The field started the eighth hour with a reset due to the fourth caution of the day, a very quick pitstop allowing the Mazda RT24-P of defending Sebring winner Jonathan Bomarito into the lead ahead of Renger van der Zande in the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R and Ricky Taylor’s Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05.
Behind this trio was the Meyer Shank Racing Acura of Dane Cameron, who had served a drive-through penalty in the seventh hour for accidentally punting Bomarito’s Mazda into a spin.
Then Felipe Nasr in the two-laps-down #31 Action Express Racing Cadillac bounced viciously off a Turn 1 bump trying to go up the inside of Tristan Vautier’s JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac. Both looped into a spin, Vautier striking the tire barrier, and the pair pitted for bodywork checkups. The AXR car required its suspension fixed and a new nose – and then Nasr received a drive-through penalty.
The DPi leaders, nearing the end of their stint, took the opportunity to pit, thinking their might be a fifth caution, and while Bomarito stayed onboard the Mazda, Kevin Magnussen took over from van der Zande, Filipe Albuquerque replaced Taylor, and Cameron handed over to Juan Pablo Montoya.
This order remained the same for the next several laps, but through GT traffic, Magnussen lost out to Albuquerque. Then, just before the completion of the eighth hour, Kamui Kobayashi drove the second AXR Cadillac past Montoya to take fourth – and only five seconds from the leader. His cause was helped by Magnussen coming back at Albuquerque, the pair running side by side and compromising each other’s lines. It meant that the top four were covered by 1.5sec after eight hours of racing.
Magnussen and Kobayashi then pitted, the Ganassi driver staying aboard but the #48 Cadillac being given to Jimmie Johnson. One lap later, Bomarito, Albuquerque and Montoya all pitted, with Bomarito handing off to Harry Tincknell after an excellent stint.
Tincknell, Albuquerque and Magnussen then resumed in line astern, and while Tincknell dived past the #14 Lexus RC F of Jack Hawksworth successfully, Albuquerque tried to follow him, and thumped the GTD and broke its right rear suspension. He also fractured the nose of his own Acura. Magnussen had enough momentum to drive off the course and pass around the outside of the chaos to grab second before the yellow flew for Hawksworth’s car limping to a near standstill on the back straight.
The race resumed just past the 8h30m mark, and Tincknell sprinted away – relatively speaking! – to lead by 1sec, while Magnussen and Montoya followed in second and third as Albuquerque served his drive-through penalty, and resumed in fifth, behind Jimmie Johnson.
Following the next round of stops at the end of the ninth hour, Tincknell resumed in the lead, around 2.5sec ahead of the Ganassi Cadillac now driven by IndyCar legend Scott Dixon, with Olivier Pla in the MSR Acura 13sec from the lead, and Simon Pagenaud back behind the wheel of the Ally Cadillac
In LMP2, Scott Huffaker was keeping the PR1 Mathiasen Motorsport car a minute ahead of Timothe Buret in the Tower Motorsport car, who was a lap ahead of Ryan Dalziel in the Era Motorsport entry. However, Buret then had a huge shunt after bouncing off a Turn 1 bump and into the tire wall, which flipped him onto his roof and back onto his wheels. Remarkably, the Frenchman emerged unhurt but of course the race went under yellow.
Riley Motorsports ran 1-2 in LMP3, Scott Andrews in the #74 ahead of Jeroen Bleekemolen. However, Andrews discovered his headlights weren’t working and suffered a long pitstop, allowing Bleekemolen’s #91 car to the front, and Oliver Askew’s Forty7 Motorsports entry into second.
The #3 Corvette driven by Nicky Catsburg gave up the lead – and then some – during the fourth caution, a late stop dropping him to fourth and needing to negotiate his way past several GTD cars. That left Connor De Phillippi in the #25 BMW M8 up front, ahead of Mathieu Jaminet driving the WeatherTech Racing Proton Porsche 911 RSR, with Jesse Krohn in the second BMW in third.
The fifth caution saw Catsburg restart from second but he spun exiting Turn 1 and made a precautionary stop which left him fourth. Meanwhile, Matt Campbell took the Porsche into the lead ahead of the #25 and #24 BMWs, now handled by Philipp Eng and Augusto Farfus respectively, the latter car having had a brake change under caution.
Campbell reached the end of the ninth hour still leading, but despite having set the fastest lap in class, he remained only 0.8sec clear of Eng, who in turn only had that margin over Farfus. Catsburg, by contrast, was around 90sec from the lead.
Soon into the ninth hour, however, Eng slipped past Campbell to take the lead.
A planned brake change for the Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R under the fourth caution dropped Pat Long down to sixth, which should left the lead to Lars Kern in the Pfaff Porsche, but Corey Lewis did a fine job to snick down his inside and take the lead in the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini. Not that Kern gave up, staying within a second of the leader.
Behind this pair, Kyle Kirkwood had the #14 Lexus RC F back into the top three, ahead of Roman de Angelis in the Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage, with Spencer Pumpelly in the Magnus Archangel Acura NSX in fifth.
Laurens Vanthoor got the Pfaff Porsche back to the front, ahead of the PMR Lambo now in the hands of Madison Snow, while de Angelis benefited from Hawksworth’s demise to gain third. Lally, in fourth, had already benefited from Heylen making a rare mistake and briefly falling off the circuit without any harm.
The stop under the fifth caution saw Zacharie Robichon take over the lead Porsche, ahead of Snow, Lally, de Angelis, Heylen, Zach Veach in the #12 Lexus, and Bia Figueiredo in the Team Hardpoint EBM Porsche. While Robichon and Snow retained their positions, Lally and de Angelis lost out to the charging Heylen.
As the ninth hour was completed, Robichon had stretched his lead to seven seconds, but his closest pursuer was now Heylen who demoted Snow. Five seconds behind was de Angelis who had gotten ahead of Lally, the Acura driver now having to fend off Veach.