Halfway Home: No. 31 Cadillac Leads Rolex 24

Halfway Home: No. 31 Cadillac Leads Rolex 24


The 62nd Rolex 24 At Daytona reached an exciting midpoint early this morning with fireworks erupting on and off the track. After 12 hours of the renowned endurance sports car race at Daytona International Speedway, Jack Aitken had the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R in the race lead.

 

Aitken was 1.763 seconds ahead of Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 as the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener sped into the overnight hours. Live streaming coverage of the race continues on Peacock through the checkered flag at 1:40 p.m. ET. USA Network rejoins the action from 6 a.m. to noon, with NBC network picking up from there until 2 p.m.

 

The No. 31 Whelen Cadillac, the reigning Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) champion, swapped the lead with the No. 7 Porsche Penske entry throughout the second six hours of the race. Aitken passed No. 7 driver Dane Cameron while the two negotiated through slower traffic on Lap 362 and still held the top spot 23 laps later at the 12-hour mark.

 

Aitken is co-driving the No. 31 with Pipo Derani and Tom Blomqvist, the latter seeking a third straight Rolex 24 overall victory that would tie him with Helio Castroneves for the most in a row.

 

Meanwhile, several other GTP competitors suffered issues that removed their chance to contend for the win or put that chance in peril.

 

Just more than eight hours from the start, the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06 with driver Filipe Albuquerque slowed to a stop on track, bringing out the eighth full-course caution of the race. The car was carried on a flatbed truck to the garage area where it underwent a lengthy diagnosis before the team worked to replace the wiring harness. After a 90-minute repair, the No. 10 returned to the track but was nearly 100 laps off the pace.

 

“I started feeling something burning in the Bus Stop (Le Mans Chicane),” Albuquerque said. “I thought it was a GT (car) in front and said nothing, but then after I passed it the smell was the same. Then when I put it in seventh gear on the straight line, the engine died. I lost all the power in the car, all the systems.”

 

The No. 10’s sister car, the No. 40 WTRAndretti Acura, suffered what appeared to be a similar issue just before the 12-hour juncture when it came to a stop on track with Louis Deletraz at the wheel. But with help from the track safety crew, Deletraz restarted the car and lost just a lap.

 

Shortly after racing restarted following the caution for the No. 10, Sebastien Bourdais became a passenger in the No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R after the car sustained a punctured tire from running over debris. Bourdais slid off track and managed to stop the car just shy of hitting the tire barrier, but by the time he limped the car back to pit lane for a tire change, the No. 01 was two laps down. The No. 01 was still a lap behind the leaders at the 12-hour mark.

 

Other class leaders after 12 hours of racing were: the No. 52 Inter Europol by PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07 in Le Mans Prototype 2, the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3 in GT Daytona Pro and the No. 70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3 EVO in GT Daytona.

 

The Rolex 24 also serves as the first of five races making up the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup. Points are awarded at designated junctures of each endurance race. With points given at the six- and 12-hour marks at Daytona, the Michelin Endurance Cup class leaders are: the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac in GTP; a tie between the No. 04 Crowdstrike Racing by APR and No. 52 Inter Europol by PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports in LMP2; a three-way tie among the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3, No. 4 Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports Corvette Z06 GT3.R and No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3 in GTD PRO; and a tie between the No. 32 Korthoff/Preston Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 and No. 70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3 EVO in GTD.

 

Michelin Endurance Cup points will be given again at the 18-hour mark and at the race finish.

Jenson Button, NASCAR Driver?

    
Jenson Button, the 2009 Formula 1 World Champion, got his first taste of Rolex 24 racing with a triple stint in the middle of the night in the No. 40 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06 that he’s sharing with Deletraz, Jordan Taylor and Colton Herta. Overall, Button was pleased with his effort other than a short off-track excursion after light contact with the No. 3 Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports Corvette Z06 GT3.R driven by Alexander Sims.

 

“This is my first Rolex 24 so getting used to it out there is nuts!” Button said when he visited the DIS media center just before midnight. “You’re playing chicken at sort of 200 miles an hour so it’s a big learning curve, but I enjoyed it.

 

“It’s action-packed; it’s never-ending out there. You think you’ve passed everyone and you get some clear air, and then suddenly they’re all there again. There’s not a lot of break out there.”

 

But Button added that he wouldn’t change the whole Rolex 24 experience for anything.

“It’s a great event, I love the build-up to it. It’s busy for the drivers before the race but it doesn’t matter. The whole thing is about the fan interaction and being able to get up close with drivers. If you come here as a fan, you see the most amazing cars. But also you see drivers from endurance racing, you see drivers from IndyCar, from F1, from NASCAR. I mean, there’s so many different drivers here and so many super-talented guys racing in this race. It’s a special one, especially this year, I think.”

 

Button has thoroughly enjoyed that fan interaction, particularly since so many have become his newer fans after he was part of last year’s NASCAR Garage 56 program that competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He’s noticed its effect at Daytona.

 

“I would say half of the autographs I’ve signed have been NASCAR pictures of me,” he said with a chuckle. “So yeah, I’m a NASCAR driver. Forget the 17 years in F1. NASCAR, yeah!”

 

Turnstyle Atop GTD Leaderboard

Not unexpectedly, the GTD class featured a spirited battle for the lead among several cars in the second six hours. The No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3, No. 32 Korthoff/Preston Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, No. 47 Cetilar Racing Ferrari 296 GT3, No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 and No. 70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3 EVO each took turns at the head of the class through the nighttime hours.

 

“I did my first long stint, which was nice, and doing my first racing laps of the season,” said Maximilian Goetz, who drives the No. 32 Mercedes with Mike Skeen, Mikael Grenier and Kenton Koch. “I was obviously in a fight with other brands, so actually it was a nice stint and it was the first taste of what we have to expect in the next hours.

 

“I had some great fights and there was really a great respect out there, I have to say, between all the categories. It’s good to fight with so many different brands and great drivers (from) around the world. If you see the lineups, there’s nothing to add. It’s the best of the best.”


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