Rolex 24 Hour 3: Stevens leads in Wayne Taylor Racing Acura
At the start of the second hour, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais was wrong-footed by the spinning GTD-class AF Corse Ferrari 488 of Luis Perez Companc, the four-time Champ Car winner having to bring his car to a near-halt in avoidance, causing him to fall to the back of the seven-car DPi class. But the #01 has been fighting back ever since, Bourdais moving into third after just before the second hour was over, and second place at the start of the third hour. He also holds the fastest lap of the race so far.
Bourdais had moved onto the tail – literally – of the leader, the #48 Action Express Racing Ally Racing Cadillac now driven by Jose Maria Lopez, before pitting at the 2hr15min and handing off to Renger van der Zande.
That triggered all the DPi cars to pit, and Lopez made an error on his cold tires, running long at Turn 6, which left van der Zande in the lead, a couple of seconds ahead of Will Stevens who was now at the wheel of the Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05.
Helio Castroneves pitted late in the Meyer Shank Racing Acura and that paid off nicely and moved up to third, just ahead of Tristan Nunez in the Whelen Engineering Action Express Racing #31 Cadillac. He was now ahead of teammate Lopez following the latter’s indiscretion, while Alex Lynn ran sixth in the #02 Ganassi Cadillac.
However, Lynn had passed Lopez and Nunez to take fourth just before he pitted and handed over the #02 Cadillac to Marcus Ericsson.
Ben Keating, pulling double-duty, ran seventh in the JDC Miller MotorSports Cadillac, as he made his DPi debut.
The second caution period flew as most of the DPi cars had made their fifth pitstops, but the unlucky driver left out on track was Castroneves. Meanwhile behind him, WTR had got Will Stevens out ahead of van der Zande, despite the latter pulling out a lead of 5.8sec before pitting. But with the yellow flag bringing everyone back in again, Ganassi took the opportunity to change the #01 car’s nose as it had lost a dive-plane in its earlier nudge of the #48 Caddy.
Thus Nunez now runs second ahead of Ericsson, Castroneves has only fallen to fourth, van der Zande is fifth ahead of Mike Rockenfeller – who had taken over the #48 Ally car from Lopez – and Keating.
PR1 Mathiasen MotorSports continued to run 1-2, with Mikkel Jensen in the #52 ahead of 15-year-old Josh Pierson in the #11 car, but following the pitstops under the second caution, the G-Drive with APR car of Tijmen van der Helm moved into second, while behind Pierson was the other G-Drive car of Oliver Rasmussen.
IndyCar race winner Rinus VeeKay in the Racing Team Nederland machine was fifth, with Devlin DeFrancesco sixth for DragonSpeed. The striking red and yellow car earlier had to serve two drive-throughs when Eric Lux hit pit personnel on one pitstop and then sped on pitlane when serving that penalty.
A fantastic all-Porsche 911 GT3R battle developed at the front of GTD Pro, with Felipe Nasr, Alex Imperatori and Alessio Picariello running 1-2-3 in the Pfaff Motorsports, KCMG and WeatherTech Racing cars respectively. They were then joined by James Calado in the Risi Competizione Ferrari. This quartet was being chased by reigning Indy Lights champion Kyle Kirkwood in the #14 Vasser Sullivan Racing Lexus, and Dirk Muller in the Proton Mercedes AMG GT3. Behind them ran the two Corvette C8.Rs of Tommy Milner and Jordan Taylor.
Just before the second caution flew at the end of the third hour (see below), Piccariello lunged down the inside of John Megrue in the #19 Lamborghini to lap him, and made hard enough contact to spin the Huracan around.
Another spinning GTD Ferrari, the Cetilar Racing machine driven by Roberto Lacorte, caused chaos at the – but not a yellow flag – when it spun at Turn 2, rolled backward into the #12 Lexus RC F driven by Frankie Montecalvo causing heavy rear end suspension damage to both the 488 and the Vasser Sullivan machine.
After the pitstops under caution, Calado led for Risi, ahead of Imperatori, Nasr, Milner, Kirkwood, Taylor and Alex Riberas in the Heart of Racing Aston Martin.
Up front in pro-am GTD was Sandy Mitchell of Carbahn with Peregrine Racing in the team’s first race with a Lamborghini Huracan. They were pursued by four Mercedes-AMG GT3s of Mikael Grenier (Winward), Kenny Habul (SunEnergy1), Michael de Quesada (Alegra) and Stevan McAleer (Gilbert Korthoff Motorsports).
Behind them in sixth ran the Wright Motorsports Porsche piloted by Ryan Hardwick.
Another Porsche was less healthy – namely the GMG machine driven by Kyle Washington which made hard contact with a barrier and brought out the second yellow and was retired.
In LMP3, Gar Robinson leads for Riley Motorsports in the Duqueine, chased by Josh Burdon in the Andretti Autosport entry with Georg Kurtz third in the CORE autosport machine.
A marshal who was struck by debris from Dwight Merriman’s Era Motorsport LMP2 car in the first hour has been taken to the local hospital for evaluation but he is awake with stable vital signs.