The first yellow in nearly six hours in the Rolex 24 At Daytona — for Anders Fjordbach crashing the No. 20 High Class Racing LMP2 in the Le Mans chicane — was certainly good news for Meyer Shank Racing, although Chip Ganassi Racing reacted faster, pulling in the No. 01 Cadillac just before the ninth full-course caution came out. The team serviced the No. 01 and replaced Scott Dixon with Sebastien Bourdais, getting the car back out in second as the full-course caution came out. The No. 60, which had its second oil flush of the race an hour earlier, took fuel only when the pits opened. The No. 02 pitted as well, Richard Westbrook going into the car, and the No. 01 topped off, so the top three runners are nose to tail with similar energy stores.
Fjordbach’s hit was quite the impact, hitting the tire barrier sideways while still carrying a lot of speed. The car was heavily damaged, but the Dane left the car without assistance.
The first caution in five hours and 45 minutes is for this crash.
Watch the @Rolex24Hours at @DAYTONA on @peacock and @USA_Network: https://t.co/btQceihlab pic.twitter.com/oBc1g8Y8Xt
— Motorsports on NBC (@MotorsportsNBC) January 29, 2023
On the restart, Simon Pagenaud demonstrated what has been consistent strength on the restarts for the No. 60, seizing the lead. Not only that, but Nick Tandy in the No. 6 Porsche, although two laps down, passed the Cadillacs as well, giving Pagenaud a buffer for a moment before Tandy passed Pagenaud to get a lap back. As the race hit three hours to go, Bourdais was beginning to put some pressure on Pagenaud.
The caution was also good for WeatherTech Racing, as Jules Gounon in the No. 79 WeatherTech got by Tommy Milner in the No. 3 Corvette to take the GTD PRO lead.
“Still three hours left but the WeatherTech Mercedes is still running strong,” said Cooper MacNeil, who started the No. 79. “Jules just took the lead from the Corvette. Jules, Dani and Maro have done a phenomenal job in the car all race long.”
Jack Hawksworth in the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus was maintaining touch with the other two GTD PRO cars, although he slipped back behind GTD leader Roman De Angelis in the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage. That gave De Angelis a buffer to Indy Dontje in the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes AMG in pursuit.
The No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsport ORECA that dominated LMP2 in the early stages of the race before having to serve a penalty for a full service in a closed pit has almost completed its recovery, now back on the lead lap. Paul-Loup Chatin in the No. 52 was further helped when leader Giedo van der Garde in the No. 35 TDS Racing ORECA received a penalty for a pit entry violation. That put the No. 04 Crowdstrike Racing by APR car back into the lead, Esteban Gutierrez in the seat.
Class leaders after the 21st hour:
GTP: Simon Pagenaud, No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-06
LMP2: Esteban Gutierrez, No. 04 CrowdStrike Racing with APR ORECA
LMP3: Nico Varrone, No 17 AWA Duqueine
GTD PRO: Jules Gounon, No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG
GTD: Roman De Angelis, No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage
• Ten of the 61 starters have officially been retired from the race, however none of the GTP entrants have done so. The No. 25 BMW M Team RLL M Hybrid V8 is now the last car running as the team tries to get as many laps as possible while it continues to learn the platform.