Christodoulou, Jeroen Bleekemolen
29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsports – Sheldon van der Linde, Kelvin van der Linde, Jeffrey Schmidt, Christopher Mies
86 Michael Shank Racing – Katherine Legge, Alvaro Parente, Trent Hindman, AJ Allmendinger