Just past the three-hour mark, the third full-course yellow was brought out due to a GTD car expiring, and the subsequent train of cars saw Meyer Shank Racing getting Colin Braun out in front ahead of the #6 Porsche Penske Motorsports 963 and Wayne Taylor Racing’s Acura ARX-06.
The #02 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac emerged in fourth with Richard Westbrook at the wheel, but the #01 Caddy, which Scott Dixon took over from Renger van der Zande, fell to sixth, behind Alexander Sims who took the wheel of the Action Express Racing Cadillac, but ahead of Marco Wittmann in the #25 BMW M Hybrid V8 and Matt Campbell’s #7 Porsche 963.
Braun broke the tow back to Jaminet, on the restart at the 3hr27min mark, while Sims passed Westbrook for fourth and Campbell deposed Wittmann. Next time by, Dixon and Campbell demoted Westbrook down to seventh.
Campbell finally made it past Deletraz after 3hr45min mark to make it a Porsche 2-3, and then the two 963s moved onto the tail of Braun, who was on his second stint on this set of Michelins. He understandably had a couple of wild and wide moments as the Porsches closed in, and they weaved through traffic.
His recovery backed up the Porsches, allowing Deletraz to nick third from Campbell just before the four-hour mark, and a lap later he slipped past Jaminet to complete an Acura 1-2. Just past the four-hour mark, Campbell got around Jaminet, and Deletraz was closing in on Braun.
Just eight seconds back, Dixon moved into fifth, ahead of Sims, to become top Cadillac driver… for only a lap, and a lap later Deletraz passed Braun around the outside at the International Horseshoe to take the lead.
Jaminet pitted the #6 Porsche to hand over to Dane Cameron, which triggered stops for all the GTP cars, but Campbell passed Braun before they pitted on Lap 137, Braun handing the MSR Acura to Simon Pagenaud.
Once the pitstops were completed, Deletraz was up front, barely ahead of Campbell, while Sims in the Action Express Cadillac was third, ahead of Pagenaud who was under pressure from Dixon and Cameron. Earl Bamber was now driving the #02 Cadillac, 47sec behind the front of the field.
Pagenaud in fourth was closing on the leaders when as he lapped John Farano’s LMP2 Tower Motorsports car, he squeezed it up against the curbs, causing it to spin at Turn 5. The closely following Dixon braked hard to avoid the LMP2 car, but was struck by an LMP3 car, which damaged the right rear bodywork, and cost the #01 Cadillac a place to the #6 Porsche of Cameron.
Dixon was subsequently called to the pits, and although the Ganassi team changed the bodywork swiftly, the six-time IndyCar champion went down a lap.
Pagenaud escaped with a warning, carried on pursuing his quarries and passed Sims after 4hr45min, and then as Campbell dropped from the back of Deletraz, the MSR driver swooped past and he started closing on the leader. Campbell gave up the unequal struggle and pitted the #7 Porsche, at the same time as teammate Cameron pitted the #6.
While Cameron departed, it was a long stop for the #7 and it lost a lap, before Michael Christensen drove it out in seventh, just ahead Colton Herta who had taken over the #24 BMW.
Sims stopped next time by to hand over to Pipo Derani with Deletraz and Bamber halting on Lap 166, the #10 Acura being taken over by Albuquerque but Bamber staying on board the #02 Caddy.
Pagenaud was the last GTP driver to stop, and he emerged seven seconds ahead of Albuquerque, who in turn was 14sec ahead of Derani. Four seconds back was Cameron, while a dozen seconds back was Bamber, 25sec ahead of Dixon who was now back on the lead lap, 61sec off the lead.
Pagenaud’s confortable lead didn’t last long, Albuquerque using his fresh Michelins wisely to stretch his lead over Derani to 18sec and close to within two seconds of the similar but older-tired Meyer Shank Acura at the head of the field. On Lap 175, the WTR Acura snuck by under braking for the Le Mans chicane after 5hr15min.
Sadly Christensen would run only 177 laps before heading to the garage – IMSA Radio reported energy warning lights necessitating change of batteries. And Porsche Penske Motorsports’ night got a tad worse soon after as Cameron dropped to fifth behind Bamber’s Cadillac, although a couple laps later that became fourth once more when Derani made an early seventh stop.
