Grand AM » 27 January 2007
Rolex 24 - 3hrs: Ganassi 1-2.
Reigning Rolex 24 at Daytona champions Chip Ganassi Racing held sway as the 2007 edition of the race reached the three-hour mark, with the #01 Riley-Lexus heading a five-way scrap at the head of the field.
After the drama of the opening few laps, when polesitter Alex Gurney undid all his good work of Thursday by hitting a GT runner, the race settled down into the usual cycle of pit-stops, with Marc Goossens leading through the first hour for Riley-Matthews Motorsport, although the Ganassi uprising was already taking shape, with the #01 of Scott Pruett, Salvador Duran and Juan Pablo Montoya settling into second spot.
Gurney's hopes of a solid opening stint were undone as early as lap four when, having come under pressure from Max Angelelli in the #10 SunTrust Racing, he tangled with the #42 GT car, which had had its bonnet fly up, obscuring the windscreen. Unable to avoid the errant backmarker, Gurney spun and damaged the suspension, limping back to the pits for repairs.
Angelelli and Goossens duly inherited the top two positions, with the Belgian then moving past his Italian rival to seize the advantage at the end of the hour, with the #10 dropping back to fourth before the hour was up as the first scheduled pit-stops took their toll. Pruett moved into second spot, with the #05 Sigalsport entry which had suffered the loss of its original qualifying times into the top three. The works Doran entry of Gollin/Gidley/Servia/Jourdain completed the top five.
SunTrust's problems got worse early in the second hour as an ECU failure sent team owner Wayne Taylor back to the pits, and behind the wall for repairs before Jan Magnussen rejoined some laps behind.
With Pruett taking an extended stint, the #01 car was able to inherit the lead, ahead of the #6 MSR entry crewed by James/Zogaib/Tracy/Allmendinger, with the Sigalsport entry in close attendance, followed by the second Ganassi car and the Brumos Porsche of Donohue/Sharp/Rice/Law. Goossens returned to the lead when the Ganassi car finally made a driver change, but was quickly passed by Allmendinger.
Midway through the hour, the #99 GAINSCO entry returned from its extensive period of repairs, already 28 laps down on Allmendinger, who led through to end of the hour, before a scheduled pit-stop allowed Bill Auberlen, in the #05 Sigalsport machine, to inherit top spot.
The third hour proved to be quieter, and closed with the #01 engaged in a close battle, not only with its sister, but also with the Riley-Matthews, Sigalsport and #58 Brumos cars, all running on the same lap.
The SunTrust Riley-Pontiac was running 19th, some four laps down, while the #20 Howard Motorsports entry of Wallace/Leitzinger/Stewart was also in trouble after the Briton felt the engine lapse onto less than the optimum number of cylinders. Sadly for MSR, the #6 had also run into problems, dropping it some 17 laps off the pace and down to the depths of 55th on the road, while the new Vision Racing DP was only two places better off after its own problems.
The GT battle was headed by the #85 and 74 Porsches, although it had been the latter, crewed by Farnbacher/Lux/Henzler that had led for most of the opening period.
Leading positions - Rolex 24: 3hrs:
1. Pruett/Montoya/Duran Ganassi 98 laps
2. Dixon/Wheldon/Rojas Ganassi 98
3. Johnson/Goossens/Matthews/Hunter-Reay Riley-Matthews 98
4. Law/Donohue/Rice/Sharp Brumos 98
5. Alhadeff/Auberlen/Sigal/Wendlinger Sigalsport 98
6. Castroneves/Hornish/Negri/Patterson MSR 97
7. Maassen/Cheever/Fittipaldi/Collard Cheever 97
8. Gollin/Gidley/Servia/Jourdain Doran 97
9. Braun/Papis/Lehto Krohn 97
10. Haywood/France/Moreno/Barbosa Brumos 96
1. (22) Ehret/Keen/Wener/Hardt Farnbacher Loles 90 laps
2. (23) Farnbacher/Henzler/Lux/Tafel Tafel 90
3. (25) Westbrook/Johnson/Huisman/Lietz Synergy 90
4. (26) Swartzbaugh/Davis/Liddell/Muller Tafel 90
5. (27) Kelleners/Lowe/Pace/van Overbeek TRG 89
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