Filipe Albuquerque held a slender half-second gap over Action Express Racing’s Mike Rockenfeller as Wayne Taylor Racing led the Rolex 24 at Daytona at the halfway mark.
Albuquerque, who is sharing the WTR Acura ARX-05 with Ricky Taylor, Alexander Rossi and Helio Castroneves, overtook Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kevin Magnussen at a full course yellow restart in the 11th hour to put the winning team of the last two years into first.
The restart came after the sixth caution period of the event, which was triggered by a Lexus RC F GT3 stopping on-track with an issue and led to the leaders bunching up.
Albuquerque shot past ex-Formula 1 driver Magnussen coming out of Turn 1, putting Acura into the overall lead after several hours of Cadillac DPi-V.Rs running at the front.
Magnussen kept Albuquerque within range during the next stint, but the Ganassi Cadillac pilot moved down to third behind Simon Pagenaud of Action Express during the next pit window at the start of the 12th hour.
Pagenaud then closed the gap to Albuquerque and even made a passing attempt around the outside at Turn 1, but the FIA World Endurance LMP2 champion saw off the challenge.
Magnussen was around 12 seconds behind Rockenfeller – in for Pagenaud – at the halfway point, while NASCAR Cup champion and DPi rookie Chase Elliott was a further 20 seconds back in fourth driving the No. 31 Action Express Whelen Cadillac.
Juan Pablo Montoya completed the top five for Acura squad Meyer Shank Racing, which stood as the last team still circulating on the lead lap.
Mazda Motorsports was already a lap down when it lost two further laps during the most recent FCY period for a lengthy rear-end change.
The JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac that led at one-quarter distance has returned to the track since its contact with a GTD Porsche but is almost 50 laps off the lead.
In the LMP2 class, Cetilar Racing held the upper hand at halfway with its AF Corse-prepared Dallara P217 Gibson.
Giorgio Sernagiotto used the restart in the 11th hour to find a way past Steven Thomas in the WIN Autosport Oreca 07 Gibson, which has since fallen out of contention after losing 11 laps to repairs following contact with the NTE Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo.
Sernagiotto’s co-driver and Cetilar team owner Roberto Lacorte led from Tower Motorsport by Starworks driver Matthieu Vaxiviere on 12 hours.
The first half of the GT Le Mans class contest was dominated by Corvette Racing, although both Risi Competizione and the two BMW Team RLL entries kept on the lead lap.
Nick Tandy led in the No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R with 12 hours still to run, with his teammate Jordan Taylor around five seconds behind him.
Jesse Krohn recently overtook Jules Gounon to promote the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE into third.
The GT Daytona category has featured several leaders, most recently Maro Engel who made a strong getaway off the FCY restart to surge to the front for Winward Racing.
After a couple of hours of AF Corse’s Ferrari chairing the class, Mikael Grenier put SunEnergy1 Racing’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo into the lead at the restart, only for AMG factory driver Engel to charge through and assert himself in the top position.
LMP3 was led at halfway by the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 Nissan after Scott Andrews overtook Moritz Kranz of Muelhner Motorsports in the 11th hour.
The completion of half-distance signaled the second distribution of points for the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup. The top-three in each class gained five, four and three points respectively.
Endurance Cup points will also be awarded after 18 hours and at the finish.