Penske Racing's #16 Porsche Riley returned to the lead of the Rolex 24 at Daytona as the race approached the eleven-hour mark under cover of darkness.

The car, a frontrunner from the start, is one of five still on the lead lap overall as the gruelling event continues to take its toll. The GT class leader, TRG's #66 Porsche GT3 Cup, is now up to tenth overall, but is running alone on the lead lap in its category as veteran Emmanuel Collard controls the class.

While Penske, Brumos and Ganassi continued to enjoy relative reliability, however, it was sad to see the two Michael Shank Racing transporters leaving the track in the early stages of the race. All but one driver, John Pew, got to drive, but both the #6 and #60 Ford Rileys retired with the same engine problem, caused by a faulty trigger sensor.

Having seen AJ Allmendinger grind to a halt while leading in MSR's #6, Ryan Hunter-Reay also suffered the ignominy of bringing out a caution when the #60 suffered the same fate, stopping on the NASCAR apron between turns three and four.

"This race was a lot like last year - we had a strong car, a fast pace and a good line-up but something out of our control knocked us out," MSR team-mate Colin Braun said of the #60's demise, "Unfortunately this puts Mark [Patterson] and Ozz [Oswaldo Negri] behind the eight-ball as far as their championship goes, so I feel bad about that.

"But this was out of our hands. We were in great shape, just doing the laps and being on the pace. The car was great, but that's racing."

Krohn Racing has also retired one of its two Ford Lola DPs with a broken crank sensor, and the Ford contingent was also hit when AIM Motorsports' suffered engine problems, having already changed a gearbox on its #61 Riley.

Other recent retirements include the #64 Glow Racing Porsche GT3, out with broken driveshaft, and the #22 Allegra Motorsports BMW Riley, which was eliminated when Chapman Ducote hit the turn six wall. The similar #55 BMW Riley has also been behind the wall with a transmission problem, while perhaps the most bizarre retirement of the night came when the roof flew off the #13 Pontiac Riley of Jordan Taylor approaching the eleven-hour mark.

Sometime leader SunTrust Racing - owned and run by Taylor's father Wayne - took its #10 Ford Dallara to the garage with brake and exhaust problems, losing a lap changing the brakes, while the #58 that carried Brumos hopes for so long regained one of three lost laps while running eighth in the hands of polewinner David Donohue.

The #99 GAINSCO entry, meanwhile, continues to make up ground after losing nine laps to gearbox problems early on, although Jimmy Vasser foresees further problems for the team as a result.

"There's a long way to go, but I think, when we had the gearbox problem, it might have damaged its ratchet system," the veteran revealed, "It's moving a little bit sloppy, but we just have to keep out there and keep charging away. It is the same old thing, you have to try to take care of the car, but we also have to keep making time. We can't go down any more laps."

The lead of the race continued to change hands as the various pit-stop schedules cycled through. The #59 Brumos entry of Joao Barbosa pitted on lap 263, falling to fourth and giving the advantage to Ganassi's #02, but was returned to Brumos after Scott Dixon pitted, with JC France picking up at the front after the #16 Penske and #10 SunTrust cars also pitted from second and third. Dario Franchitti replaced Dixon at the #02 team's stop, and then retook the lead on lap 270 after passing France.

"So far so good at this stage in the race," Dixon reflected, "We've been hanging around and have been pretty consistent so far. Dario, Alex [Lloyd] and the team have all done their part as we reached the nine-hour mark so we are right where we need to be. The Porsches have definitely been fast to this point, but we just need to be in position to race them in the last few hours tomorrow."

The recovering #01 Ganassi entry - which lost time to kerb-inflicted splitter problems early on - was flying in the hands of Scott Pruett and Juan Pablo Montoya, allowing the Colombian to also overtake France at just beyond the nine-hour mark to give the reigning champion team an ominous 1-2.

However, when Montoya pitted 20 minutes later, the #16 Penske entry of Timo Bernhard moved back into second spot. With the leaders all on slightly different schedules, Max Angelelli was able to catch and pass Franchitti on lap 311 to give SunTrust's Italian a taste of P1, and the Angelelli-Franchitti-Montoya-Romain Dumas lead group remained separated by less than eleven seconds, with fifth-placed Terry Borcheller, in Brumos #59, less than 25 seconds behind at ten-and-a-half hours.

A couple of cycles later, in which Montoya took the lead on lap 328, ahead of Franchitti, and then the #16 Penske Porsche Riley came through the group, Dumas ended the eleventh hour at the head of the pack, with the #02 - which he passed on track - the #01, #10 and #59 continuing on the lead lap.

Collard continues to pace GT in TRG's #66 Porsche, with the Farnbacher #86, TRG #67 and the Wright Motorsports #33 completing an all-Porsche top four, before the #57 Stevenson Pontiac GXP.R provided some variety at the head of the class.



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