In what quite possibly could be one of the closest finishes ever for a 24-hour endurance race, three cars are battling for the Rolex 24 at Daytona title, with SAMAX, SunTrust and Chip Ganassi heading into the final three hours less than five seconds apart.

Currently the SAMAX Pontiac of Darren Manning, Ryan Dalziel, Milka Duno and Patrick Carpentier have assumed the lead of the race again from the #1 Ganassi Lexus-Riley of Juan Pablo Montoya, Salvador Duran and Scott Pruett when they were forced to pit twice within a few laps.

This was due to a caution period caused by their #1 Chip Ganassi team-mates, reigning champions Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon, as well as Memo Rojas, after Rojas attempted to pass a backmarker but ran slightly wide and slammed into the tyre barriers with gusto on the wet grass.

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The ensuing damage has forced the trio to retire from the race, a great disappointment for a team that had been running comfortably in fourth place.

SAMAX took the opportunity of the caution period to dive into the pit lane and replace Manning with Dalziel, the former having done a magnificent job of holding onto Duran in tricky conditions following several sporadic showers that dropped lap times considerably.

With an eye on getting themselves back in sync with their pit stops, Montoya also came in and remained inside the car, returning to the circuit with the opportunity to catch Dalziel ahead of him before the circuit went green again.

What the two perhaps didn't account for was the arrival of the SunTrust Pontiac that has staged a marvellous comeback over the race following problems early on, Jan Magnussen getting the car onto the lead lap before handing over to Max Angelelli, who duly used the caution to get the team onto the tail of Dalziel and Montoya.

When the race did get underway again some 15 minutes later, Montoya quickly dispatched the backmarkers ahead to get onto the tail of Dalziel, the Chip Ganassi car appearing faster on the infield, but Dalziel having the advantage around the banked oval.

Montoya however was struggling rather more to scythe his way through the backmarkers and when he dived around the outside of one of the GT cars, who then proceeded to block him, Angelelli duly took advantage to slip ahead into second place.

As the race struck 21 hours, Dalziel continued to lead, but was less than a second up on Angelelli, whose experience of the race is clearly paying dividends as backmarkers begin to play their part, while Montoya himself was less than a second off the Italian to make the final three hours of the race an enticing prospect.

Having tussled for third with SunTrust for much of the race, the Brumos Porsche has now slipped away again and is currently two laps down on the battle for the podium, while Roberto Moreno, who is now in the car, is beginning to feel the heat from the second SAMAX entry, which has proved something of a surprise in the latter stages of the race, particularly in the hands of Tomas Enge who was the quickest driver on track when the rain fell, a drive that briefly got them up to fourth ahead of their pit stop.

AIM Autosport have moved up to sixth place meanwhile and are lapping comfortably ahead of the Doran Ford, which has jumped up to seventh place from tenth after a happily uneventful three hours for them. Ruby Tuesday on the other hand hit more problems just before the 21 hour mark, dropping to ninth as a result while the team slave away on the car in the pit lane.

Finlay have now also jumped a place to eighth now, with the top ten rounded off by early leaders Lowe, the car currently being piloted by Marc Goossens at the moment.

In the GT class the Farnbacher Porsche continues to lead and have now pulled a lead of lap over the Banner Pontiac GXP.R, who in turn is now having to stave off the attentions of the Gatorade Porsche currently being driven by Marc Besseng and currently lapping some two seconds faster than the car in front of him.

The Lowe Porsche has stayed in fourth place, but are now ahead of the SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 that has slipped back to fifth place, three laps off the lead.

Leading positions - Rolex 24: 21hrs

1. Carpentier/Duno/Manning/Dalziel SAMAX 568 laps
2. Angelelli/Taylor/Gordon/Magnussen SunTrust 568
3. Pruett/Montoya/Duran Ganassi 568
4. Haywood/France/Moreno/Barbosa Brumos 566
5. Enge/Festa/Montanari/Yasukawa/Szekeres SAMAX 564
6. Frisselle/Frisselle/Wilkins/Empringham AIM 558
7. Gidley/Gollin/Servia/Jourdain Doran 556
8. Finlay/Valiante/McDowell/Labonte Finlay 556
9. Long/Bergmeister/Dumas Ruby Tuesday 549
10. Goossens/Matthews/Johnson/Hunter-Reay Lowe 543

GT

1. (12) Ehret/Keen/Werner/Hardt Farnbacher Loles 536
2. (13) Pilgrim/O'Connell/Edwards/Collins Banner 535
3. (14) de Quesada/Dumoulin/Gabel/Basseng Gatorade 535
4. (16) Lowe/Pace/van Overbeek/Kellener Lowe 534
5. (17) Ham/ Haskell/Tremblay/Pobst Speedsource 533