Helio Castroneves in the Meyer Shank Racing Acura made a brilliant restart from fourth place on a restart 3hr30min into the race, but suffered a sudden deflation of his left-rear and lost a whole lap limping back to the pits.
That allowed Will Stevens in the Acura ARX-05 of Wayne Taylor Racing back into the lead ahead of Ganassi’s Renger van der Zande, Tristan Nunez in the Action Express Racing Whelen Engineering Cadillac, Marcus Ericsson in the second Ganassi Caddy, Mike Rockenfeller in the Ally AXR Cadillac and Ben Keating doing double-duty in the JDC-Miller MotorSports entry.
Then the caution flew again for a multi-car shunt at Turn 6 which involved Alex Riberas in the #23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin, Ayrton Ori in the Muehlner Motorsports LMP3 Duqueine and Kenny Habul in the SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.
The race restarted just before the four-hour mark, with van der Zande taking less than a lap to depose Stevens and grab the lead, ahead of Nunez, Ericsson, Rockenfeller and Keating, while Castroneves busily tried to unlap himself from his DPi rivals. Van der Zande was getting a hurry on, and lowered the DPi lap record to 1min34.042sec on his 122nd lap.
An incident after 4hr10min saw the WTR Acura spinning to a halt in Turn 1 with a punctured right-rear, and Stevens limped to the pits, losing two laps in the process. In anticipation of a potential yellow – due to a large piece of debris on the curb at Turn 2 – his rivals pitted.
Van der Zande and Nunez remained in first and second with Ericsson now in third ahead of Rockenfeller, Castroneves – now back on the lead lap – and Richard Westbrook, who had taken over the JDC-Miller Cadillac from Keating.
Dixon took over the #01 Caddy from van der Zande and kept the Ganassi car a dozen seconds ahead of Mike Conway who had replaced Nunez in the #31 car. But a full-course yellow for Owen Trinkler driving the GTD Porsche of TGM into the Turn 5 tire barrier compressed Dixon, Conway, Westbrook and Kevin Magnussen in the #02 Ganassi Cadillac together, until the latter pulled off, along with Oliver Jarvis now in the MSR Acura, Jimmie Johnson in the #48 Ally AXR car and Ricky Taylor in the two-laps-down WTR Acura.
MSR and the Ally AXR teams also fitted new rear bodywork on their car, Rockenfeller revealing to IMSA Radio that in AXR’s case this was because of mild damage from being hit by Sebastien Bourdais in the Ganassi car in the opening hour.
In LMP2, the main battle is between High Class Racing, the Racing Team Nederland car and PR1/Mathiasen’s #52 entry, all three of which have all taken turns at the front. Mikkel Jensen had a bizarre half-spin in the #52 under caution on worn tires in his first stint, but recovered without much issue.
Fourth place was held by the other PR1 car while Josh Pierson was at the wheel but it inevitably lost time when gentleman driver took over, and has now slipped to fifth behind the best of the G-Drive with APR cars. The second G-Drive machine lost five laps to a mechanical issue.
The GTD Pro class has been very exciting, the top four covered by 12sec, but one of the Porsche 911 GT3 Rs – the #79 WeatherTech Racing machine – has fallen out of contention with multiple mechanical difficulties. Thus the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 moved to the front, but following a round of pitstops, the Italian car with Davide Rigon at the wheel has dropped to second behind the KCMG Porsche currently being steered by Dennis Olsen.
The Pfaff Porsche, now driven by Matt Campbell, is third ahead of the #97 WeatherTech Proton Mercedes-AMG GT3 in fourth with Jules Gounon in the cockpit.
The two Corvette C8.Rs are sixth and seventh, behind the #14 Lexus RC F of Jack Hawksworth. The latter had to serve a drive-through penalty when enduro driver Kyle Kirkwood clashed with the #59 Crucial Motorsports McLaren 720S, the British car subsequently falling 24 laps down.
Winward Racing’s Mercedes was leading GTD ahead of the similar car of Alegra…