24H Daytona, 8h update: Legge moves up the field, Racers Edge in top-5
After eight hours, Gradient Racing's Katherine Legge climbed the order in GTD in her first stints; Harrison's #93 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura currently sits in the top-five. Iron Dames hit trouble in the fifth hour due to a technical issue.
The 61st running of the Daytona 24 Hours was off to a great start for Ashton Harrison and her Racers Edge Motorsports #93 Acura NSX GT3 EVO, after Kyle Marcelli had a brilliant first stint before Harrison got behind the wheel in the opening hours, from the lead in GTD.
Harrison then settled in the top ten, with steady pace that allowed Danny Formal to keep ninth at the end of the fourth hour.
The other quick Acura NSX – run by Gradient Racing and also featuring some very talented female racing drivers – started in the hands of GT3 rookie Sheena Monk, at her first IMSA race. Monk, who shares the car with long-time coach Katherine Legge, Marc Miller and Mario Farnbacher, had a very solid opening double-stint and handed over the reins of the #66 machine to Miller in P12. Miller would then recover up to eighth after a series of great pit stops.
The first IMSA race in the history of the Iron Dames was off to a slightly more challenging start. Rahel Frey had qualified in P15 in GTD and was making her way up the field during the first hour of racing. Frey handed over to Sarah Bovy at the first round of pit stops - but a penalty for too many crew over the wall revealed to be costly, and Bovy had to rebuild her race from P17, after Frey had managed to reach the top ten.
It was then Michelle Gatting's turn at the three hour mark; the Dane continued the charge and kept P16, as the pink brand-new Lamborghini Huracan tried to close the gap to the Triarsi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3.
At the beginning of the fifth hour, a huge battle for the overall lead saw Colin Braun (#60 Mayer Shank Acura) trying to hold off the Porsches of Jaminet and Campbell - then both overtaken by the second Acura of Deletraz. Deletraz would bring the #10 Konica Minolta Acura in the race lead, before the Porsche of Campbell briefly led in between pit sequences.
Scott Dixon (#01 Cadillac) sustained rear bodywork damage and had to pit for repairs when he was hit by the #13 AWA LMP3 as he tried to avoid the spun #8 Tower Motorsport of Farano. But the #7 Porsche of Campbell was also demoted to seventh after an issue during a pit stop that eventually forced the Penske team to bring the car behind the wall.
Simon Pagenaud, led in the #60 Acura, but was then passed by Filipe Albuquerque (#10 WTR Acura).
Up next in the #66 was Katherine Legge: at her Acura return and having previously finished second in 2018, the British racing legend is aiming high as the Gradient Racing Acura has shown plenty of speed so far. Legge took over from ninth, soon moved into eighth and then overtook the Magnus Racing Aston of Potter for seventh.
Danny Formal had taken over from Ashton Harrison at the end of the fourth hour of racing and he slotted in eighth in class.
The night fell on the Florida racetrack and temperature dropped. Michelle Gatting continued for a double stint in the #83 Huracan; Sarah Bovy was back behind the wheel as we entered the sixth hour. She rejoined in P16, after a small off track at turn 5. The Belgian was not the only GTD driver being caught off by the colder temperatures.
Unfortunately there were more issues for the #83 crew with 5 and a half hours into the race: the Iron Dames Lamborghini managed to get back to the pits at slow pace and the car was pushed behind the wall for repair. Almost 20 laps later, Sarah Bovy was back out on track, as the team fixed possibly a gearbox issue.
At the sixth hour, Katherine Legge pitted from sixth in GTD after a superb double-stint that also included the fastest lap of the team so far; Sheena Monk was back in the #66 Acura, in her first driving shift in the dark.
Formal, who had swapped places with Legge during the fifth hour, was back behind the British racer when also the #93 Racers Edge Motorsports with WRT stopped for its scheduled pit stop, handing the wheel to former Indycar driver and three-time Rolex 24 Hours champion Ryan Briscoe.
Everyone pitted predicting a Full Course Yellow – that was indeed out following the crash of the leading LMP2, the #11 TDS Oreca driven by Steven Thomas at the Le Mans chicane.
At the restart Pipo Derani (#31 Cadillac) went side by side with Helio Castroneves (#60 Acura) and the two made contact for the overall lead: Castroneves spun in the run-off, but rejoined without hitting the barriers.
Ryan Briscoe made the most out of the restart and moved up to fifth in GTD, having jumped ahead of several competitors. Mikael Grenier (#32 Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes) led GTD and found a way past all the GTD Pro entries as well. Sheena Monk settled in eleventh.
As we entered the eighth hour, the #75 Sun Energy 1 Mercedes driven by Fabian Schiller slowed down and dropped down the order - promoting Ryan Briscoe to second and Sheena Monk to ninth.
Sarah Bovy remained at the wheel for another lengthy stint, sitting in 20th in class after the technical issue. At the following round of pit stops, Doriane Pin officially started her first IMSA race.
Ryan Briscoe, who was as high as second during the pit stop cycle, remains in charge of the #93 Acura in P5, while Sheena Monk, with a positive stint in the dark, brought the #66 NSX safely in the hands of Mario Farnbacher from eighth in class – for the time being, one lap down.
Jack Aitken currently leads the overall classification in the #31 Cadillac, preceding Brendon Hartley (#10 Acura) and Alex Lynn (#02 Cadillac).