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Jamie Klein

Daytona 24H: Ganassi woes hand lead to AXR Cadillac at hour 15

Ex-Formula 1 driver Kevin Magnussen had raced to a 30-second lead aboard the #02 Ganassi Cadillac DPi-V.R in the early morning hours, but an as-yet unexplained technical issue dropped the car to fourth with nine hours to go.

That meant it was Pipo Derani in command aboard the Whelen Engineering-sponsored #31 AXR Cadillac, just ahead of Loic Duval in the #5 JDC-Miller MotorSports Caddy.

All seven DPi entries remained on the lead lap at the halfway stage, but it wasn’t long before two cars hit trouble, namely the #48 Ally Racing and #01 Ganassi Cadillacs.

First to hit trouble was the Action Express Racing-run #48 car, as Jimmie Johnson made contact with a backmarker in the infield and sustained right-rear damage, the NASCAR ace-turned IndyCar driver limping back to the pits.

The car went behind the wall, with Johnson eventually emerging 23 laps down.

#48 Action Express Cadillac DPi: Mike Rockenfeller, Kamui Kobayashi, Jimmie Johnson, Jose Maria Lopez (Photo by: Richard Dole / Motorsport Images)

Soon after, it was the turn of the #01 Ganassi Caddy, which briefly led in the hands of Sebastien Bourdais, to hit trouble. An electrical issue was cited for Bourdais bringing in the car for lengthy repairs, which ended up taking 43 laps to complete.

After the #01 crew’s misfortune, Filipe Albuquerque in the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura passed the #5 machine of Richard Westbrook to lead, but Albuqerque’s time out front proved short-lived as Magnussen picked off both the #5 and #10 cars in quick succession.

Albuquerque was able to keep Magnussen in his sights initially, but the Ganassi driver at this stage enjoyed a major pace advantage and stretched out a lead of some 30 seconds.

That was until halfway through the 15th hour, when Magnussen slowed and posted a lap some 50 seconds off the pace, before getting back up to speed. The delay allowed the #31 AXR car of Derani, which had jumped the WTR Acura in the pits, into the lead.

Just prior to the 15-hour mark, the 12th full-course yellow of the race was called following a major incident involving the #7 Forty7 Motorsports Duqueine at Turn 2.

WTR driver Will Stevens had slipped behind Duval in the #5 JDC-Miller Cadillac in the fight for second before the caution, with Alex Lynn fourth in the #02 Ganassi car he took over from Magnussen followed by Simon Pagenaud’s #60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura.

JDC-Miller MotorSports had led at the halfway stage of the race following penalties for rival squads Chip Ganassi Racing and Meyer Shank Racing, with Richard Westbrook enjoying a slender lead aboard the #5 JDC Cadillac DPi-V.R.

#5 JDC Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi: Tristan Vautier, Richard Westbrook, Loic Duval, Ben Keating (Photo by: Richard Dole / Motorsport Images)

That followed an eventful couple of hours in which the overall lead changed hands multiple times amid a succession of caution periods.

The erstwhile-leading #02 Chip Ganassi Cadillac was the first DPi runner to hit trouble when Alex Lynn picked up a puncture and then a penalty for not controlling the restart properly after the seventh full-course yellow period.

That left Ricky Taylor at the head of the field in the WTR Acura ahead of the similar Meyer Shank machine of Tom Blomqvist, with Taylor handing off to Rossi during a green-flag pitstop shortly before the eighth FCY.

At the restart, Blomqvist grabbed the advantage with a brave move on Rossi at the recently-renamed Le Mans chicane, although MSR lost out at the next round of stops when Helio Castroneves took over the #60 Acura from Blomqvist.

Castroneves regained the initiative during the next round of stops at the following FCY period, running second behind the off-strategy #31 Action Express Racing Cadillac of Tristan Nunez and then taking the lead when Nunez stopped just after the 10th FCY period.

The succession of cautions allowed the #2 Cadillac, now in the hands of Earl Bamber, to get back on the lead lap, and the Ganassi machine soon emerged as the MSR Acura’s strongest challenger as Bamber scythed his way up the order.

Bamber managed to pass Castroneves to take the lead midway through the 12th hour, but lost the advantage when he pitted to hand over to Marcus Ericsson at the next round of stops, with Castroneves staying aboard the #60 car.

Both cars were then hit with penalties – Castroneves for pitlane speeding, and Ericsson for making contact with the AXR car of Nunez, which delayed both the #02 and #31 Cadillacs.

That temporarily put the #10 WTR car of Rossi back into the lead, but both Westbrook in the JDC-Miller Cadillac and Rockenfeller in the #48 Ally machine stayed out as the remainder of the DPi pitted under the subsequent FCY period.

The race restarted just before the 12-hour mark with Westbrook heading Rockenfeller, Castroneves and Sebastien Bourdais in the #01 Ganassi Cadillac. Filipe Albuquerque was fifth in the #10 WTR Acura ahead of Ericsson and the #31 AXR Cadillac, now in the hands of Mike Conway.

#10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05 Acura DPi: Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque, Alexander Rossi, Will Stevens (Photo by: Richard Dole / Motorsport Images)

LMP2: Team Nederland back to the fore

In LMP2, Racing Team Nederland had regained the advantage with Dylan Murry in the #29 ORECA well clear of the #81 DragonSpeed car of Colton Herta prior to the caution.

Rui Andrade was third for Tower Motorsports followed by James Allenin the best of the G-Drive Racing by APR entries and Nicolas Lapierre in the #51 PR1/Mathiasen car.

High Class Racing fell out of contention before the 12-hour mark, when Fabio Scherer suffered a major off at Turn 1, albeit the Swiss driver managed to coax the heavily-damaged #20 ORECA back to the pits.

GTD Pro: Porsche teams in command

In GT Daytona Pro, Pfaff Motorsports had cycled into the lead in the most recent round of stops with Mathieu Jaminet at the wheel of the team’s #9 Porsche 911 GT3 R.

Dennis Olsen had the KCMG Porsche in second, followed by Daniel Juncadella in the WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 that had been leading at the halfway stage.

Risi Competizione had moved back into the lead at one stage with James Calado driving the team’s Ferrari 488 GT3, but the car lost ground when Calado handed over to Davide Rigon, who was in fifth place at the 15-hour mark behind Kyle Kirkwood’s Vasser-Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3.

Lucas Auer led the pro-am GTD class in his Winward Racing Mercedes ahead of Jan Heylen in the Wright Motorsports Porsche and Spencer Pumpelly in the Magnus Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3.

Ollie Milroy was running in fourth in the Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3 that had been leading at halfway.


Riley Motorsports continues to dominate LMP3, with the #74 Ligier of Felipe Fraga running two laps ahead of Nic Jonsson in the #54 CORE autosport Ligier.

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