Photo: Courtesy of IMSA

2020 Rolex 24 Eight Hour Update: Much Change Up Front

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

DAYTONA — The dominant cars near the start of the 2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona aren’t necessarily in the lead, but as the season-opening race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship continues, strategy becomes more and more important.

The No. 77 Mazda Team Joest RT24-P led from pole position and dominated the earlier portion of the race, but the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi came alive with Kamui Kobayashi behind the wheel. One of the winners last year with Wayne Taylor Racing, Kobayashi did what he could to fight the Mazda on the track, but a pit road speeding penalty put the No. 10 back into the pits for a drive-thru penalty.

Kobayashi fought hard and the No. 10 is currently second to the No. 77 at the eight hour mark. The field is currently under caution following the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports LMP2 entry hitting the tire barrier at Turn 3 and getting wedged in there.

Not all was well for all DPi contenders, however. The No. 55 Mazda entry with Harry Tincknell behind the wheel collided with the No. 7 Acura Team Penske with Helio Castroneves in the cockpit. Castroneves spun and hit the wall with the rear of the car before the four hour mark, necessitating 39 minutes of repair work in the garage area. The No. 7 fell to last in the 38 car field but is currently 19th. The No. 55 was handed a drive-thru penalty for incident responsibility.

In LMP2, Ben Keating had what can only be described as a perfect opening stint in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports entry, as the mandated bronze participant in that car pulled off a lead of over 50 seconds by the third hour of the race. However, the No. 8 Tower Motorsport by Starworks entry managed to close the gap and managed to lead in the later portions of the first third of the race. Under the full course yellow, the No. 52 led the No. 81 Dragonspeed entry and the No. 8 Tower Motorsport entry by a few seconds.

The GTLM battle at the start of the race was dominated by the Nos. 911 and 912 Porsche 911 RSR-19 entries. However, as the sun went down, the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE came to life and currently leads the class ahead of the 912 and 911, respectively.

The only major catastrophe in GTLM came when the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE ran over some debris, cutting an oil line and requiring replacement in the garage area. That dropped the M8 13 laps behind the rest of the GTLM class who are all still on the same lap.

In GTD, small mistakes drastically adjusted the race for many other competitors. The No. 47 Precision Performance Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan GT3 was pitting and the No. 23 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 was following it under the yellow line. However, when the Lamborghini hit the brakes to slow down for pit entry, the Aston Martin plowed into the back of the Lamborghini, causing both to spin though the infield grass and bringing out the race’s first full course yellow after four hours and 43 minutes of racing.

Under caution, the No. 9 PFAFF Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R mistakenly took a wave-around and had to slow to let more cars past it. After dominating the first four hours of the race, the Canadian team is currently second.

The No. 23 Aston Martin was an instant retirement with heavy damage to the front suspension on the car. The other Aston Martin wasn’t able to escape the black cloud of bad luck as well. While the No. 3 Corvette Racing C8.R was overtaking the No. 98 Aston Martin, the Corvette moved slightly to the right, the two cars then making contact and spinning. The Aston Martin came in to pit for new tires, but then promptly understeered into the pit wall surrounding the pit exit lane. The No. 98 was also a retirement.

A technical problem on the No. 11 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 put the car behind the wall for 41 laps. The No. 11 entry had won the GTD class the previous two years at Daytona and won at Sebring in 2019.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.