Daytona 24: Fernando Alonso's flying pace interrupted by red flags
Fernando Alonso was in fine form in the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi. The Spaniard worked his way up to the lead of the race, passing both the #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac and the Team Penske Acura to take the lead in DPi and opened up a significant gap on two separate occasions, before the race was eventually red flagged due to extreme weather conditions.
The Oviedo native had, at that point, already lost the pressure from some of Cadillac's biggest rivals. The two Mazda DPIs had already suffered significant mechanical issues, with the #55 the only car left running before it was struck from behind by an unseen car, sending Olivier Pla into a spin at the exit of the International Horseshoe. The Mazda suffered significant damage to the suspension and bodywork and was eventually forced to retire.
With the Mazdas now out of the running, the battle in DPi became a fight between the Wayne Taylor and Action Express Cadillacs and the Team Penske Acuras, with Jordan Taylor, Alexander Rossi and Felipe Nasr fighting hard for the top spots in the class. The #54 Nissan, having suffered from electrical issues earlier, worked its way up and is currently four laps behind the leaders.
JDC-Miller Motorsports and Mustang Sampling Racing both ran into issues. Rubens Barrichello brought the #85 car in with damage to the left rear, and the #5 also suffered damage on the left rear from a collision.
The wet conditions wreaked havoc on the #18 Dragonspeed ORECA LMP2, with Ryan Cullen having several trips into the tyre barrier, arriving in the pits for repairs on several occasions, suffering engine issues and even leaving a part of the car's tail section on the infield. This allowed the sister car, the #81, to strongly grab the lead. The difference between the two is now three laps, with the other two LMP2 competitors running further behind.
Corvette's night at Daytona is one they would like to forget quite quickly. Antonio Garcia had barely taken the lead in the #3 C7.R before the yellow challenger came to a halt on the oval and had to be towed back. A fuel pressure issue was mostly likely to blame for Corvette handing the lead back to Porsche. Several hours later, as the rain started to become heavier, Tommy Milner lost control of the #4 Corvette and crashed into the tyre barrier on at the runoff area at turn one.
BMW Team RLL also suffered issues, with the #24 of Jesse Krohn picking up a puncture and bodywork damage after running wide in the infield section. The rain also caught out both of the Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT's, with both Sebastién Bourdais and Scott Dixon spinning out in a similar fashion at turn two, with the Frenchman taking a trip into the tyre barrier.
With cars going of left and right, it was Porsche and Ferrari who kept up the consistent running and fought a hard battle for the front, with James Calado, Patrick Pilet, Earl Bamber and Fred Macowiecki running at the front at some point. Just after the 14-hour point, Patrick Pilet, Laurens Vanthoor, Sebastién Bourdais, James Calado and Augusto Farfus were separated by less than three seconds in a five-car fight for the GTLM lead.
The GTD fight was mostly between Audi, Lexus, Acura, Ferrari and Mercedes-AMG. The #86 of Trent Hindman was a strong front runner, but had heavy competition from the #12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 and the #33 Riley Motorsports Mercedes AMG-GT3. Meanwhile, the Audi R8s, which struggled in qualifying, worked their way to the front. Team WRT Speedstar and Montaplast by Land Motorsport soon were in the fight for the lead as the rain intensified. The wet conditions nearly caught out Luca Stolz, who was leading at the time. The German lost traction in turn one and was forced to run wide in the #33 Mercedes, but did not suffer any damage.
Several other GTD runners encountered problems. The #8 Starworks Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo went behind the wall with just under eleven hours to go. PFAFF Motorsports, the Canadian team, ran into several issues regarding the front headlights of their Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Current class leaders at the time of writing:
DPi: Fernando Alonso - #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-VR
LMP2: James Allen - #81 Dragonspeed ORECA LMP2
GTLM: Alessandro Pier Guidi - #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE
GTD: AJ Allmendinger - #86 Meyers Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3