Wayne Taylor Racing Acura will start Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona from pole after holding off Richard Westbrook’s JDC Miller Cadillac on the final lap of the 100-minute qualifying race.
Vautier’s JDC Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi-V.R got off to a great start, with Tristan Nunez coming up from the second row to take second in the Action Express Racing Cadillac – but only until the twisty infield, where Renger van der Zande made several brave passes to take second in the Chip Ganassi Racing #01 Cadillac, up from sixth.
Meyer Shank Racing’s Acura ARX-05 of Tom Blomqvist finished fourth, ahead of Filipe Albuquerque’s Wayne Taylor Racing Acura. In the second Ganassi car, Alex Lynn was cautious and slid to sixth place, ahead of Jimmie Johnson in the Ally Racing AXR Cadillac.
Nunez was escorted off the track when passing GTD cars on Lap 7, allowing Blomqvist and Albuquerque to move their Acuras into third and fourth place, respectively, and he would shortly lose fifth to Lynn’s Ganassi car.
At Lap 15, Nunez turned over the AXR #31 to Pipo Derani, while Blomqvist handed over his MSR Acura to Oliver Jarvis. At the same time, van der Zande was putting pressure on leader Vautier, while Albuquerque was scanning his mirrors for Ganassi rookie Lynn.
On Lap 18, the two Ganassi cars pitted, with Van der Zande handing over the wheel to Sebastien Bourdais and Lynn replaced by Earl Bamber. The next time by, Vautier pulled over to let Richard Westbrook in, handing Albuquerque the lead. Both Ganassi cars were forced to serve drive through penalties after breaking the pitlane speed restriction a few circuits later.
MSR and AXR were in ahead once everyone had stopped, with Jarvis leading Derani by 2.5 seconds – depending on traffic – with Ricky Taylor peddling the WTR Acura a further 6 seconds back and under pressure from Westbrook. Kamui Kobayashi had taken over Johnson’s Ally Cadillac, but he was in sixth place, 22 seconds behind the leader.
As they navigated traffic on Lap 26, Westbrook passed Taylor for third and began attempting to close the 5 second gap to the Jarvis vs Derani battle in front.
With 40 minutes to remaining, Derani would make his second pit stop, giving Jarvis a 2.3-second lead over Westbrook and Taylor. MSR pitted Jarvis two circuits later, and the rest of the DPi cars quickly followed suit.
Westbrook would finish ahead of Jarvis, but Taylor’s Acura would finish ahead of both, with Derani in fourth. While Bourdais and Bamber in the Ganassi cars sat at the back of the class, hoping for a yellow, Kobayashi was still trying to catch up.
Taylor and Westbrook broke away from the pack to engage in an exciting battle in the lead, each displaying excellent judgment as they navigated through traffic. With fewer than 15 minutes remaining, Derani passed Jarvis for third, then Kobayashi passed the MSR car as Jarvis desperately tried to save gasoline.
Derani, on the other hand, was unable to keep up and went into the pits with four circuits to go, dropping to the rear of the field and elevating Kobayashi to third.
Westbrook saw a Cadillac-sized hole on the inside of Taylor at Turn 1 and nudged the Acura, causing Taylor to wiggle and Westbrook to spin. Jarvis overcame the two Ganassi cars and Derani, and the JDC Miller driver recovered in time to defeat Kobayashi for second.