Mathieu Jaminet had just jumped the #31 Action Express Racing Cadillac in the pits for the lead at the end of Hour 18 when the #6 Porsche Penske was penalised for exceeding the amount of energy allowed during a stint.
Jaminet came into the pits shortly after the end of hour 18 to serve his 10 second stop/go, handing the lead back to the #31 Cadillac now driven by Jack Aitken.
The #6 Porsche and the #31 AXR Cadillac were previously running on different strategies, but two caution periods between hours 15 and 18 put them directly against each other as dawn broke in Florida.
Pipo Derani took the lead in the AXR Caddy at the start of the 15th hour, with his advantage standing at 10 seconds after Kevin Estre handed over the #6 Porsche to Nick Tandy.
Tandy brought Derani’s lead down to 3.4s when the first of the two FYCs were deployed, giving the Porsche ace a sniff of the lead.
Tandy upped the pressure on Derani when the race resumed, but the AXR driver was able to resist his advances and extend his lead yet again.
A second FCY followed soon after, during which Mathieu Jaminet moved back into the #6 Porsche, and the Cadillac vs Porsche battle resumed shortly after.
Jaminet managed to get within touching distance of Derani’s AXR as the race went back to green, with Matt Campbell in the #7 Porsche also joining the fight.
Derani managed to do just enough to hold on to the position during this stint, with both him and Jaminet heading for scheduled service at the same time at the end of Hour 18.
Porsche circulated in the lead while AXR completed a driver change, but celebrations in the Penske camp turned out to be short-lived as Jaminet soon had to return to the pitlane to serve his penalty.
This put Aitken, now at the wheel of #31 Caddy, back in the lead, with Campbell running a close second.
Neel Jani was promoted to third in the #5 Proton Porsche from the #40 Wayne Taylor Acura of Louis Deletraz, as Jaminet rejoined the field in fifth.
CrowdStrike heads LMP2 order
In LMP2, the #03 CrowdStrike by APR Oreca 07 moved into the class lead during the pitstops late in the 18th hour following an epic on-track battle with the #18 Era Motorsports.
Malthe Jakobsen in the CrowdStrike Oreca ran side-by-side with Connor Zilisch’s Era entry, but was unable to pass the American as they encountered traffic from GTD cars over the banking.
But Jakobsen took the lead just a few laps later, when Era Motorsport elected to switch drivers in the pits, with Ryan Dalziel taking over from Zilisch.
One of the two FCY periods were caused by Matt Brabham finding the barriers in the #99 AO Racing Oreca that had previously led the race in the hands of Paul-Loup Chatin.
Corvette ahead in GTD Pro
In GTD Pro, Neil Verhagen had been leading the race in the #1 Paul Miller BMW before he headed to the pits to hand over the car to team-mate Madison Snow.
This put the #4 Corvette of Nicky Catsubrg out in front, with James Calado third in the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari.
Calado’s team-mate Daniel Serra ovetrtook the #3 Corvette of Daniel Juncadella for the lead at the start of hour 15, but a penalty dropped the team down to third.
Mercedes’ hegemony in GTD ended as Alessio Rovera claimed the class lead in the #023 Triarisi Competizione Ferrari.