DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – As the sun rose behind a thick layer of clouds on Sunday morning at Daytona Int’l Speedway, Fernando Alonso found himself behind the safety car but in front of his rivals in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Alonso put in a huge stint in treacherous wet conditions to move into second, past the pair of Acura Team Penske entries piloted by Dane Cameron and Ricky Taylor.
He drove around both at the bus stop chicane, then closed onto the back bumper of leader Felipe Nasr after a full-course caution period for debris and eventually moved into the race lead at the end of the pit stop cycle that followed under the yellow.
Alonso opened up nearly a minute over the rest of the field before another full-course yellow for the crashed Corvette GTLM entry of Tommy Milner at turn one.
That yellow eventually turned into a lengthy red flag for standing water, a stoppage that began at 7:21 a.m. local time continued as of 8:45 a.m., with Alonso leading the Penske Acuras of Cameron and Taylor. The field had completed 521 laps when the red flag waved.
The Action Express Racing, Whelen-sponsored Cadillac of Pipo Derani completes the lead-lap cars in fourth. IMSA officials are targeting a 9 a.m. restart of the event.
“Conditions are quite bad, now it’s been raining heavier,” Alonso said. “For me it’s OK, the visibility is OK, but if you are running fifth or sixth onwards … the visibility will be a problem, and the aquaplaning.
“It’s difficult to fix when it’s raining heavier. … As long as we are doing laps behind the safety car, it looked bad for the spectators, so it’s better to stop and when the conditions are better, let’s go racing.”
Derani’s co-driver, Eric Curran, noted that he’s raced in worse conditions but that the track was a challenge when the cars were brought down pit road.
“I’ve run this race a lot and we’ve run in heavy, heavy rains,” said Curran. “The problem is, when we slow (the pace) down and do all these pace laps, it just creates so much standing water around the race track. It is a challenge. In the bus stop in the back, it just puddles … and the real challenge are all the painted sections.”
Behind the four overall leaders, Colin Braun and the No. 54 Core Autosport Nissan completed the top five in the DPi class at the red flag, four laps off the pace.
Dragonspeed continues to dominate the LMP2 class, with the No. 81 Oreca of James Allen leading his teammate, the No. 18 of Pastor Maldonado, by a full lap.
A remarkable six cars are still fighting for the lead in GT Le Mans, with Alessandro Pier Guidi’s No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE out in front over the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR of Laurens Vanthoor.
The Chip Ganassi Racing No. 66 Ford GT of Joey Hand completed the current GTLM podium in third.
Former NASCAR star A.J. Allendinger took the red flag in front of the GT Daytona class, with his No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX leading Dries Vanthoor’s Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS.