Chris Pallis' decision to demolish the guard rail at pit exit has interrupted what was turning into a fascinating battle between one of the established Rolex Series names and one of the ambitious smaller teams hoping to topple it from that perch.
The red flag brought out to suspend the Rolex 24 just short of the twelve-hour mark left the #01 Chip Ganassi Racing entry running on the same lap as the #11 SAMAX car, with the latter having just sneaked into the lead as the pit-stop cycle exerted its influence. Ryan Dalziel is at the wheel of the black SAMAX machine, with Juan Montoya having taken over from Salvador Duran in the #01.
The run to half-distance was littered with sob stories from the Daytona Prototype ranks, with both Cheever Racing cars requiring attention, the Porsche-engine Dyson/Howard Motorsports entry being forced out, the hitherto reliable Sigalsport car hitting its first trouble of the race and the #23 Ruby Tuesday.Alex Job frustration continuing with niggling problems, despite the car now featuring in the top ten.
More serious, however, was the exit of the #18 VICI Racing XM Satellite Fabcar, which crashed out with sometime F1 driver Gaston Mazzacane at the wheel. Having lost control, the Argentine hit the armco protecting a light pole and was injured in the crash. Although he was awake and alert when the emergency crew arrived at the scene, he was taken to Halifax Hospital in Daytona Beach for further observation.
Although the two Ganassi cars briefly resumed their 1-2 formation, the order was more a result of the differing fuel consumption and driver change rotas being enjoyed/employed by the leaders, and it was not long before the #11 was reinstalled as chief pursuer to the #'01. That is to take nothing away from the #02 Ganassi effort, however, as Scott Dixon, Memo Rojas and, especially, Dan Wheldon flying in the darkness.
As the red came out, to cover repair work on the pit-lane barrier, Samax had eased into the lead, but on the same lap - 353 - as the #01. The second Ganassi entry is a lap back, but two clear of fourth place, which is now occupied by the recovering SunTrust #10 Riley. The blue machine has its hands full with the second Brumos car, taking up the mantle dropped by its sister when it was collected by an errant GT machine while challenging for the lead.
The rest of the top ten in becoming increasingly strung out, with the Tomas Enge-inspired sixth-placed #7 Samax car five laps off the lead and battling with the #61 AIM Autosport car. The #77 Doran is another lap back, with the top ten completed by the #19 Finlay and #23 Ruby Tuesday cars. The Sigalsport entry has dropped out of the top ten, having once been on the lead lap, and was classified in eleventh when the race was suspended.
The next three spots are occupied by unfancied DP combinations from RVO, Robinson Racing and TruSpeed, before another former frontrunner - the #91 Riley-Matthews car - rounds out the top 15.
The GT battle has also taken a twist with Porsche having been toppled for the first time. With the #74 Tafel 911 GT3 currently running 44th overall after its shock-related problems, and the #'72 sister machine 41st, the best German car is the #85 Farnbacher Loles entry, but that has been usurped by the #07 Banner Racing Pontiac, although the two lead cars remain on the same lap and locked in a similar battle to that at the very front.
Porsches fill the next two spots, both on overall and class standings, with the #17 Doncaster Racing and #66 TRG cars, with the #70 Speedsource Mazda sandwiched between the latter and the second Pontiac.
The rain which appeared to be on target for Daytona at then end of the ninth hour failed to materialise, although the skies remain menacing as the race enters its second half.
Leading positions - Rolex 24: 12hrs
SAMAX 353 laps
Ruby Tuesday 340
1. (16) Pilgrim/O'Connell/Edwards/Collins
2. (17) Ehret/Keen/Werner/Hardt
Farnbacher Loles 329
3. (18) Lacey/Mowlem/Wilkins/Papadopoulos/Arnold
4. (19) Valentine/Pumpelly/Lally/Greenberg/Buckler
5. (20) Ham/ Haskell/Tremblay/Pobst