Bouchut ahead at Daytona after three hours

Level 5 Motorsport's Christophe Bouchut was leading after three hours in the 49th Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. Bouchut's BMW Riley was just over a second ahead of Justin Wilson, driving the Michael Shank Racing Ford Dallara, and David Donohue's Action Express Porsche Riley. The SunTrust Chevrolet Dallara and the second Action Express entry rounded out the top-five.

#55 Level 5 Motorsports BMW Riley: Christophe Bouchut, Luis Diaz, Scott Tucker, Mark Wilkins.
Photo by Darren Pierson.

Defending Rolex Sports Car Series co-champion Memo Rojas lay eighth in the No. 01 Ganassi Racing BMW Riley. Rojas's car was among the fastest in the race, but it lost a lap in the first hour when the team had to replace a gear cluster to stop the motor from hitting the rev limiter on the straights. Rojas's teammate, Scott Pruett, said the rev limiter issue could have been the result of warmer than expected temperatures and more disturbed air than the team encountered in preseason testing. The No. 01 car also had to change its camber settings in the third hour in an attempt to avoid the flat tires that dropped the team's second car, which was running 13th in the hands of Juan Pablo Montoya, two laps behind the leaders.

The Ganassi car was not the only one that encountered tires issues in the first three hours. Rolex Series officials said those issues were being caused by aggressive camber settings on the cars that put too much stress on the inside shoulders of the new Continental tires and the new pavement on the superspeedway portion of the Daytona track.

Some of the tire troubles could also have been the result of debris thrown on to the track during one of the race's many off-course excursions. Indeed, a number of drivers, including Pruett, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, and Alex Gurney, said the driving in the early part of the race was very aggressive. "People are driving crazy," said Pruett. "A lot of guys think they can win it in the first three hours. I saw six or seven spins right in front of me."

Five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson sat 11th overall in the Gainsco Bob Stallings Chevrolet Riley.

The pole sitting Flying Lizard Porsche Riley had turned the fastest lap after three hours, but lost 19 laps to the leaders when the car slid off the track in the chicane at the end of the back straight and broke a radiator. "We're going to keep pushing and that's all we can do," said Jorg Bergmeister, when asked how the team planned to make up the deficit.

Bill Auberlen led the way in the GT class in the Turner Motorsport BMW M3. The No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche and the No. 54 TRG Porsche lay second and third, respectively.

See also: Angelelli leads after one hour at Daytona