Rolex 24, H9: Jimmie Johnson leads but under pressure

Jimmie Johnson’s Ally Action Express Racing Cadillac is leading the Rolex 24 at Daytona after nine hours, but is under intense pressure from the Chip Ganassi Racing machine of Renger van der Zande.

Following a fifth caution to retrieve a broken-down Lamborghini at the 6hr45min mark, Loic Duval (JDC-Miller Motorsports), Kamui Kobayashi (Action Express Racing #48), and Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) engaged in a fantastic three-way all-Cadillac battle.

This became a duel when Duval was judged to have jumped the restart and was given a drive-through pit penalty.

Kobayashi outbraked Dixon to briefly take the lead but Dixon soon retaliated and started pulling away from the Japanese driver who has won the last two Rolex 24s.

Following the next round of stops, van der Zande took over from Dixon but relinquished the lead to Kobayashi as they got held up by a GTD car. After the next round of stops, the lead was out to 13sec.

As a result of Duval’s miscue, Helio Castroneves established the Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05 in third at the seven-hour mark, before handing off to fellow IndyCar ace Alexander Rossi. The similar car of Meyer Shank Racing took fourth at the restart as AJ Allmendinger passed Felipe Nasr in the #31 AXR Caddy, although Nasr reasserted himself after a dozen laps.

Duval ran sixth, post-penalty, 45sec off the lead while Oliver Jarvis was lap down in the Mazda RT24-P. Following their 14th stops, Tristan Vautier who took over from Duval, was 65sec from P1.

By the time Kobayashi handed over the #48 Cadillac to Jimmie Johnson after 8h40mins he had pulled out a 19sec lead over van der Zande, but the gap was six seconds once the pitstop cycles had shaken out. Van der Zande hunted down the lead Caddy and started applying the pressure to the NASCAR legend.

In LMP2, Tower Motorsport by Starworks and WIN Autosport were engaged in a spirited duel but it was Thomas Merrill in the WIN car that had a 45sec edge once Timothe Buret made his 10th stop.

Antonio Fuoco in Cetilar Racing’s Dallara and Ryan Dalziel of Era Motorsport were also having a close battle but were almost a lap down. However, Paul-Loup Chatin, taking over from Dalziel, went off track at Turn 5 and cruised back to the pits and behind the wall.

Muehlner Motorsport’s Kenton Koch led LMP3 ahead of the Sean Creech Motorsport entry, driven well by its Bronze-rated driver Lance Willsey before he handed off to former IMSA champion Joao Barbosa, and Stevan McAleer took control of the Muehlner machine.

The gap was half a minute at the end of the ninth hour, while Oliver Askew was third, a lap down in the #74 Riley Motorsports entry.

Antonio Garcia in the #3 Corvette C8.R was leading GT Le Mans just ahead of teammate Tommy Milner. Davide Rigon in the Risi Competizione remained within 12sec of the American cars after the restart and pulled away from Timo Glock and John Edwards in the two BMW M8s.

The GT Daytona battle remained a thriller, with AF Corse’s Ferrari 488 driven by Nicklas Nielsen wrestling with Andrea Caldarelli’s Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan.

They were pursued at an increasing distance by two Porsche 911 GT3 Rs – Zacharie Robichon of Pfaff Motorsports and Jan Heylen in the Wright Motorsports machine – with Jack Hawksworth steering the Vasser Sullivan Racing Lexus RC F.

Russell Ward in the Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, Ian James’ Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage made it six manufacturers in the top seven spots.

Richard Westbrook’s TF Sport Aston soon began pressing James for Aston preeminence, and passed the HoR car for seventh at the end of the eighth hour, and took very little time to catch up with the Sun Energy1 Mercedes and move into sixth.

The next round of stops was started by Wright Motorsports, and Heylen jumped ahead of Robichon in this pitstop exchange, but neither of them – nor anyone else – appeared to have an answer to the AF Corse Ferrari.

At the end of the ninth hour, the 488 – now being driven by Matteo Cressoni – had a 20sec lead over the Paul Miller Huracan, now steered by Corey Lewis. Heylen was a further 10sec in arrears, while Aaron Telitz had moved the VSR Lexus ahead of Robichon’s Pfaff 911.

Sun Energy had jumped Marciello back ahead of Westbrook, but it didn’t take the former GTLM star long to draw up onto the tail of the Benz.

The #19 Grasser Racing Lamborghini expired on track with flames from its engine bay, causing the fifth full course yellow.

shares
comments

Related video

Rolex 24, H6: Bourdais leads Dixon at quarter-distance
Previous article

Rolex 24, H6: Bourdais leads Dixon at quarter-distance

Next article

Rolex 24, H12: WTR Acura holds narrow lead at halfway

Rolex 24, H12: WTR Acura holds narrow lead at halfway
Load comments
The significance of the next step in WEC/IMSA convergence Prime

The significance of the next step in WEC/IMSA convergence

Following the latest convergence connection permitting Le Mans Hypercars from the FIA World Endurance Championship to compete against LMDh entries in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship from 2023, it could open up enticing options not only to manufacturers but also for the calendar and race formats

WEC
Jul 13, 2021
Why a Mazda IMSA Prototype title would bring bitter joy Prime

Why a Mazda IMSA Prototype title would bring bitter joy

Can Mazda win this year’s IMSA Prototype championship? Undoubtedly. But it will be the culmination of an achingly hard struggle, after which the brand has decided to quit. David Malsher-Lopez tells the story of a bizarre blend of heartache and positivity.

IMSA
Apr 6, 2021
The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC Prime

The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s decision to scrap its GT Le Mans class for 2022 raises the question of whether the FIA World Endurance Championship should phase out GTE cars. But it's a much harder decision than it appears on the surface.

WEC
Feb 3, 2021
Nine things to watch at the 2021 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona Prime

Nine things to watch at the 2021 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona

After a 100-minute sprint race to whet the appetite, the 2021 IMSA SportsCar Championship gets underway properly this weekend. With plenty of significant changes during the winter, here are the key points you need to keep an eye on

IMSA
Jan 29, 2021
Why Magnussen is relishing a fresh start in sportscars Prime

Why Magnussen is relishing a fresh start in sportscars

Having gone over seven years without a race win through spells with McLaren, Renault and Haas, Kevin Magnussen's departure from Formula 1 for IMSA with big-hitters Chip Ganassi Racing could give him what he craves most - a chance of success

IMSA
Jan 29, 2021
Oliver Gavin's Corvette Racing highlights Prime

Oliver Gavin's Corvette Racing highlights

Oliver Gavin has stepped down from the full-time Corvette Racing line-up after a stellar career with the team spanning nearly 20 years. He looks back on a stint that encompassed, among other successes, five Le Mans 24 Hours victories.

Le Mans
Jan 28, 2021
How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends Prime

How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends

Victory at last year's Spa 24 Hours meant Nick Tandy had completed the unofficial sextuple crown of the world's six biggest endurance races, becoming the first Briton to do so. Ahead of his fresh start with Corvette Racing, he explains how he did it…

Le Mans
Jan 24, 2021
The 12 greatest Sebring 12 Hours ranked Prime

The 12 greatest Sebring 12 Hours ranked

The 2020 edition of the Florida sportscar classic is finally taking place this weekend, eight months after its traditional date in March. That meant there was plenty of time for Motorsport.com to pour over its previous 67 races and select the best.

IMSA
Nov 11, 2020