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Michael Shank Racing’s Honda Ligier On Pole At Rolex 24

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, January 22 2015

Michael Shank Racing secured the pole for this weekend's Rolex 24 at Daytona.

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Oswaldo Negri on Thursday put Michael Shank Racing’s Honda-powered Ligier JS P2 car on the pole for the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Negri, who will co-drive with John Pew, Matt McMurry and A.J. Allmendinger in the race on Saturday/Sunday, won the pole with a lap 1:39.19.

Chip Ganassi Racing Daytona Prototypes qualified second and third fastest: The No. 02 Ganassi Ford Riley (to be co-driven by Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray) was second and the No. 01 (Scott Pruett, Joey Hand, Charlie Kimball and Sage Karam) was third.

“It’s our competitive nature (to want the pole),” Dixon, who drove the fast lap, said, “but I just want to say a big ‘thank you’ to Ford and Team Target. We’ve had our ups and downs and through testing and getting here, just trying to get the good balance. It’s a good bounce-back, but as you said, it’s a 24-hour race. It would be neat to start at the front, obviously we’d like to be there at the front, at least we’re on the front row. Hopefully we can get to the end of the race, and hopefully we’re in a situation at the end where we can try to take this car to victory lane.”

Pruett said, “We’re in a better place than where we started today. We unloaded and the car was real loose. I think it was track conditions, because everyone was fighting that. We reacted to that, made numerous changes before qualifying, and all of them were in the right direction. The 01 and the 02 were very strong in qualifying. It’s great to see p2 and p3 for both of us, and now we’re focused on going racing. It’s certainly miles ahead of where we were last year. It’s exciting going into the Rolex 24. A lot of things could happen, but we’re in solid shape.”

Defending Rolex 24 and TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Prototype class series champions Action Express Racing qualified fourth with its No. 5 Corvette DP and the DeltaWing qualified fifth overall.

“The team must have a little faith in me,” DeltaWing driver Andy Meyrick said. “I haven’t driven here since last year, since I missed The Roar. For the team to make qualifying and be only a few tenths off is great. It was an amazing job by the entire crew, to get the car into the pit lane to start the session. Hopefully P5 is a little bit of a reward for their hard efforts! We’ll start the race in a strong position. We have a few things to work on but the gearbox is good, the engine is good. With a few tweaks, we’ll have a really good race car.”

Other class polesitters for Saturday’s race include Johnny Mowlem (No. 16 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09, Prototype Challenge), Oliver Gavin (No. 4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R, GT Le Mans) and James Davison (No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3).

Mowlem’s pole is his third overall in North American sports car racing, Gavin’s is Corvette’s first since May 2014 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (teammate Antonio Garcia), and the 12th different driver to score a pole in as many TUDOR Championship GTLM qualifying sessions, and Davison’s is his fifth in a row unleashed after a last lap flier.

“It’s a very competitive class, I think they all are,” said Gavin, who earned his first TUDOR Championship pole, his 21st career in North American endurance sports car racing. “That’s the depth of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship; there are plenty of great drivers and great teams out there.

“I have to thank (teammate) Jan [Magnussen]; he towed me around a lot on that lap and helped me get this pole position, so I have to thank him for that. I tried to repay him by towing him around for a few laps. I just had a little bit of extra straight-line speed.”

Gavin used the draft to shoot to the top of the leaderboard early in the 15-minute session, besting the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia of Gianmaria Bruni by 0.342 seconds. After leading early in the session, Bruni turned his fastest lap of 1:43.830 (123.433 mph) shortly after Gavin’s flyer, narrowly edging Pedro Lamy in the No. 98 Aston Martin Racing Gulf Aston Martin Vantage, 1:43.960 (123.278 mph).

John Edwards qualified fourth in the No. 24 BMW Team RLL IHG Rewards Club BMW Z4 GTE, 1:43.966 (123.271 mph), making it four different automotive manufacturers in the first two rows.

James Davison took advantage of a mid-session red flag to steal his fifth consecutive TOTAL Pole Award in the GT Daytona (GTD) class dating back to last season. After the wheel fell off of Kuno Wittmer’s No. 93 Riley Motorsports TI Automotive Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R seven minutes into the 15-minute session, teams had only three minutes to run one final lap before the end of qualifying.

While several teams opted not to go out for the final minutes, Davison did and promptly put the No. 007 TRG-AMR LaSalle/Royal Purple/Orion Energy Aston Martin Vantage on the pole with a lap of one minute, 47.272 (119.472 mph).

“I’m blown away we ended up on pole, to be honest,” said Davison, the leader in TUDOR Championship poles. “We waited in the pits and it went red, so I only had a lap to pull it off. Obviously the car was good and I hit my marks, but we were a bit lucky to pull it off.”

Jeroen Bleekemolen, who had the top spot prior to the red flag, qualified second with a lap of 1:47.424 (119.303 mph) while Christopher Zoechling qualified third at 1:47.451 (119.273 mph) in Konrad Motorsports’ No. 28 Porsche 911 GT America.

The 53rd Rolex 24 At Daytona is the season-opening TUDOR Championship event and also the opening round of the four-race Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.

More than 15 hours of live FOX Sports coverage will be available to viewers in the United States beginning with a two-hour FOX broadcast network beginning at 2 p.m. ET on Jan. 24. It is the second consecutive year that the Rolex 24 telecast has opened on the broadcast channel, which is available in approximately 115 million homes in the United States.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, January 22 2015
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