Polesitter Harry Tincknell immediately sprinted into the lead in the Mazda RT24-P and by Lap 8 he had pulled more than 5sec ahead of Filipe Albuquerque in the Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05. Three seconds further back was Action Express Racing’s Cadillac DPi-V.R piloted by Pipo Derani, Dane Cameron in the Meyer Shank Racing Acura and Tristan Vautier in the JDC-Miller Motorsports Caddy. Unfortunately, Kevin Magnussen was given a drive-through penalty for changing lanes before reaching the start-finish line, so the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac fell to the back of the class.
Derani was passed by Cameron and got spun when he turned across the nose of a GTD car, so fell to fifth behind Vautier. The Brazilian stopped on Lap 25 and was replaced by Felipe Nasr, Magnussen came in on Lap 26.
Multimatic turned Tincknell around swiftly on Lap 31, and the two Acuras pitted together next time by. WTR’s stop went well, although Albuquerque rejoined third behind the charging Nasr, but MSR, who swapped Cameron for Olivier Pla, fell to the back of the class, behind Vautier and Magnussen.
Tincknell, who had built up a 12sec lead before his pitstop, saw that deficit shrink to 3sec as he negotiated traffic and the AXR Cadillac closed in. Six seconds behind, Albuquerque was having to work hard to stave off Vautier and Magnussen.
At the second round of stops, #31 AXR car was again the first of the DPis to stop, while Vautier halted the JDC Miller car just one lap later and handed off to Loic Duval.
Tincknell and Magnussen pitted two laps later, Oliver Jarvis taking over the RT24-P, Renger van der Zande jumping aboard the Ganassi Caddy. Jarvis didn’t have it easy thanks to Nasr’s pressure. When Pat Long’s GTD Porsche spun into the sandtrap with an hour to go AXR pitted Nasr immediately, getting the Cadillac in before the pitlane closed. When pitlane opened, the five other DPis stopped. WTR got Ricky Taylor out ahead of the Mazda as the #10 had previously stopped five laps later than the Mazda – but AXR’s hair-trigger decision to pit Nasr saw the #31 Cadillac ahead of both of them and in the lead.
IMSA Radio reported that Meyer Shank Racing was struggling with its refueling equipment, so the team did well to get Pla ahead of Duval and van der Zande.
The restart with 45mins to go was clean , Nasr comfortably holding off Taylor, Jarvis and Pla. However, Taylor dived inside Nasr to claim the lead at Turn 6, while van der Zande moved past Duval to snatch fifth.
Taylor couldn’t escape from the AXR car however, and traffic made the pressure on Taylor even higher. On a clear track he inched away, while further back , van der Zande deposed Pla to claim fourth in the Ganassi Cadillac.
In fact, with Mazda worried that it couldn’t quite make to the end without a splash of fuel, Jarvis had to ease off and allowed van der Zande into third, albeit eight seconds behind Nasr who was still only 1.5sec from Taylor’s Acura. Jarvis’s feather-footing also saw him fall into the clutches of Pla. However, Pla couldn’t make it to the end, and ducked into the pits with less than four minutes to go for a splash of fuel. The following lap, van der Zande did likewise and gave up third to Jarvis’s Mazda.
Up front, Taylor tiptoed around the last lap, trying to keep Nasr behind and enough juice in the tank, and held on to win by 0.368sec, a mission he completed to Acura’s delight. Jarvis did a fine job to claim third to save enough fuel to claim third without a splash, while Duval moved up to fourth as a result of the Ganassi and MSR late stop.
Aaron Telitz retained his pole position from the drop of the green, the #14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F remaining ahead of Robby Foley in the Turner Motorsports BMW M6, Daniel Morad in the Alegra Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT, Frankie Montecalvo in the second Lexus, Madison Snow in the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan, and Roman De Angelis in the Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage.
At the first round of stops, Jack Hawksworth took over from Telitz and retained the net lead ahead of Foley, while the second Lexus, now driven by Zach Veach, was turned around fast enough to get him out ahead of Michael De Quesada who was now piloting the Alegra Benz.
However, Snow, Zacharie Robichon in the Pfaff Motorsports Porsche and Richard Heistand in the Carbahn Audi R8, delayed their first stop until an hour into the race.
However, almost as soon as the Hawksworth/Telitz Lexus regained the lead, it was suddenly seen running slow with wobbly left-rear wheel due to suspension failure. The #14 pitted and rolled back to the paddock.
That left Foley’s Turner BMW leading the class by 25sec over Veach, with Ross Gunn now in the HoR Aston Martin in third, with Pat Long fourth in the Wright Motorsports Porsche, and Mario Farnbacher fifth in the Compass Racing Acura.
The final stops for top runners in GT Daytona came with 62mins to go, but almost immediately afterward, GTD points leader Pat Long now in the Wright Porsche was spun into the Turn 13 sandtrap after getting trapped between the Alegra Mercedes of De Quesada and Robichon’s Pfaff Porsche. That required the first full-course caution of the race to rescue Long, who had sustained a right-rear puncture.
Of course a flood of stops ensued, and the Turner M6 – now driven by Bill Auberlen – saw its 25sec lead erased, with Veach tucked in behind ahead of Gunn. The big change was that Paul Miller Racing’s Lamborghini driven by Bryan Sellers was up to fourth, ahead of Farnbacher’s Compass Acura NSX, Jeff Westphal in the Carbahn Audi, and the Acuras of Andy Lally (Magnus Archangel) and Marc Miller (Gradient Racing).
At the restart with 45mins to go, Sellers and Farnbacher jumped Gunn to take third and fourth, although 17mins later, Gunn moved back ahead of the Compass Acura at Turn 1.
Auberlen dropped Veach by over four seconds, leaving the Lexus driver to try and keep Sellers from his tail, a job he did adequately despite his relative dearth of GT experience, to claim second.
Heart of Racing claimed fourth ahead of Compass Racing.
In LMP3, Felipe Fraga and Gar Robinson drove their Riley Motorsports Ligier to a three-second victory over Rasmus Lindh and Dan Goldburg in the similar car of Performance Tech Motorsports, with the second Riley entry a further 5sec back driven by Dylan Murray and Jim Cox.
Colin Braun survived a crash in the CORE autosport car at the penultimate turn to claim a distant fourth, but Andretti Autosport’s Jarett Andretti and Oliver Askew had to retire the #36 machine due to a mechanical failure at three-quarter distance.