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Grand-Am: Rolex 24 - 9hrs: Cautions dominate.

Perhaps surprisingly, the first full course caution of the 2007 Rolex 24 did not occur until shortly after the six-hour mark, but the appearance of multiple yellow flags was to become a feature of the next few hours.

Although seemingly innocuous, the first major safety car period allowed the field to bunch up and, with wave-bys, brought no fewer than four cars back onto the lead lap. The #01 Ganassi Riley-Lexus of Pruett/Montoya/Duran continued to lead the #58 Red Bull Brumos Riley-Porsche of Law/Donohue/Rice/Sharp, but they were joined by the #11 SAMAX/CITGO Riley-Pontiac and the similar #91 Riley-Matthews entry by the time that racing resume.

Sadly for the #91, the recovery was not to last long, for the Lowe's-backed car was soon heading pitwards with damage to its front end, the subsequent radiator replacement costing it many laps and effectively ending the team's shot at victory. Into fourth spot came the steady Sigalsport Riley-BMW, spurred on by Bill Auberlen's efforts behind the wheel, the second Brumos entry and the best of the non-Riley runners, the #77 Doran.

With Pruett having re-established his advantage over the spirited SAMAX car - crewed by Patrick Carpentier, Milka Duno, Darren Manning and Ryan Dalziel - the second full course caution appeared to slow his progress, this time with the #60 MSR Riley-Lexus stranded off the road near the chicane. Mark Patterson appeared to miss the hazard, only to find another as he attempted to straightline, the #60 Flight Options car failing to make it through the infield mud.

Again, wave-bys allowed four cars to gather on the lead lap, with Pruett's #01 Ganassi car holding off the SAMAX, Brumos and now Sigalsport entries at the head of the field. Although SAMAX and Brumos swapped places, the order at the front remained unchanged through eight hours. Behind the leading quartet, however, the second Ganassi car was continuing its recovery after brake and tyre problems, now into fifth ahead of the second Brumos car.

A relatively sedate race finally came to life in the ninth hour but, sadly for the Brumos squad, it all began with the #58 becoming an unwitting victim of someone else's accident. When Tom Malloy's Team Sahlen Porsche found itself in the middle of AJ Allmendinger and Scott Sharp, he opted not to back off and made contact with both DPs, sending Sharp's #58 limping top pit-lane, where the crew feverishly worked to repair the large amount of body damage.

Race control benched Malloy for his part in the incident, while Sharp eventually returned to the track along way down the order. At the nine-hour mark, all the team's hard work counted for little more than 30th place and a deficit to the leaders of 32 laps....

Another full course caution was then prompted by the demise of the VICI car, which sometime F1 backmarker Gaston Mazzacane dumped into the wall, and overshadowed the continuing comebacks of the #02 - which ended the ninth hour on the provisional podium behind its #01 sister and the #11 SAMAX car - and the #10 SunTrust entry, which had clawed its way back to sixth, behind the #05 Sigalsport and #59 Brumos machines. The #16 Dyson/Howard car was creeping closer to the top ten, but there was frustration for the #75 Krohn and #99 GAINSCO entries, which continued to be mired outside the top 40 after their respective problems earlier in the race.

SAMAX seized the lead as the clock ticked past nine hours, but the #01, #02 and #05 were all on the same lap, wqith the #59 Brumos car rounding out the top five and the recovering SunTrust machine up to sixth.

The top ten was completed by the unheralded AIM Autosport Riley, which was making steady if unspectacular progress on its Daytona debut, the second SAMAX car, the #77 Doran - which had lost time and a place in the top five with a minor technical problem - and the bright yellow Finlay Crawford-Ford.

The drama was not restricted to the DP class, however, for long-time GT leader Tafel Racing found its #74 Porsche dropped towards the tail of the field after it required a change of shocks. That left the #85 Farnbacher Loles example out front, from the #17 Doncaster Racing and #72 Tafel entries, but with the two Banner Racing Pontiacs determined to get in on the battle, which remained divided by a lap but prone to the occasional reshuffle as driver rotations took place.

To make matters more exciting, the long-promised rain finally arrived as the race moved into its tenth hour....

Leading positions - Rolex 24: 9hrs

1. Carpentier/Duno/Manning/Dalziel SAMAX 280
2. Pruett/Montoya/Duran Ganassi 280 laps
3. Dixon/Wheldon/Rojas Ganassi 280
4. Alhadeff/Auberlen/Sigal/Wendlinger Sigalsport 280
5. Haywood/France/Moreno/Barbosa Brumos 279
6. Angelelli/Taylor/Gordon/Magnussen SunTrust 278
7. Frisselle/Frisselle/Wilkins/Empringham AIM 278
8. Enge/Festa/Montanari/Yasukawa/Szekeres SAMAX 275
9. Gidley/Gollin/Servia/Jourdain Doran 274
10. Finlay/Valiante/McDowell/Labonte Finlay 273

GT

1. (18) Ehret/Keen/Werner/Hardt Farnbacher Loles 261
2. (19) Pilgrim/O'Connell/Edwards/Collins Banner 261
3. (20) Swartzbaugh/Davis/Liddell/Muller Tafel 261
4. (22) Lacey/Mowlem/Wilkins/Papadopoulos/Arnold Doncaster 260
5. (23) Reese/Lewis/O'Connell/Edwards Banner 260


Related Pictures

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Rolex Series action [Pic credit: Grand-Am]
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Alex Popow and Sebastien Bourdais, drivers of the #2 Soloson Ford Riley, celebrate after winning the Grand-AM Rolex Sports Car Series inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2012, in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
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Derek Johnston [Pic credit: Grand Am]
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Max Angelelli and Brian Friselle win at Daytona [Pic credit: Grand Am Media]
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