Ligier picked up the 2015 season where it left off the previous year, the #60 Michael Shank Racing Honda HPD-Ligier JS P2 taking overall pole position, Oswaldo Negri earning his second career Daytona pole along the way. MSR won the Rolex 24 in 2012. Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates held down the next two spots on the grid, three-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon driving the #02 Ford-Riley onto the front row with five-time Rolex winner Scott Pruett starting the #01 sister car from third.
Prototype Challenge (PC) pole went to #16 BAR1 Motorsports, with Johnny Mowlem driving. Oliver Gavin took GT Le Mans pole honors in the #4 Corvette Racing C7.R. The #007 TRG-AMG Aston Martin V12 won pole in GT Daytona with James Davison behind the wheel.
Dixon took the race lead through the first series of infield turns. Gianmaria Bruni (#51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia) took the GTLM lead in the same series 4 min 45 sec into the race. With 23 hr 52 min left Colin Braun led PC in the #54 CORE autosport entry. Daniel Serra (#64 Scuderia Corse Ferrari 458 Italia) was in front in GTD.
With 23:17 to go in the race and pit stops having begun, Mowlem was back in front in PC and Gavin in GTLM. Gavin pitted a few minutes later, turning the lead over to Nick Tandy in the #911 Porsche North America 911 RSR. When Tandy pitted the #24 Team RLL BMW Z4 piloted by John Edwards took the lead and was holding it when the first full-course caution came out at 23:06.
Ganassi ran 1-2 during the caution, Dixon ahead of Pruett, with last year’s winners, the #5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP, in third driven by Joao Barbosa. The two Corvette Racing entries, Gavin (#4) and Jan Magnussen (#3), led GTLM, followed by Tandy.
The race restarted at 22:48 without incident. Christopher Zoechling led GTD at 22:41 in the #28 Konrad Motorsport Porsche 911 GT America. The second full-course yellow flew at 22:37. Dixon, Barbosa, and Pruett ran 1-3 under the caution. Gavin led GTLM followed by Magnussen and Wolf Henzler (#17 Falken Tire Porsche 911 RSR). Green came out at 22:23.
Over the course of the next hour the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP, which had earlier been suffering with traction control issues, worked its way into second between the two Ganassi machines, #02 and #01 respectively. The three were separated by 11.3 sec. The #11 RSR Racing entry led PC by 41 sec over the #54.
The #62 Risi Competitzione Ferrari 458 Italia, meanwhile, had moved to the front of GTLM, 0.319 sec ahead of #911 and 28 sec ahead of the #3. The #33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT led GTD.
A caution for the stopped #44 Magnus Racing Porsche 911 GT America driven by Andy Lally at roughly 18:30 prompted a number of lead-lap pit stops. Among them was the race-leading #10 which handed the lead over to the #01 Ganassi entry. Joey Hand was able to hold off teammate Tony Kanaan’s #02 to lead at the 6-hour mark. Hand is being groomed as a potential successor to Pruett once the latter eventually retires. “For me,” said Pruett, “I always approach this race being over-cautious at the start. I’ve done this race so many times. I’ve seen so many drivers who really want to make a statement in the first couple of hours, really trying to work their way up to the front, driving up over curbs and other cars. It is going to be interesting to see how everything unfolds.”
A victory by the #01 would earn Pruett a record sixth Rolex 24 win, while a win by the #2 would make Jamie McMurray only the third driver ever to win both the Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24 (AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti). The #60 MSR Honda-Ligier meanwhile had climbed back to third. Less than 5 sec separated the three top spots, with the Top 5 prototypes all running within 18.5 sec of the leader.
The #54 Core autosport machine led PC. GTLM had the #3 and #4 Corvettes in front of the #62, roughly 9 sec separating the three. The #93 Dodge Viper SRT led GTD by 2.4 sec over the #63 Ferrari Italia 458.
Defending Rolex 24 champion Action Express Racing ran into trouble shortly before the nine-hour mark when Joao Barbosa stopped on-track with no fuel pressure in the #5 Corvette DP. The car required a tow to the garage and returned to the track three laps down. At the end of the second segment, co-driver Christian Fittipaldi had moved to sixth, two laps down.
Jordan Taylor drove the #10 to the lead at the halfway mark of the 53rd Rolex 24 At Daytona, but it was the pair of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford-Riley entries that shared the lead in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup after two six-hour segments.
After scoring a maximum five points in the opening segment, the #01 entry driven by Scott Pruett, Joey Hand, Charlie Kimball, and Sage Karam finished the second segment in the third position while the team’s #02 entry driven by Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Tony Kanaan, and Scott Dixon was second at the end of each segment.
Points in the four-race Patrón Endurance Cup are awarded at specific intervals throughout each race – every six hours in the Rolex 24 – with the leader at the end of each segment scoring five points, four points for second, three points for third and fourth-place on back receiving two points.
Similar to Chip Ganassi Racing in the Prototype class, Corvette Racing’s pair of Corvette C7.Rs shared the top spot after two Patrón Endurance Cup segments in GTLM. Oliver Gavin led at the 12-hour mark in the team’s #4 entry co-driven by Tommy Milner and Simon Pagenaud while the #3 driven by Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, and Ryan Briscoe finished the segment second.
CORE autosport continued to show the dominance in PC that guided the team to wins in three of the four Patrón Endurance Cup events last year. After Colin Braun pitted in the seventh hour with a flat left-rear tire, he later drove the No. 54 ORECA FLM09 he shares with co-drivers Jon Bennett, James Gue, and Mark Wilkins back to the lead earning the maximum 10 points through the race’s first two segments.
Roles were reversed in the GT Daytona (GTD) class as the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 of Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell, Jeff Segal, and Anthony Lazzaro avenged a late pass by the No. 93 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R driven by Kuno Wittmer, Cameron Lawrence, Dominik Farnbacher, and Al Carter at the end of the first segment. With the two teams swapping positions in the opening two segments, both share the NAEC class lead with nine points apiece.