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Pole-Sitter Blomqvist Leads Opening Hour at Rolex 24

Meyer Shank Racing builds early lead in opening stages of first GTP-era race at Daytona…

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

Pole-sitter Tom Blomqvist controlled the opening hour of the Rolex 24 at Daytona for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing.

The British driver built a lead of around six seconds over Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac driver Sebastien Bourdais during the opening stint of the new GTP class and remained ahead through the first round of pit stops.

However, Bourdais dropped to third in the pits as Ricky Taylor’s No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport Acura ARX-06 moved up a position.

Bourdais made a strong start, climbing from fourth to second on the opening lap.

The safety car was then brought out on lap two when the Tower Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson stopped at the bottom of the banking with electronic issues.

After racing resumed on 11 minutes, Blomqvist successfully set about increasing his advantage over Bourdais through traffic, while Taylor battled the two Porsche 963s driven by Felipe Nasr and Nick Tandy for third place.

Nasr held third for most of the way until Taylor found a route past shortly before the stops.

Tandy, meanwhile, dropped to sixth when he and Action Express Racing Cadillac driver Pipo Derani clashed into Turn 1, although neither car sustained significant damage.

The first major drama in GTP concerned the No. 25 BMW M Hybrid V8, which Nick Yelloly parked up shortly before the pit entry line with a suspected hybrid system issue.

Ben Keating stretched into an early lead in the LMP2 class for PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports.

Going up against his fellow Bronze-rated drivers, Keating gained around 13 seconds of clearance at the head of the field with George Kurtz, Francois Heriau and Francois Perrodo chasing.

In LMP3, Nico Pino gave Sean Creech Motorsports a 10-second advantage over Andretti Autosports before handing the No. 33 Ligier JS P320 Nissan over to Lance Willsey.

WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG driver Maro Engel led the opening stint of the GTD Pro contest, with Ross Gunn close behind in the No. 23 The Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3.

However, after the first round of pit stops, The Heart of Racing moved ahead of WeatherTech with David Pittard newly installed into the British car.

A pair of Mercedes-AMGs featured at the front of GTD as Mike Skeen and Fabian Schiller ran first and second for Team Korthoff Motorsports and SunEnergy1 Racing.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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