Porsche leads Cadillac as both BMWs hit trouble

Estre held a lead of just over six seconds in the #6 Porsche Penske, as the German manufacturer engaged in a fierce battle with the Action Express Racing Cadillac after the halfway point of the IMSA SportsCar Championship opener.

At the beginning of hour 13, Laurens Vanthoor surged to the lead in the #6 963 by virtue of staying in the car during the pitstop, while AXR lost time as Jack Aitken made way for Tom Blomqvist.

The Swedish driver had only just slipped past Vanthoor when the 11th caution of the race was deployed, as marshals scrambled to recover the #24 BMW of Dries Vanthoor that had stopped on track at the exit of Turn 3.

The pitstops that followed shook up the order, with Vanthoor retaking the lead ahead of Rene Rast in the #25 BMW, with Blomqvist dropping to third in the lead Caddy.

At the restart, Rast jumped the Porsche to put BMW into the lead of the race and even managed to establish a small lead on his debut in IMSA’s top class.

However, Rast couldn’t put together any challenge to Blomqvist, who was able to slip past his BMW with ease at the banked final turn as Vanthoor’s Porsche slipped down the order.

Blomqvist again lost the lead as he headed to the pits at the beginning of hour 15, rejoining the track with a 13s deficit to the #6 Porsche now driven by Vanthoor’s team-mate Estre.

The reigning Daytona winner brought the deficit down to eight seconds by the time Estre made his own pitstop and joined the field down in sixth, even behind the sister Porsche of Josef Newgarden.

But Estre was able to get the jump on Newgarden and assumed the lead of the race again after Blomqvist returned to the pitlane to hand over the #31 Caddy to Pipo Derani, swinging the race back in Porsche’s favour.

The #40 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura that had previously dropped out of contention was now back on the lead lap, with Colton Herta aiding its charge up to third during the night hours.

The Acura had been running fourth but was promoted up a place when the #25 BMW that briefly led with Rast at the wheel having to be wheeled to the garage for repairs in a double blow for the Bavarian marque.

Newgarden dropped to fourth in the #7 Porsche after his pitstop, ahead of the customer 963 cars of Neel Jani (Proton) and Tijmen van der Helm.

Trouble struck the #01 Cadillac in the 14th hour after Renger van der Zande crawled to a halt near the exit of Le Mans chicane, bringing out the 12th FCY of the race.

Chip Ganassi was able to repair the car and send van der Zande back out on track, but 58 laps down on the leaders.

Era Motorsport leads in LMP2

Oliver Rasumssen put the #18 Era Motorsport Oreca 07 back in front in LMP2 after passing the #99 AO Racing entry of Matt Brabham late in the 15th hour.

AO Racing had previously moved into the lead with Paul Loup Chatin at the wheel, but its Oreca eventually dropped to third behind the #8 Tower Motorsports car of Ferdinand Habsburg.

Ben Hanley propelled the #2 Untied Autosports crew that had led a major chunk of the race back up to fourth after taking over the driving duties from Nico Pino.

Ferrari ahead in GTD Pro

In GTD Pro, it was Ferrari that was back in the lead of the class thanks to a charging stint from Daniel Serra in the #62 Risi Competizione 296 GT3.

The Ferrari factory driver passed the #4 Corvette Z06 GT3.R of Tommy Milner to take the lead, as Sheldon van der Linde moved up to third in the #1 Paul Miller BMW M4 GT3. 

Daniel Juncadella in the #3 Corvette was running ahead of the trio but he pitted late in the 15th hour and rejoined the field in fourth.

Mercedes ran 1-2 in the standard pro-am GTD class, with Indy Dontje in the #57 AMG GT3 heading the #32 machine of Kenton Koch.

The Inception McLaren that led at the halfway point of the race has dropped to third, with Ollie Millrow now at the wheel of the #70 720S GT3.

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