Richard Westbrook has led the entire first hour of this year’s Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda, having paced the field in treacherous, heavy wet conditions.
The polesitting driver edged away in the No. 90 VisitFlorida.com Racing Corvette DP from the three other Corvette DPs from Action Express Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing.
Westbrook banked a gap of more than 11 seconds before the second full-course caution flew, just shy of the one-hour mark, when Earl Bamber reported a tire that went down and with left rear rim damage.
Prior to that, the GT Le Mans field carved through the Prototype Challenge runners, with Nick Tandy leading the way after being resigned to the back of the grid in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR.
Tandy got past Lucas Luhr’s No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE and Oliver Gavin’s No. 4 Corvette C7.R on Lap 16, and pulled away to a 15-second lead in class before the yellow.
The GTLM field made it to the top-10 overall, from fifth through about 10th or 11th depending on a couple other prototypes.
Tom Kimber-Smith (No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09) and Cameron Lawrence (No. 93 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R) led from poles in PC and GT Daytona, respectively.
Lawrence’s teammate Ben Keating had a nightmarish start in the sister No. 33 Viper. Keating crashed out trying to avoid a stalled Chris Cumming on driver’s right at the esses, and caused significant rear end damage. That caused the first full-course caution after a single-file start, just past the three-minute mark.
Keating also ran through the gravel at Turns 10A and B after the Riley crew repaired the car.
Additionally the No. 70 Mazda SKYACTIV Diesel Prototype pitted to change its front windshield, which was fogging up.
Both the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford and No. 88 Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09 entries received drive-through penalties for starting from the pit lane. However, both crews made a good effort to get their cars to the grid after pre-race issues of an alternator that wouldn’t charge and cosmetic body damage, respectively.
The No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda also made the start, courtesy of a repair to the car’s right rear suspension on the grid and rear wing assembly in the paddock.