Wayne Taylor Racing claim Pole for Rolex 24 at Daytona

A staggering lap from Renger van der Zande gave last year’s overall winners, #10 Wayne Taylor Racing, pole position ahead of the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona. It was a very close battle in the Prototype Class, with less than 100th of a second splitting the top two. Corvette Racing took glory in the GT Le Mans class, whilst the Spirit of Race/AF Corse #51 crew took pole in the GT Daytona class.

Helio Castroneves was favourite to claim pole ahead of the first 24 hour race of the year after the #7 Penske Acura had been the pacesetter throughout practice sessions. He started the session strong, taking the ARX-05 to provisional pole with a 1:36.090. However, the session was far from over and a late surge from Dutch-driver van der Zande put him 0.007 seconds faster than the #7 Penske to steal pole position.

Cadillac continued to prove their strength in the new DPi era, with Filipe Albuquerque placing the #5 Action Express Racing car third on the grid. He was close to the top two fight, but fell 0.111 seconds off fellow Cadillac driver van der Zande at the chequered flag.

With the top three locked out by DPi runners, Pato O’Ward could only place his LMP2 ORECA fourth fastest. The #38 Performance Tech Motorsport car set a 1:36.318, two tenths off the top three times. But it was a close battle for O’Ward to hold onto fourth as the Spirit of Daytona #90 pressured for a second-row start.

After a year away from Cadillac, Spirit of Daytona have returned to the manufacturer this season, away from the LMP2 chassis and back to a DPi one. It looks to have been a good decision as the team were only 0.154 seconds off fourth place. It should mean the team can have a competitive season ahead of them, starting off very strong.

Robin Frijns in the #37 Jackie Chan DCR JOTA qualified sixth while Felipe Nasr made it two Action Express cars in the top ten, taking seventh. #54 CORE Racing will start the race from eighth place.

Jonathan Bomarito was the only Joest-run Mazda driver to set a time in qualifying, putting the #55 ninth. The Tristan Nunez/Rene Rast/Oliver Jarvis sister car did not take part in qualifying. Despite setting the fastest time in the first practice session, an undisclosed technical issue side-lined the car from the start of qualifying. The #2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi also did not take part in qualifying.

Fernando Alonso set a 1:37.008 in his first 24-hour race qualifying session. Alonso described the qualifying session as the “least important qualifying session” he would ever take part in, referencing to the fact that in a 24-hour race, starting on pole is not that crucial. Along with team mates Lando Norris and Phil Hanson, he will start from P13 for Saturday’s race.

In their 20th year of racing, it was the best start for Corvette who claimed GT Le Mans pole position. Jan Magnussen set a lap time of 1:42.779 in the #3 that was unchallenged by any of the other competitors. However, it was not a calm drive to pole as Joey Hand in the #66 Ford GT piled the pressure on. At the chequered flag, however, Hand was not able to find the extra 0.019 seconds needed to take pole from the Dane.

Porsche locked out the second row with their two 911 RSR entrants, with Laurens Vanthoor piping Patrick Pilet for the top-three position in the closing stages of the session. The second Ganassi Ford could place no higher than fifth in class, but beta the second Corvette to the line, holding them down in sixth.

The sole GTLM Ferrari #62 Rizi Competizione settled for seventh on the grid, ahead of the two new BMW M8 GTEs. It was not the strongest start to the weekend for the team who were hopeful they could get a good result from the Rolex 24 at Daytona, but a 24-hour race is not over until the chequered flag.

Daytona’s GT class was led by the #51 Spirit of Race/AF Corse Ferrari with a lap time of 1:46.049. The strong driver line up of Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda has proven very successful in the last few years. The addition of Daniel Serra (who set the pole time) will only make the line up stronger. Serra was four-tenths faster than Miguel Molina in the #82 Rizi Competizione Ferrari who took second on the grid.

Grasser Racing’s Mirko Bortolotti had qualified third, but after failing a stall test in post-qualifying tech inspections it has been demoted to the back of the grid. The #15 3GT Racing Lexus has been promoted up into the top three.