Jan. 31, 2021
By Jeff Olson
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — As darkness turned to light Sunday morning at Daytona International Speedway, little about the 59th Rolex 24 became clear.
The races in four of the five classes in the annual 24-hour race remained closely contested as the race moved past the 18-hour mark. At 10 a.m. ET, the leaders were:
DPi – The No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05 shared by Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque, Alexander Rossi and Helio Castroneves led overall, but five of the seven cars in class remained on the lead lap.
LMP2 – The No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA LMP2 07 co-driven by John Farano, Gabriel Aubry, Tim Buret and Matthieu Vaxiviere had the class lead with the No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA in pursuit.
GTLM – The two Corvette Racing entries continued to battle for the class lead, with the No. 4 shared by Tommy Milner, Nick Tandy and Alexander Sims holding the lead for the moment.
LMP3 – The No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 M co-driven by Gar Robinson, Spencer Pigot, Scott Andrews and Oliver Askew was the only class leader with a comfortable lead. The No. 74 was four laps ahead of the No. 33 Sean Creech Ligier.
GTD – The No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Russell Ward, Philip Ellis, Indy Dontje and Maro Engel led a hair-raising, back-and-forth fight with the No. 21 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 for the class lead.
Castroneves, who took over the No. 10 car as day broke, started his stint with a dirty windshield.
“I was like, ‘Guys, guys. Always, when there’s a new driver in the car, you’ve got to get a new tear-off,’” Castroneves said with a laugh. “I was like completely blind. It was a restart. It was dark. I was like, ‘I need the tear-off. Right now I just need to see.’ We were able to finally get a pit stop and get a new one.”
The team closest to the No. 10 car at 10 a.m., the No. 01 Cadillac Chip Ganassi Cadillac DPi-V.R shared by Renger van der Zande, Kevin Magnussen and Scott Dixon, was within a few seconds of the lead.
“I’m all-out all the time,” van der Zande said after his morning stint. “I’m not holding back so far. This is about it for us, at least.”
Milner said the No. 4 Corvette managed to maintain the lead over the team’s sister car — the No. 3 shared by Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg — despite a persistent problem with the car’s gearbox.
“So far our run has been pretty clean,” Milner said. “Good pit stops, good strategy, staying out of trouble with the traffic and things like that. From that perspective, everything is good. We do have a small gearbox gremlin that we’ve had pretty much all race that isn’t getting any worse, which is a good thing.”
In the middle of the dark-to-dawn mayhem, some teams were able to make light of their situations. Bill Auberlen, who was doused with fuel during a pit mishap early in the race, became the butt of his team’s social media joke:
The remaining hours of the 59th Rolex can be seen live on NBCSN until 2 p.m. ET, when coverage moves to NBC for the conclusion.