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Russians Conquer Soggy Track To Win Prototype Pole For The Rolex 24

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, January 29 2016
28-31 January, 2016, Daytona Beach, Florida USA The No. 37, Nissan, BR01, of SMP Racing was the fastest prototype car in qualifying for the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday. (F. Peirce Williams LAT Photo USA courtesy of IMSA)

28-31 January, 2016, Daytona Beach, Florida USA
The No. 37, Nissan, BR01, of SMP Racing was the fastest prototype car in qualifying for the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday. (F. Peirce Williams
LAT Photo USA courtesy of IMSA)

Russian IndyCar driver Mikhail Aleshin overcame extremely wet conditions to capture the Prototype class TOTAL Pole Award for the 54th Rolex 24 At Daytona.

How we was the session? So wet that a pair of GT Le Mans class Porsches swept the overall pole and outside pole.

Aleshin ran a lap of 2:05.793 (101.882 mph) in the Nissan-powered No. 37 BR01 fielded by Russian-based SMP Racing. The Prototype debuted in 2015 ELMS competition and is racing in North America for the first time.

”I think the conditions were surprising for everyone,” Aleshin said. “During qualifying I was never sure while braking for any turn if I was going to be on the optimal line and not hitting the wall – but this is racing. You have to take risks sometimes. But at the same time, you’ve got to save the car and keep it in one piece. The race is the most important thing.”

Luís Felipe “Pipo” Derani backed up his fastest lap of the recent Roar Before the Rolex 24 test by running the second fastest lap in the Prototype class at 2:06.304 (101.469 mph) in the No. 2 Tequila Patrón ESM Honda Ligier JS P2.

Ozz Negri was third in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Tire Kingdom Honda Ligier JS P2, posting a best time of 2:07.432 (100.571 mph). He will be joined on the second row by Ricky Taylor, who turned a best lap of 2:07.966 (100.152 mph) in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Konica Minolta Corvette DP.

“It was the wettest qualifying I’ve ever done and it was just a matter of who was willing to take the most risk,” Taylor said. “We decided to come in with about three-and-a-half minutes to go in the session because I didn’t want to do one more lap than I had to – I just wasn’t in control of the car in the straights. We just got a clean lap when the conditions were the best – or, should I say, the least bad. I think the race is going to be an altogether different story, although I can say we also have a good car in the dry. We have the best team and this is better than we’ve started here the last couple of years. This is hopefully the end of the rain for the rest of the weekend. I’m glad that session is over.”

The defending series champion No. 5 Corvette DP of Action Express qualified 11th fastest.

“The heavy rain that was occurring during our qualifying session made the risk of damaging a car very high,” said Action Express team manager Gary Nelson. “Looking at the forecast of dry conditions for the race. The Action Express team took a conservative approach to qualifying in the wet. Both of our drivers were extremely cautious with their cars and kept their focus on finishing out the session. We came to Daytona International Speedway focused on winning the Rolex 24 and following qualifying, that goal is still attainable because our drivers took care of our Corvette DPs.”
The No. 0 Panoz DeltaWing Racing coupe opted to sit out the wet qualifying session.

“Strategy is everything when it comes to an endurance race, especially one that is 24 hours,” DeltaWing Racing’s Tim Keene said. “It’s not just the race strategy that counts but it’s the whole preparation. The most important thing for us today was to get a couple of laps in to make sure everything’s set up correctly and working well. For us, it’s our reliability that is key to our success and running the car in today’s conditions might have affected this.”

Driver Katherine Legge said, “I don’t think the decision not to qualify will affect us. The Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona is a long race and by the time we get our first yellow it should have all sorted itself out. I think we have a really fast car for the race and I’m super excited to prove what the DeltaWing can achieve and reward the team for all their hard work.”

Nick Tandy captured the GT Le Mans pole. Driving the No. 911 Porsche North America with teammate and last year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTLM champion, Patrick Pilet,

Nick Tandy had the fastest overall lap during qualifying at the Rolex 24. That lap came in a GTLM Porsche 911.

Nick Tandy had the fastest overall lap during qualifying at the Rolex 24. That lap came in a GTLM Porsche 911.

Tandy – a two-time GTLM pole winner in 2015 and the reigning 24 Hours of Le Mans overall champion – posted a best time of 2:01.408 (105.561 mph).

Frédéric Makowiecki qualified second in GTLM with a time of 2:02.364 (104.737 mph) in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR, making an all-Porsche front row for Saturday’s starting lineup. The qualifying session was interrupted by a red flag for an incident involving Gianmaria Bruni in the No. 72 SMP Ferrari 488 GTE and was extended by a few minutes to satisfy the minimum guaranteed green-flag time requirement of 10 minutes.

“In the end it was a really interesting qualifying session,” said Tandy, who also won the GTLM class in the 2014 Rolex 24. “When we went out after the red, there was only time for one flying lap. The risk of going off and getting higher on the grid was really high. We got the cars one-two on the front row, and that’s what we wanted.”

John Edwards qualified third in the No. 100 BMW Team RLL IHG Rewards Club BMW M6 GTLM with a time of 2:02.497 (104.623 mph).

The new Porsche GT3 R made good in its debut at Daytona International Speedway, winning the GT Daytona (GTD) TOTAL Pole Award in the hands of Norbert Siedler. The Park Place Motorsports driver posted a best time of 2:04.798 (101.878 mph) in the No. 73 Park Place Porsche/Jet Edge entry.

“The Porsche is a car you want in conditions like this, the Porsche is always good in the rain,” said Siedler. “Conditions were quite tricky, but I couldn’t be happier for the team. To capture the pole for Park Place is pretty special.”

Marc Basseng qualified second in the No. 28 Konrad Motorsports Lamborghini Huracán GT3 with a time of 2:06.357 (101.427 mph). This weekend marks the first appearance for Lamborghini in the 54-year history of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Leh Keen took third on the GTD grid in the No. 22 Weather Tech Porsche 911 GT3 R with a time of 2:06.556 (101.267 mph).

Johnny Mowlem captured his second-consecutive Prototype Challenge (PC) TOTAL Pole Award at Daytona for the Rolex 24, running a lap of 2:06.312 (101.951 mph) in the No. 20 BAR1 Motorsports Zoolander/Southwest Realty Advisors/Top 1 Oil ORECA FLM09. He will share the car with NASCAR veteran Brendan Gaughan, as well as Marc Drumwright, Tomy Drissi and Ricardo Vera.

“I had a really great qualifying last year and it came down to the final lap,” Mowlem said. “The conditions today were absolutely dreadful; I was actually getting sideways on the banking. So it shows how hard it is with the PC cars.

“We were here at the Roar (Before The Rolex 24 At Daytona test), and I was particularly happy with the car. I wasn’t able to work on the race setup like I wanted. We’ll be double and triple stinting into the night, and in the dry we might not be looking after the rear tires as well. CORE autosport has done a little bit more testing and running, so it could be tough if we go dry for the whole time.”

Stephen Simpson qualified second with a lap of 2:07.413 (100.586 mph) in the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports entry, followed by Ryan Eversley at 2:07.485 (100.529 mph) in the No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports Case-It/Southwest Funding/advisors.com ORECA.


| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, January 29 2016
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