The #01 Cadillac, which had been obliged to go off strategy due to the earlier collision, dropped to seventh when Dixon pitted to hand over to Sebastien Bourdais.
Cameron stopped the #6 Porsche to allow Nick Tandy back in once it had fallen to 60sec behind leader Albuquerque, who had also pulled 18sec on Pagenaud. Albuquerque, Bamber and Herta stopped next time by, with Bamber giving the #02 to Alex Lynn, while Pagenaud went 30 laps befpore stopping just before the six-hour mark.
He handed off to four-time Indy 500 winner and IndyCar teammate Helio Castroneves, who emerged behind not only Albuquerque – now to the tune of 38sec – but also 20sec adrift of Derani. Lynn was 65sec off the lead but six seconds ahead of Tandy.
The second Porsche resumed with its new batteries, but is now 20 laps down.
Era Motorsport got Dwight Merriman out in front of the field after the third full-course yellow, but only because of an improper wave-by procedure, and Merriman would have to serve a three minute, 20 second penalty stop.
That would leave Josh Pierson and Scott Huffaker of TDS Racing, ahead of Francesco Pizzi in the Proton Competition entry and Ben Keating back in the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport car.
After their fifth stops the TDS cars were separated by 12sec and the Proton car of Pizzi, while deeper into the next stint, Mikkel Jensen led in the #11 TDS machine with teammate Job van Uitert 34sec back.
Paul Loup-Chatin had replaced Keating in the PR1/Mathiasen car and ran third after James Allen pitted the Proton car.
After the third restart, Joao Barbosa in the Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier led Jarett Andretti, the pair of them pulling away from Danial Frost of MRS GT Racing, with the AWA cars of Orey Fidani and Anthony Mantella.
However, Lance Willsey was put back in the Creech car at the next round of stops, and so Rasmus Lindh’s Andretti car got ahead and pulled away from the MRS GT car of James French and the two AWA cars, now driven by Moritz Kranz and Thomas Merrill. Kranz lost time in the Dixon incident mentioned above, due to an unscheduled stop to collect a new nose section.
With 5hr20min gone, Lindh led the class by 90sec ahead of Nolan Siegel who replaced Willsey in the Creech car.
GTD Pro & GTD
The GTD Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage, the #27 car of Roman De Angelis, led the full GT3 field after the third restart, pursued by the GTD Pro leader, Jordan Taylor in the Corvette C8.R, although Taylor moved the ’Vette to the head of the field with 3hr45mins of the race completed.
Kenton Koch’s Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes AMG ran second in class, third in GT3, ahead of the similar car of the brilliant Winward Racing team, who had built their car around a brand new tub after Lucas Auer’s back-breaking shunt in practice.
Daniel Morad, an ultra-late call-up, was doing a similarly fine job, putting pressure on Koch until the latter passed De Angelis for GTD lead. Morad, too, would pass De Angelis and start closing on Koch once more.
Alex Riberas in the GTD Pro Heart of Racing Aston ran second in class ahead of the Magnus Racing Aston of Andy Lally, Andrea Caldarelli in the Iron Lynx Lamborghini Huracan (GTD Pro), and the three GTD cars of Kyle Kirkwood’s Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F, Ollie Millroy’s McLaren 720S of Inception Racing, and Kenny Habul’s SunEnergy1 Mercedes.
Over the next couple of hours, Koch and then partner Maxi Goetz kept the Team Korthoff Mercedes up front in GTD, and actually ran ahead of the GTD Pro lead battle between Ross Gunn in the Heart of Racing Aston and Tommy Milner in the Corvette.
The other HoR Vantage in Marco Sorensen’s hands ran second in GTD, fourth overall, ahead of Jules Gounon’s GTD Pro WeatherTech Mercedes which had served a drive-through penalty for wheel rotation during a pitstop.
Luca Stolz in the SunEnergy1 Benz was a dozen seconds back from Sorensen, with a 20sec lead over Marvinn Kirchhofer’s McLaren, Russell Ward’s Winward Benz and the two Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC Fs.
However, Gunn was on a charge, and hit the front of the GT field ahead of Goetz and Sorensen, with Gounon also overhauling Milner to grab second in GTD Pro.
The #96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 halted at Turn 5 with gearbox issues which brought out the third yellow.