As the night grew darker and most of America went off to rest, Daytona roared with the sound of the many engines of the Rolex 24. The 2nd set of 6 hours saw less incidents and less cautions than the first six hours, but the action was not at all lacking. Here are some of the highlights from each hour of the race…
After several hours of green-flag racing, a full-course yellow came out once again as the #19 Lamborghini of Franck Perera stalled on the track. Smoke was coming out of the car, but the exact problem was not immediately clear.
Loic Duval (#5) jumped the restart and passed Helio Castroneves (#10) and Scott Dixon (#01) on the inside, and the race officials penalized the leading team with a drive-through penalty, which handed the lead over to Kamui Kobayashi in the #48.
Kobayashi didn’t hold the lead for long, however, as Dixon sped by and pulled away in traffic. Duval fell to 6th in class, almost 40 seconds behind the leaders.
A couple driver changes brought Renger van der Zande to the lead with Alexander Rossi (#10) following in 2nd, about 6 seconds behind. In the GTLM class, the #3 Corvette took the lead away from the #4 Corvette, continuing the early dominance of the organization. This time, however, the 62 Ferrari of James Calado, which had been involved in an incident earlier in the event, has used the caution to pull up to within 3.5 seconds of the GTLM lead.
Ferrari’s odds were looking better overall as the #21 Ferrari held the GTD lead halfway through the 8th hour, leading the strong #57 Mercedes-AMG by several seconds.
Kamui Kobayashi and Renger van der Zande are both attempting to win their 3rd consecutive Rolex 24, having won the last two with Wayne Taylor Racing (#10). Kobayashi drove to the lead ahead of van der Zande but the battle continued weaving through traffic.
.@kamui_kobayashi is looking to win three @Rolex24Hours at @Daytona IN A ROW.
He didn’t even think about lifting to take the lead here!
STREAM: https://t.co/i0bBT5nhRY pic.twitter.com/KLLbFMgXAH
— Motorsports on NBC (@MotorsportsNBC) January 31, 2021
As the clock struck midnight at Daytona, the race once again began to settle into an hour(s) long green-run, stretching the field apart and putting the teams in the position to conserve some effort for the 15 or so hours ahead.
Kamui Kobayashi (#48) settled into a comfortable lead in the DPi class after a cycle of pit stops, Thomas Merrill’s (#11) lead in the LMP2 class exceeded one full minute, and Steve McAleer’s LMP3 lead was nearing one full minute.
As for the GT classes, Antonio Garcia continued to lead the way for the Corvette’s by about a second over his Corvette teammate Tommy Milner. In GTD, Nicklas Nielsen led the way in his Ferrari by a handful of seconds.
7x NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson took over the #48 for Kobayashi and assumed the lead after the DPi class cycled through pit stops. However, van der Zande did not switch out in his pit stop, and the Chip Ganassi driver continued to chip away at Johnson’s lead, closing to within a second.
After a round of pit stops, Renger van der Zande took over the lead of the race with a steady margin of 4-5 seconds ahead of Jimmie Johnson, though the gap would widen as time goes on.
After leading much of the event, the #5 Cadillac was found in the garage with heavy damage and another penalty, this time for incident responsibility. Broadcast replay was scarce, but the crash occurred in Turn 1, and judging by the left-side damage on the GTD #16 Porsche, it seemed the #5 of Tristan Vautier went to the inside in the braking zone and made contact with the slower GT3 car and caused both to spin off course.
Shortly after the incident, however, a different picture came to light. Jan Heylen, the driver of the #16 Porsche, told Parker Kligerman of NBC Sports that Vautier was “an innocent bystander” and that the team received an apology from the #9 Porsche of Zacharie Robichon, who replay showed to be around the area of the incident. As the #5 of Vautier received a penalty for responsibility for the crash, Heylen stated that they have told the race officials their version of the events, hoping they could correct the call.
The GTLM class had another lead change in this hour and once again it’s a trade of the Corvette’s as Nick Tandy in the #4 came out of a pit cycle ahead of Jordan Taylor in the #3.
After some driver changes, Former Haas F1 driver, now Chip Ganassi IMSA driver Kevin Magnussen held the DPi and overall lead with 2nd place being the #10 Acura driven by Filipe Albuquerque and the #48 Cadillac in 3rd piloted by Simon Pagenaud.
After a pit penalty early in the race, the #14 Lexus, driven by a combo of Jack Hawksworth, Aaron Telitz, Oliver Gavin, and Kyle Kirkwood, and who led much of the early portion of the race, worked their way back up to 2nd, about a dozen seconds behind the leading Ferrari in the GTD class.
A full-course caution came out for the #12 Lexus of Frankie Montecalvo stopped in the Bus Stop section. There was fire under the car and he was able to get out safely.
Several teams take the opportunity of the caution to make brake changes and other mechanical fixes to ensure their cars can last the rest of the duration. One of which was the #48 of Simon Pagenaud, who needed a push out of pit road.
On the restart, Filipe Albuquerque in the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura drove on the outside of the #01 of Kevin Magnussen into Turn 1 and took away the lead. Due to the caution, the lengthy leads in other classes shrunk entirely and most were able to take advantage to take the lead. The 47 of Giorgio Sernagiotto took the lead in LMP2, the 74 of Scott Andrews in LMP3, and Mikael Grenier in the #75 Mercedes-AMG took the lead in GTD. In GTLM, Nick Tandy held onto the lead in his Corvette.
The #55 Mazda DPi team found themselves several laps down due to a rear end change forced by race officials since the brake lights were inoperable.
Grenier was passed by Maro Engel, another Mercedes-AMG driver, for the GTD lead. Engel in the #57 pulled away while the DPi and GTLM lead battles continued to rage on.
Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott climbed into the #31 Cadillac for his 2nd stint in his first Rolex 24. His first time out, he ran 7th his entire stint. In this 2nd stint, he came out 4th and around 10 seconds behind the leader. Elliott was rather hard on himself after his first stint, worried he might have damaged the undertray of the car by going over curbing in the turns.
The battle for the DPi and overall lead intensified between #10 Filipe Albuquerque and #48 Simon Pagenaud as the race neared the halfway point. The battle was broken up by scheduled pit stops, after which Albuquerque kept the lead as the #48 went through a longer stop with a driver change as Mike Rockenfeller took over for Pagenaud.
The #11 LMP2 car driven by the combo of Steven Thomas, Tristan Nunez, Thomas Merrill, and Matt Bell, led most of the first half of the race, but brake rotor issues took them out of the lead.