The race’s fifth full-course caution was caused by the #24 BMW M Hybrid V8 of Augusto Farfus grinding to a halt, then proceeding slowly toward the pits – a destination it never made. Almost simultaneously, Kyffin Simpson had a sizeable off in his Tower Motorsport LMP2 car.
At the restart with 5hr25m to go, Albuquerque got away from the Cadillacs, which again saw van der Zande give way to the Action Express Racing Cadillac V-Series.R, but he also gave up a spot to Dane Cameron’s #6 Porsche 963. Behind him ran Matt Campbell in the second Porsche, Connor De Phillippi’s BMW and Tom Blomqvist who had pitted the Meyer Shank Racing Acura twice under yellow.
However, van der Zande on his double-stinted tires kept dropping back until he was last in class – aside from the expired BMW – with 5h14m to go. He was therefore grateful to see the sixth full course caution, caused by Robert Mau of Performance Tech Motorsports.
However, before Mau pitted his car, as he hurried to the pits behind the conga-line of Prototypes, he ran into the right-rear corner of Cameron’s #6 Porsche, necessitating a rear bodywork change as Cameron pitted to hand off to Mathieu Jaminet.
As the GTP cars peeled out of the pits, it was Derani who drove the Action Express Cadillac into the lead ahead of Ricky Taylor who had replaced Albuquerque in the WTR Acura. Campbell’s #7 Porsche was third ahead of Helio Castroneves in the MSR Acura, De Phillippi’s BMW, and the Ganassi Cadillac was in sixth on fresh tires and Sebastien Bourdais at the wheel. Jaminet pitted again, as did Bourdais, before the race went green.
The seventh caution flew on the restart lap, as the Racer’s Edge Acura NSX shed its front bodywork after a front impact, and it got shattered into a zillion pieces. At the same time, Race Control revealed that the WTR Acura had incurred a pitlane speeding penalty so would have to serve a drive-through penalty.
Taylor of course pitted on the next restart, leaving Derani with a two-second lead over Campbell and Bourdais, with Castroneves fourth, and Jaminet fifth after elbowing his way past De Phillippi.
Bourdais made a slight error while trying to pass Campbell with 4h15m left which briefly let Castroneves ahead for MSR, but Bourdais recovered and reclaimed third.
The eighth caution caused by the GTD Winward Mercedes requiring retrieval, and that was a blessing for Taylor who could thus catch back up to the rear of the GTP field. The pitstops under yellow saw Ganassi jump Bourdais ahead of the #7 Porsche which was now driven by fellow ex-F1 racer Felipe Nasr, while Taylor was up to fourth, as Mathieu Jaminet dropped to fifth. Colin Braun in the MSR Acura and Sheldon van der Linde, who replaced De Phillippi in the BMW, pitted again.
On the restart Taylor dived up the inside of Nasr’s Porsche to grab third, while Braun pulled off a brilliant maneuver to drive around the outside of both Porsches to take fourth.
Next time by, there was a new leader, with Bourdais having found a gap down the inside of Derani’s similar Cadillac at Turn 17. In fact, Derani lost another place further around the next lap, and fell into reach of Braun’s Acura briefly. However, the AXR then pulled away from the Rolex 24-winning car.
Suddenly, toward the end of the ninth hour, Bourdais pitted from the lead with flames emanating from the Cadillac and strong drives by all three of its pilots, and great pitstops from Ganassi all went to naught.
That left Taylor up front with a 20s margin over Braun before he pitted to hand off to Louis Deletraz. Another driver change in this sequence of stops was Nick Tandy replacing Jaminet in the #6 Porsche.
Following these stops at the start of the tenth hour, Deletraz leads Nasr’s Porsche by 14sec, with Braun a further five seconds back, chased by Sims in the AXR Cadillac, van der Linde’s BMW. Tandy is 60sec off the lead.
After spinning out of Turn 1, Simpson hit the tire wall on the other side of the track, was able to drive carefully back to the pits for bodywork repairs but apparently suffered no mechanical grief, so was able to resume at racing pace having been fixed under yellow.
Ben Hanley currently leads the class for Crowdstrike Racing by APR, 16sec ahead of the Tower Motorsports machine currently piloted by Simpson again after taking over from the highly impressive Scott McLaughlin. Another IndyCar driver, Devlin De Francesco, is in third for Rick Ware Racing.
Ed Jones was part of this battle too, but the High Class Racing car was pulled in with 3h15m to go for a mechanical black flag – the radio not working – and also a penalty for failure to adhere to the minimum full refueling time.
PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports’ entry is 90sec off the class lead in class but still in the hunt for victory.
As the ninth hour ended, Dakota Dickerson of Jr III Racing was 48sec ahead of the AWA car of Lars Kern and Dan Goldburg of JDC Miller Motorsports. The Riley car of Josh Burdon remains in the hunt.
Following the restart after the race’s fifth caution period, Tommy Milner’s Corvette C8.R resumed in the lead, but initially it was Jack Hawksworth’s Lexus RC F who was his closest pursuer, ahead of the Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 of Davide Rigon. However, Rigon slipped past the Vasser Sullivan-run Lexus to take second as the eighth hour approached.
John Edwards’ #95 Turner Motorsports held fourth initially but was passed by Daniel Juncadella in the WeatherTech Racing’s Mercedes Benz AMG GT3, while Klaus Bachler’s Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R and Romain Grosjean in the Iron Lynx Lamborghini Huracan gave chase.
Under the sixth caution, Corvette got Milner out in front of GTD Pro, but WeatherTech jumped its Mercedes out into second – now with Maro Engel at the wheel – ahead of Bachler, Rigon, Bill Auberlen in the #95 Turner BMW. Kyle Kirkwood, who had taken over from Hawksworth, was down to sixth, ahead of the Iron Lynx car now driven by Jordan Pepper.
Under the eighth caution, Corvette Racing changed a left-rear damper on the C8.R and lost a lap. That left Laurens Vanthoor up front in the Pfaff 911, ahead of Ben Barnicoat’s Vasser Sullivan Lexus, Maro Engel in third in the WeatherTech Mercedes, Edwards’ Turner BMW. Serra ran fifth for Risi ahead of Grosjean’s Lambo, while Taylor ran seventh but a lap in arrears.
There was a notable shuffle in GTD during that pitstop sequence under the sixth caution, as Wright Motorsports got Zach Robichon out in front ahead of Madison Snow’s BMW M4, with Roman de Angelis in the Heart of Racing Aston Martin in third ahead of Philip Ellis’ Winward Mercedes, Max Root in the second Wright Porsche, and Andy Lally sixth in the Magnus Racing Aston.
However, de Angelis was knocked into a spin and fell to 12th on the restart before the seventh caution flew.
Ellis had moved forward to threaten Robichon’s 911, when the pair made contact at Turn 1. That sent the sky-blue 911 into the tire wall, on corner exit – although Robichon was able to resume – while Ellis sustained right-front suspension damage that looped the Benz into a spin at Turn 3, and the Winward car would need rescuing. Out came the eighth caution.
Following the restart, Kenton Koch, whose Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes had served a drive through for failure to adhere to minimum refueling time, was into the lead ahead of De Angelis in the Heart of Racing Aston Martin. Bryan Sellers in the Paul Miller BMW was thid ahead of Ollie Millroy in the Inception Racing McLaren 720S and Frankie Montecalvo in the second VS Lexus.