Rolex 24, Hour 13: Porsche, Cadillac trading overall lead in heated nighttime strategy battle

As the second half of the Rolex 24 at Daytona met its cool, dark genesis, Porsche Penske Motorsports found itself back in the overall lead at the hands of Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 6 963.

With the race having gone green once again after Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport’s electrical hiccup, Vanthoor used the clean air to great effect to pull out a 15s lead over Maxime Martin’s No. 25 RLL BMW in just 30 minutes.

Previous leader Jack Aitken handed the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac over to teammate Tom Blomqvist during the FCY in the previous hour, the car falling to P4 after pitting.

“I was working a bit harder than usual,” Aitken told IMSA Radio after he exited the car. “There were a few nice on-track battles with the other guys. There’s a lot of traffic out there, so it’s keeping you on your toes.


“Now that it’s night and a bit cooler, we’ll try and extend the stints a little bit so we have a bit more time out of the car as well. I think we’ve got three capable guys, so it’s not too bad. …We all feel pretty comfortable in the car.”

Blomqvist went on a tear from 80s behind leader Vanthoor, clawing time back under green — just 0.5s off the tail of the Porsche with 17 minutes remaining in the hour. A powerful slipstream and Cadillac V8 torque allowed the No. 31 to sail past the Porsche on the outside along the backstretch heading into the Le Mans Chicane. Within two laps, Blomqvist had already pulled out a 1.5s lead.

Deadstick drama came again, though, this time for the No. 24 RLL BMW of Dries Vanthoor. With 10 minutes left in the hour, the car — just like both WTR Acuras — went dark and rolled to a stop, bringing out another FCY. As the AMR Safety Team arrived on scene, Vanthoor’s lights were seen alight once again, but the car unmoved and later towed away from the infield.

Leading GTP crews pitted, most taking fuel only save for the No. 31 which dropped down the order to P4 after changing rubber. This left both Penske Porsches cycling through back to first and second overall, the No. 7 of Matt Campbell ahead of Vanthoor. Rene Rast’s RLL BMW moved to third, with Renger van der Zande following everyone else in the No. 01 Cadillac in P5.

LMP2 remained steady and drama-free, with the only significant change coming in the form of Formula 1 veteran Felipe Massa taking over the third-place No. 74 ORECA. Tom Dillman still leads in the No. 52.

The No. 3 Corvette of Alexander Sims pitted and handed the car over to Daniel Juncadella after moving into the GTD PRO lead over the Risi Ferrari just prior to the FCY, traffic having facilitated an immensely close fight.

Winward Mercedes’ No. 57 led GTD on the hour.


Story originally appeared on Racer