Rolex 24 at Daytona: The 2011 Racing Season Kicks Off
The Rolex 24 marks the traditional beginning of the racing season. Each year, the Rolex Sports Car Series goes around the clock twice on the famed Daytona International Speedway road course. This prestigious event attracts some of the top drivers and teams in all of racing, and its list of past winners are the most notable in motorsport. You can catch the event live on SPEED from 3 PM EDT to 10 PM EDT Saturday, and from 9 AM EDT to its conclusion at 4 PM EDT on Sunday.
And just about six hours in, with six Daytona Prototypes (Hand, Patterson, Wilkins, Allmendinger, France, Rice) on the lead lap, it's time for me to sign off for today. I hope you've enjoyed my live blogging coverage of the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Bleacher Report. Again, the SPEED TV coverage lasts until 10 PM EDT and will resume from 9 AM to 4 PM EDT tomorrow; in the meantime, check out the Rolex Series on Twitter or follow its live timing and scoring charts. Thank you again and good night!
The No. 86 Mitchum Motorsports Porsche is off track once again, this time with Derek Whitis behind the wheel.
Joey Hand leads the field down to the green, with J.C. France, Mark Patterson, Mark Wilkins, and A.J. Allmendinger behind.
Spirit of Daytona also under lengthy service in the pits.
The No. 02 is receiving a gear cluster change as its teammate, the No. 01 did, earlier on in the event. No word from Ganassi manager Mike Hull on whether or not it's for the same reason as before, something else, or a pre-emptive strike before running into problems. They will lose a lap, however.
I'll be signing off shortly - but not to worry, I do plan on coming back tomorrow, and still have a few more updates left in me. When I go, however, be sure to follow the race through the Rolex Series' Twitter account and through live timing and scoring. Meanwhile, the race is under yellow after Jared Beyer went off course in his No. 7 Starworks car.
Joey Hand (No. 01), Jamie McMurray (No. 02), Buddy Rice (No. 5), J.C. France (No. 9, in his first race since running into drug abuse issues a couple years ago), and Mark Patterson (No. 23) comprise the top five through 173 laps. The No. 5, with Rice and Donohue behind the wheel has led the most laps with 54 of that total.
Ganassis are running 1-2, Action Express cars running 3-4. In effect, these are the teams that have won the past five Rolex 24s (consider that Action Express, upon its founding last year, was basically the second Brumos team from 2009, and almost all of the former Brumos DP operation right now).
Another sideswipe from a competitor puts SunTrust behind the wall - this time from Montoya. An impatient Montoya tried to pass a GT and turned right into the right side of Ricky Taylor. Max Angelelli tried to drive it and only lasted one lap before claiming the toe needed adjustment. Wayne Taylor probably wants to strangle somebody right about now.
SunTrust pits after 30 laps but does not change their tires. A pretty gutsy move there with all of the tire woes we saw some teams experience earlier.
Montoya's ascent complete; Rojas second, Fittipaldi third, Maassen fourth, Rice fifth.
Brumos is now in the lead. They're actually not fielding the car out of their traditional home in Jacksonville right now; instead, they've partnered with a team in Atlanta to get them up to speed on the GTs and will begin fielding out of their own shop after the Homestead event.
Rice has about a five second lead on Ricky Taylor. And look who's in third - Montoya! No doubt he wants to make up for last year's mechanical failure.
Turner isn't the only GT team on the lead lap now - Brumos Porsche, in their first GT event in quite a while, is now P2 and on the same lap.
With a daring move on Christian Fittipaldi, Juan Montoya exhibits in one instance the recurring theme of this event thus far - that is, that drivers are racing too hard too quickly and using up their cars. Meanwhile Wayne Taylor is unhappy with Jon Fogarty, who got into some trouble with Ricky Taylor on track while eight laps down. "Fogarty's asleep out there... he took us out in July and he nearly took us out now."
A few GT cars in trouble - among them, Eric Curran with heavy damage to the door of his No. 07, and last year's title-winning car, the No. 69 of Nick Ham, with right front trouble. Rob Bell in the No. 48 started the chain reaction, Ham braked to avoid, and Curran plowed into the side of him.
Rice leads McDowell on the restart as Rojas takes turn one wide.
And Montoya just got his lap back, putting Colin Braun in that position - first car one lap down, P11 - instead. Bergmeister, who has returned to the No. 45, did the same. Only 18 more laps to make up for that team.
Nine DPs now on the lead lap: Rojas, Taylor, Sascha Maassen, Rice, Michael McDowell, Brundle, Fittipaldi, Luis Diaz, Tracy Krohn. The first car off the lead lap is that of Juan Montoya, who looks to rebound from the two flat tires that car experienced earlier with Dixon and Franchitti behind the wheel.
Huge oil puddles in the interior flat section of the track, likely from the No. 36 Mazda of Yellow Dragon Motorsports currently wheeled by Mikel Miller. Yellow out, oil flag out.
The Gainsco car returns to the track in P26 overall, P14 in class, nine laps off the pace. Meanwhile Ricky Taylor has been passed by Memo Rojas and a handful of lapped DPs. He's now in second, Rojas in first.
We are under a full-course yellow that will bunch up the field. The front bumper - yes, the entire front bumper - of the No. 17 Porsche came off of the vehicle.
Gainsco car is now down five laps with no end to the brake change in clear sight. Keep in mind two things: first, that there are 20 hours or so left in this race for them to make up time, but second, that these cars are generally reliable enough to keep running and running and not stop for 24 hours, without any real lengthy problems to put them behind the wall. It may just be a bit much to ask of any team to come back from that far behind.
Rojas now within seven of Taylor, Rice sliding back, Fittipaldi stagnant. Gainsco car is now replacing the right front brake rotors and calipers in the garage.
Three cars now within ten seconds of the leader, still Ricky Taylor: Rice is about three seconds back in the No. 5, Christian Fittipaldi is back about six in the No. 9, and Memo Rojas about ten back in the No. 01.
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