It was a battle of manufacturers for qualifying as the IMSA WeatherTech Championship field took to Daytona International Speedway in measured anger for the first time. Three manufacturers scored 1-2’s in each of the manufacturer-diverse classes in the field of 55 cars and 17 total marques entered for the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Joao Barbosa took the pole position for the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona in his Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R. His time of 1:36.903 was 2.289 seconds faster than the fastest lap in last year’s event. He was quickly followed by his teammate, Dane Cameron in the sister Action Express Cadillac with a gap of 0.070s.
Neel Jani’s Rebellion Oreca 07 followed in third, 0.220s from Barbosa’s time. Ricky Taylor’s Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac led Brendon Hartley’s Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi to complete the top five.
Focusing more on overall reliability than outright speed during qualifying, the two Mazdas scored times ninth and tenth fastest. They led the sole Multimatic Riley prototype of Marc Goossens, who finished the session 11th in his Visit Florida Racing entry.
Scoring three spots in the top four positions, the Cadillac DPi platform proved its strength among the Prototype ranks. A good mix of the global LMP2-spec vehicles was mixed throughout the class with two Orecas in the top seven. Nissan and Mazda showed consistency with 5-6 and 9-10 qualifying positions.
The Dragonspeed entry was not able to make the start of the session. Loic Duval made contact wit the wall coming out of Turn 1 and the Oreca sustained enough damage to force the team to work through the session.
Only five Prototype Challenge cars have been entered in this year’s event, but there was plenty of action in the qualifying session. James French took a hefty pole in the Performance Tech Motorsports entry, 0.837s ahead of the experienced field. Johnny Mowlem’s Bar1 Motorsports entry was the best of the contenders with the experienced prototype star coming out of retirement for the Rolex 24, but promising this really is his last race. The sister Bar1 entry, piloted by Buddy Rice, scored a top three time 0.956s back.
The session stayed green, but was not without incident with Chris Cumming’s spin into the bus stop. He was able to keep his No. 8 Starworks entry clean, however, and finished unharmed.
Ford went 1-2-3 in the GT Le Mans class with Joey Hand leading the team and scoring his ninth career pole. His time of 1:43.473 was best of the day. Despite a spin in the session, Olivier Pla was able to follow teammate Richard Westbrook to complete the top three, 0.231 and 0.514 seconds off the fastest time.
Tony Vilander and Patrick Pilet completed the top five 0.648 & 0.778s off the pace. Vilander’s Ferrari 488 GTE was the fastest competitor to Ford, but Pilet’s redesigned Porsche 911 RSR looked fast in fifth.
Ferrari ruled the time charts in the GT Daytona class with a pair of Alessandros and Ferrari 488 GT3s, who recorded times over a half second faster than anyone else in the class. Spirit of Race’s Alessandro Pier Guidi scored the fastest time of 1:47.009. Just 0.018s behind was Alessandro Balzan in the Scuderia Corsa entry.
Fastest of the non-Ferraris was Marco Sorensen in his Aston Martin Racing Vantage 0.637s off the class pole. Matteo Cairoli’s Porsche 911 GT3R and Mirko Botolotti’s Lamborghini Huracan GT3 added to the manufacturer diversity of the top five.
Of the new manufacturers, the Michael Shank Racing Acuras scored times good for seventh and ninth in class with Andy Lally and Jeff Segal at the wheel. The Lexus’ fielded by 3GT Racing also completed their first laps in timed competition with Scott Pruett scoring a time 13th fastest in class and teammate, Austin Cindric, 20th. Boris Said was the fastest of the three AMG GT3’s 1.870s from the pole in 18th.
Night practice for the WeatherTech Championship field begins at 7:00 PM ET later today with the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona Scheduled to take the green flag at 2:30 PM ET on Saturday.
Featured Image: Cadillac Racing