Polesitting Ferrari Leads Rolex 24 At Daytona Into The Night

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Yannick Dalmas, who guided his Ferrari 333SP to a record-breaking lap during Thursday's qualifying, jumped out to an early lead as the 36th Rolex 24 At Daytona received the green flag at 1 p.m. Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. As the grueling 24-hour endurance race moved into its fifth hour, The Scandia Racing Ferrari 333SP piloted by held onto a one lap margin over the second-place running and defending champions, the No. 20 Ford Riley & Scott Mk. 3 of Dyson Racing. The lead Ferrari of Dalmas avoided a potentially disastrous situation in the race's opening minutes, while exiting the "east horseshoe" of the 3.56-mile road course, Dalmas spun in front of a pack of cars. The No. 63 Mazda Kudzu with Jim Downing behind the wheel narrowly missed the stationary Ferrari, and both continued on there way with no damage. "I made a mistake," said Dalmas. "I was all alone and it was my fault. The tires in the beginning were cold. The car is fine. It's too early to tell what is going to happen the rest of the way." David Brabham and Andy Wallace kicked off the driving duties in the two "Batmobile-looking" Panoz GTR-1s, making their competitive debuts at the "World Center of Racing." The two Panoz had two distinctively different starts to the 1998 Rolex 24 At Daytona. The No. 99 Panoz of Brabham, Eric Bernard, Jamie Davies and Doc Bundy led the GT1 class at the five-hour mark and was running an impressive third overall. The other Panoz of Wallace, Scott Pruett and Raul Boesel had decidedly different fortunes. The Panoz spent a lengthy time behind the pit wall repairing damages from an incident with the other Dyson Racing Can-Am car, the No. 16 driven by James Weaver. "I was just running along and bam, I got hit right in the back," said Wallace. "I backed out of the gas, but the car behind me didn't see the yellow flag and bam. And the extremely unfortunate thing is, the car was running so beautifully, you've got to believe me when I say I was not even pushing the car hard." The No. 97 Porsche 911 of Peter Kitchak, Toni Seiler and Wido Roessler continued to set a strong pace in the GT2 class, leading the No. 98 Porsche 911 GT2 of Konrad Motorsports by almost two laps. In the GT3 class, the pre-race favorites, the BMW M3 of Bill Auberlen, Boris Said and Marc Duez, were holding off a strong challenge from the Porsche 911 RSR of Cort Wagner, Chris Cervelli, Kelly Collins and Mark Basseng.