DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Defending winner Action Express Racing suffered a setback one third of the way through the Rolex 24 at Daytona when the car lost fuel pressure with Joao Barbosa behind the wheel.
The No. 5 Corvette DP was running second when it came to a stop at Daytona International Speedway right before the nine-hour mark of the twice-round-the-clock endurance race. Barbosa waited in the cockpit for a tow truck driver to arrive and pull the car back to the garage.
“It wouldn’t drive at all,” team manager Gary Nelson said. “We fixed it in the dark, so we couldn’t get a very good look at it. We found a connector that wasn’t connecting, so we re-connected it, but we’re pretty sure it’s going to take some more work.”
Barbosa, along with co-drivers Christian Fittapaldi and Sebastien Bourdais, won the coveted Rolex watches last year. But there’s tough competition this year from both of the Chip Ganassi Racing entries, Michael Shank Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing, which has finished second the last two years.
Ricky Taylor took his father’s team to the front after overcoming early electrical issues in the Corvette.
The team is seeking its first Rolex 24 victory since 2005, when Wayne Taylor still drove the car. Now the driving responsibilities are split between sons Ricky and Jordan, as well as Max Angelelli.
Ricky Taylor said the team had fought electrical issues the entire week, and thought it found a fix Friday night.
“We’ve been without traction control all week as well as wheel speed sensor and other issues. The team has been absolutely thrashing,” he said after his first driving stint Saturday.
Instead, the team learned right before the start of the race it wasn’t certain it had been fixed, and Ricky Taylor said “something felt funny” with the throttle pedal at the start. The traction was again lost.
He was able to turn the car off during the first pit stop, plug in updates from the ECU, and suddenly all was well.
“Now we have a car we can go race with,” he said.
The Ganassi entries showed good speed, and Scott Dixon took early control of the race in the No. 02 “star car.” The team lost some ground when Tony Kanaan had to take the Ford to the garage for a new front splitter.
It allowed the No. 01 entry from Ganassi to spend some time out front, as well as the Shank team in its new Ligier JS P2 Honda.
The Shank team felt strongly it had a solid shot to win the race, and Ozz Negri Jr. wasn’t concerned after turning the car over to teammate John Pew. Also driving the Shank car is AJ Allmendinger and newcomer Matt McMurry, a 17-year-old who raced last year at Le Mans.
“I feel things are looking pretty good,” Negri said. “We are having a little issue with fuel flow, but we’ve got the pace and are just looking after the car right now. The car is fast enough to win the race.”
Shank moved to the Ligier and Honda after using Fords since 2008.
Meanwhile, Patrick Dempsey was penalized early in the race to hurt his Porsche team’s chances of winning its division.
Dempsey was the second driver behind the wheel of the Porsche 911 GT, but he was flagged for improperly passing during a wave around.
He has kept a low profile at Daytona since he and wife Jillian Fink announced Friday night they were divorcing after 15 years of marriage. Dempsey had done some press interviews on Friday, but skipped Saturday’s driver autograph session and wasn’t on the starting grid with his teammates before the race.
The penalty on Dempsey dropped his team nine laps behind the leaders, but only six laps down in the GT class.
It was another abbreviated run for the notorious DeltaWing.
The odd-looking car, which showed impressive speed early, retired after just 42 laps Saturday. The DeltaWing left the track with transmission failure and never returned.
It was the second straight year the funky-looking sports car failed to finish at Daytona.
The DeltaWing retired after 16 hours in 2014 because of transmission failure and finished 61st out of 67 cars. The car was poised to finish last in the 53-car field this year. The latest run was so short that drivers Gabby Chaves, Katherine Legge and Memo Rojas didn’t even get behind the wheel.
Andy Meyrick drove the opening stint and was battling the leader before he punctured a tire. He battled back from the setback, but then stalled on the 3.56-mile road course with transmission trouble. The team took it to the garage and never returned.
“We had had a fast car today, but it was not to be,” the team posted on its Twitter page. “Proud of the job by the whole team this week.”
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