2017 Rolex 24 Hours 1-4
Divebombs and Pylons
Written by: Alex Williams
The start was lively but not entertaining, per the new IMSA rule that the Prototypes and the GT fields will start in one group. The resulting traffic meant some P and PC cars started deep within the GTLM field, and as a result there was next to no passing. Polesitter Joao Barbosa in the #5 Action Express-Cadillac lead Ricky Taylor in the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing-Cadillac and Dane Cameron in the #31 Action Express-Cadillac in the first few minutes. The three car breakaway separated the Rebellion #13 and the JDC Miller #85 from the front. That was until the full course caution at just 7 and a half minutes in. Rolex 24 rookie Geert Mul of the Netherlands spun his #16 Lamborghini at the 2nd horseshoe and hit the tire barrier. He sat 14th in the GTD class at the time
This brought out a full course caution to remove the car. The #81 Dragonspeed received a drive-thru penalty for pitting in a closed pit lane under the caution which put them even deeper in the GT field, and the #52 PR1/Mathiason experienced some headlight issues which kept them in the pitlane. The race went back to green after 5 minutes. Around half an hour in, the front 3 started incurring GTD traffic which brought them a little closer together. Soon after, the #24 BMW from the GTLM class stalled on the entry to the pits and came to a stop in the fast lane, closing pit road. The team was allowed to push the car to the garage and the pits were soon reopened.
40 minutes in, the #911 Porsche blew a tire on the backstretch and had to pit, putting them a lap behind the class leaders. Up at the front, Dane Cameron hung it around the outside of his teammate and race leader in turn 1 and took the lead. Not long later Ricky Taylor began to challenge him for 2nd overall, but ultimately backed off and was left empty handed.
An hour and a half into the race, Scott Pruett crashed his #14 into the concrete pit wall at the turn 3 chicane. The brand new Lexus on its competition debut, had an apparent traction control issue that caught out the 56 year old, 13 year Rolex 24 veteran. The car was a write off, and the second full course yellow was displayed. Under the yellow, the Rebellion lost power and pitted. The #70 Mazda experienced a similar issue and was also relegated to spending most of the caution period under yellow.
Like most P class cars, WTR decided to take the opportunity to pit. However, pulled Ricky out of the car in favor of the faster Jeff Gordon. The 3 time Daytona 500 winner and future NASCAR hall of famer led his first laps of the race under yellow. The #31 Action Express was the only other car to have a driver change. They put in 21 year old Welsh GP3 driver Seb Morris. On the restart, Seb jumped the gun and got around Jeff for the race lead in an aggressive maneuver, and used traffic as a pick to keep himself in the lead. As they went on the brakes for the first horseshoe turn 4, the Tom Long in the strikken #70 Mazda was leaving the pits and got in the way of the leaders. Gordon got hard onto the brakes and locked them up and hit the #70, sending it spinning. It was an embrassing moment for the Rolex 24 rookie who was under a lot of pressure to perform. He was jumped by Barbosa for 2nd following the collision.
The ensuing hour and a half minutes was quiet with no drama until 3hrs and 15mins in when during green flag stops, the #31 AX car from the lead stalled leaving the pit box. The started motor failed and the car wouldn’t refire. The team pushed the car backwards about 30 feet into the garage, then pushed it back to get a roll refire, and the car was on its way. IMSA has a rule about pushing a car a distance down the pit lane, and the team used the pit box location to their advantage, as not to exceed the maximum push distance rule.
10 Minutes later, John Falb behind the wheel of the #8 Starworks in the PC class lost control into the bus stop and collected the #73 Park Place Porsche, Matt McMurray was behind the wheel. The who cars damaged the tire wall and brought out another full course yellow. The race went back to green after 20 minutes.
Running order after 4 hours:
1st - #10 M. Angelelli (WTR)
2nd - #5 C. Fittipaldi (Action Express)
3rd - #31 E. Curran (Action Express)
4th - #81 B. Hanley (DragonSpeed)
5th - #90 R. Rast (Spirit of Daytona)
1st - #38 N. Boulle (Performance Tech)
2nd - #88 S. Rayhall (Starworks)
3rd - #20 M. Kvamme (BAR1)
4th - #26 T. Hindman (BAR1)
5th - #8 J. Falb (Starworks)
1st - #66 D. Mueller (Ford)
2nd - #62 G. Fisichella (Scuderia Corse)
3rd - #67 R. Briscoe (Ford)
4th - #3 A. Garcia (Corvette)
5th - #4 M. Fassler (Corvette)
1st - #63 M. Cressoni (Scuderia Corse)
2nd - #50 T. Jaeger (Riley)
3rd - #96 J. Krohn (Turner)
4th - #54 N. Jonsson (CORE)
5th - #11 R. Ineichen (GRT Grasser)