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Grand-Am: Rolex 24 - 18hrs: Ganassi again - just.

Three quarters of the Rolex 24 at Daytona have been completed but the battle for the lead remains as hard-fought as it was at the start, with SAMAX initially moving into the lead, only for Chip Ganassi to get back ahead soon after on an incresingly treacherous circuit.

In an otherwise placid few hours, the top two positions continue to change hands, the variable pit stop cycles skewing the results somewhat but generally suggesting victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona will come from one of these teams.

In the hands of Juan Pablo Montoya, Ganassi had built up a comfortable advantage before handing over to Scott Pruett, but when the race was plunged into a full course yellow, the SAMAX Pontiac began to make up the ground quickly, somehow getting to within five seconds when the race resumed just gone the 16 hour mark.

Indeed, after confident stints by Ryan Dalziel at the halfway mark and by Milka Duno just after, it was the turn of Patrick Carpentier to show his hand, closing the gap down markedly before moving into the lead when Ganassi pitted and switched to Salvador Duran.

Now Carpentier had to make the most of a clear track ahead – save for lapping the various GT cars that have proved a bane for several prototype runners through the race – and do enough to hand the car back over to Darren Manning in the lead.

Indeed, the Canadian had done enough and Manning was back on track five seconds up on Duran in a scene rather more akin to a grand prix sprint rather than an endurance race now approaching the 18 hour mark.

However, SAMAX wouldn't be able to savour the lead for too long as Duran continued his charge, proving rather more comfortable in the increasingly wet conditions that have made the circuit tricky to drive as day begins to break. By the 18 hour mark Duran put the Chip Ganassi car back in front, gradually pulling a lead out on Manning.

As if the spectators braving the weather needed another battle to keep themselves entertained, the tussle for third is also proving equally engrossing with the position switching constantly between the second Chip Ganassi Lexus, the Brumos Porsche and SunTrust Pontiac.

Although again pit stop cycles have more to do with the changes in position at times, the trio were occasionally within just a few seconds of each other, with Scott Dixon for Ganassi and Joao Barbosa for Brumos in particular swapping position on the track constantly at one point.



Related Pictures

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Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor drive the #10 Velocity Worldwide Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype to victory Saturday, April 6, 2013 in the third race of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevrolet)
Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor drive the #10 Velocity Worldwide Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype (left) to victory Saturday, April 6, 2013 in the third race of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Alex Gurney and Jo Fogarty, drivers of the #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP (right) finish in second place. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevrolet)
Juan Pablo Montoya, Memo Rojas, Scott Pruett and Charlie Kimball, co-drivers of the #01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates TELMEX/Target Ford BMW Riley celebrate their win in victory lane at the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 27, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
The winning #60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Ford Riley car is brought into victory lane after a gruelling 50th anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona. [Picture Credit: Daytona International Speedway]
Action Express win the Rolex 24 [Pic credit: Grand Am]
Derek Johnston [Pic credit: Grand Am]
Vic Elford, the 2010 Rolex 24 At Daytona Grand Marshal (Photo credit: Motorsports Images and Archives)
The No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Porsche Coyote that will be tested by 2009 Radical European Masters Champion Derek Johnston at Virginia International Raceway
Max Angelelli and Brian Friselle win at Daytona [Pic credit: Grand Am Media]
Scott Pruett/Memo Rojas - TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Lexus   [pic credit: Grand-Am]
Scott Pruett/Memo Rojas - TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Lexus   [pic credit: Grand-Am]
Scott Pruett/Memo Rojas - TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Lexus   [pic credit: Grand-Am]
The Spirit of Daytona entry at Daytona [Pic credit: Grand Am]
The winning TRG team at Daytona [Pic credit: Brian Cleary]
The winning Brumos Racing team at Daytona [Pic credit: Brian Cleary]
Flags at the Rolex 24 [Pic credit: Grand Am]
The Wright Motorsport Porsche at Daytona [Pic credit: Brian Cleary]
The GAINSCO Racing entry at Daytona [Pic credit: Brian Cleary]

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