Rolex 24 Hour 1: Kobayashi leads for AXR Cadillac
Merriman, who had spun leaving pitlane before the start of the race, appeared to be wrong-footed by his closing rate on an LMP3 car ahead at the 50min mark, lost the rear end under braking and ripped off the front bodywork of his Oreca on a tire barrier.
Up front Kobayashi had been leading in Action Express Racing’s enduro-only entry that he shares with Mike Rockenfeller, Jimmie Johnson and Jose Maria Lopez, with Tristan Vautier running second for JDC Miller MotorSports and the two Ganassi Cadillacs.
However, the yellow flag prompted the DPis to pit for a second time, and when they emerged Kobayashi, Vautier and Bourdais were still 1-2-3, but both Filipe Albuquerque in the Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05 and Pipo Derani in the Whelen Engineeering AXR Caddy had demoted Bamber to sixth. Tom Blomqvist ran seventh for Meyer Shank Racing after a wheelnut issue in its first stop.
High Class Racing’s Dennis Andersen moved into the lead of LMP2 following the pitstop under the first caution, with Steven Thomas second for PR1 Mathaisen Motorsport, Eric Lux third for DragonSpeed, Fritz van Eerd of Racing Team Nederland fourth, and Scott Huffaker taking over Ben Keating’s PR1 car in fifth.
Gar Robinson’s Riley Motorsport Ligier emerged from pitlane ahead of erstwhile LMP3 leader Jarett Andretti, followed by Efrin Castro of Muehlner Motorsports, Mark Kvamme in the Forty7 car and CR Crews of Muehlner.
Porsche 911 GT3Rs run 1-2-4 in GTD Pro, Mathieu Jaminet in the Pfaff Motorsports car leading Julien Andlauer in the WeatherTech machine. Patrick Pilet is fourth in the KCMG Porsche but is behind Rolf Ineichen in the TR3 Racing Lamborghini Huracan.
In fifth is Ben Barnicoat in the Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F ahead of the two Corvettes, which are split by Ross Gunn in the Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage.
Till Bectolsheimer’s Gradient Racing Acura NSX leads GTD ahead of all the GTD Pro cars, while second in class is Michael De Quesada’s ALegra Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT3, and the similar Winward car of Russell Ward.
Then come the two McLarens of Inception Racing and Crucial Motorsports, chased by the pro-am VSR Lexus of Frankie Montecalvo.
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan-run BMW M4s have suffered a double blow, the #24 behind the pitwall with rear-end damage, and Connor De Phillippi suffering a long stop.