The first hour of the 60th Rolex 24 At Daytona ended under yellow after 48 minutes of green flag running. Dwight Merriman in the No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA LMP2 entry crashed in Turn 6, losing it apparently under braking behind an LMP3 cars. It was an extended yellow due to some necessary barrier repairs.
That yellow come at an opportune moment for LMP3 and GTD runners, who were just getting into their pit window. Every car in the field pitted, including some GTD cars coming in with the prototypes — among them the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari, which blocked LMP2 leader Ben Keating in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen ORECA, handing over to Scott Huffaker who exited the pits in fifth.
There was no wait to begin racing at the Rolex 24. Although polesitter Filipe Albuquerque took the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing into Turn 1 in the lead, before the field left the infield section and headed back onto the banking for the first time, Albuquerque was in third, having been passed by both Tristan Vautier in the No. 5 Action Express Cadillac and Kamui Kobayashi in the No. 48 Action Express Cadillac.
Traffic began early, and as soon as the leaders caught the first big pack of GTD cars, Kobayashi caught a break and took the lead from Vautier, who got balked by Corey Lewis in the GTD-class No. 39 CarBahn with Peregrine Racing Lamborghini, barely six minutes into the race. Kobayashi later wasted no time getting back into the lead after the first round of pit stops..
Jon Miller took GTD lead in the No. 59 Crucial Motorsports McLaren, and at one time led all GTD cars. Ben Barnicoat put the No. 14 VasserSullivan Lexus RC F into the GTD Pro for a bit, but was passed by Jaminet in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche. Before the caution, the top four in Pro were ahead of Miller.
Leaders after first hour:
DPi: Kamui Kobayashi, No. 48 Action Express Racing Cadillac
LMP2: Dennis Andersen, No. 20 High Class Racing ORECA
LMP3: Gar Robinson, No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier
GTD Pro: Mathieu Jaminet, No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R
GTD: Till Bechtolsheimer, No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3
News and notes:
• The No. 24 BMW Team RLL M4 GT3 went into the garages with a bodywork problem.
• The Rolex 24 opened with a bit of comedy relief — the sight of an LMP2 car leaving the pits backwards. Before his incident, Dwight Merriman spun the No. 18 ERA Motorsport ORECA leaving the pits for the formation lap, and had to back out of the pit exit until he was on the racetrack proper, where he then had room to turn around.