Times have changed at the highest levels of sports car endurance racing, with reliability requiring healthy doses of flat-out speed, no matter an event’s duration. That reality has transformed North America’s premier sports car race, the Rolex 24 At Daytona, into a veritable sprint, which means pole qualifying has never been more important.
With that modern reality a top-line concern, IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship teams rolled out their top guns for Thursday’s qualifying session, to set the field for the 53rd running of the Rolex 24, which rolls off on Saturday at 2:10 p.m. ET (TV - FOX Sports). When the 90-minute session involving four classes was complete, former Rolex 24 champion Ozz Negri had the No. 60 Honda HPD/Ligier JS P2 on the pole via a 129.201 mph lap (1 minute, 39.194 seconds) on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course. Significant but hardly shocking; the No. 60 – which will be co-driven by Negri, NASCAR star AJ Allmendinger John Pew and Matt McMurry – was the fastest car in both of Thursday’s practices, leading both the headlining Prototype class and overall.
Post-qualifying, Negri tried to downplay the importance of winning the pole – “the race is the real deal” – but only after emphasizing how much effort his Michael Shank Racing team had put into qualifying.
“We worked pretty hard [for this],” Negri said and we thought we had a good [qualifying] package. I used up everything the car had [today].”
Starting alongside Negri on the front row Saturday will be another former Rolex 24 winner who’s also a former Indianapolis 500 champion, Scott Dixon, co-driver of the No. 02 Ford EcoBoost/Riley with Tony Kanaan, Kyle Larson and former DAYTONA 500 champion Jamie McMurray. Dixon qualified at 129.061/1:39.302.
The three other respective class pole winners:
Prototype Challenge: Johnny Mowlem, No. 16 Chevrolet/ORECA FLM09 (125.257/1:42.318).
GT Le Mans: In a class record run, Oliver Gavin, No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R (123.840/1:43.488).
GT Daytona: James Davison, No. 007 Aston Martin V12 Vantage (119.472/1:47.272).
Also Thursday, Scott Maxwell put the No. 15 Ford Mustang Boss 302 R on the pole for Friday’s BMW Performance 200, the season-opening race for the production-based IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. Maxwell, who will co-drive with Billy Johnson in the two-hour, 45-minute event (starting at 1:45 p.m. ET), had a fast lap of 109.990 mph (1 minutes, 56.520 seconds) to lead the Grand Sport class and the field overall. The other front-row spot was claimed by Hugh Plumb (109.746/1:56.779), co-driver of the No. 13 Porsche 911 with his brother Matt.
In the Street Tuner class, the pole went to the No. 56 Porsche Cayman (102.157/2:05.454) of Jeff Mosing, Eric Foss and Justin Piscitell, with Piscitell at the wheel.
Tickets for the Rolex 24 At Daytona weekend are available for purchase on-line at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.Fans can follow sports cars at www.imsa.com and go on Twitter at TUDOR United SportsCar Championship (@UnitedSportsCar). Fans can also stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for the latest news all season long. Fans can follow the latest on DAYTONA Rising, the $400 million frontstretch renovation at the “World Center of Racing” by using #DAYTONARising on Twitter or visiting www.daytonarising.com.