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New Look WTR Earns Pole At Rolex 24

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, January 25 2018

Rolex 24 prototype pole winners Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande and Ryan Hunter-Reay of Wayne Taylor Racing. (Michael L. Levitt
LAT Images)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Ricky Who?

Renger Van Der Zande, the “only new piece” on Konica Minolta Cadillac’s reigning IMSA Prototype Champions, cranked-out a last-lap flyer Thursday afternoon to claim Prototype pole-position for the 56th annual Rolex 24 At Daytona in a sensational debut as Ricky Taylor’s replacement.

Van Der Zande joined Jordan Taylor, Ricky’s brother, as fulltime driver in the No. 10 Cadillac DPi-V.R. for the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship following Ricky’s surprising offseason move from his family-run team to Acura Team Penske.

Van Der Zande’s hot lap of 1 minute, 36.083-seconds at 133.378 mph around Daytona International Speedway’s 3.56-mile/12-turn road-course incorporating portions of the high-banked oval relegated the No. 7 Acura DPi driven by three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves to P2. Ironically, Ricky Taylor will share that Acura Prototype for the 2018 season.

Jordan Taylor indicated prior to qualifying he did not expect the team overseen by father Wayne Taylor to miss a beat while defending its Rolex 24 race-title with Van Der Zande. “We have a lot of carryover from last year,” Jordan Taylor said. “We come in with Renger as our only new piece, but I think he fits in really well.”

And really fast.

“Super-thrilled to be in this seat, getting promoted to this championship,” said Van Der Zande, who secured his third career IMSA pole. “These guys expect a lot from you and this is why these guys know how to win a championship…and I can only thank them. Being here is incredible; I didn’t expect to get this pole. To be honest, they didn’t tell me I was on-pole until Turn 5, so I was waiting for them to like, ‘Hey, what is it? What do I need to do?’ When they told me I was over the moon.

“I thought it was a nice lap. In Turn 5 I overshoot it quite a bit but the car somehow (stuck), I floored it and managed to stay on track there. It feels good!”

Earlier, Danish ace Jan Magnussen set the fastest time in GT Le Mans (GTLM) qualifying with a class-

GTLM pole winner at the Rolex 24, Jan Magnussen. (Michael L. Levitt
LAT Images)

record lap of 1 minute, 42.779-seconds/124.688 mph in the No. 3 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C7.R he will share with Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller.

And Daniel Serra led the GTD class with a lap of 1 minute, 46.049-seconds/120.844 mph in the No. 51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3.

Castroneves appeared ready to give Roger Penske’s newest motorsports venture a signature pole out of the box, following the Brazilian’s lap of 1:36.090-seconds/133.368 mph. Castroneves, who was sitting in the pits when Van Der Zande ripped off his flyer, emerged from the cockpit momentarily to shake his helmeted head in disbelief.

“I did everything I could. Unfortunately, just got beat by 0.007-seconds,” Castroneves said. “Nothing you can do about that. It’s OK though, we looked strong. The guys are going to have to fix a couple of things on the car because I was pushing it really hard. But we are starting on the front row, which is a pretty big deal.

It’s a good start for our team.  We have a lot of things to learn still. Really happy for Acura Team Penske and all of the guys.  We’ve worked hard to get to this point and we have a few more practices to
fine-tune it for Saturday.”

With Helio on his mind, Van Der Zande admitted traffic and luck played into his final lap. “I got some traffic so I had to back off like two laps before the end, three laps before the end,” Van Der Zande said. “So I backed off…I think it was Helio actually who I let pass on the track. And I heard over the radio, ‘Hey, stop slowing down! You have two laps if you go now,’ so I started to accelerate again. The first lap was OK and the second lap was, you know, all-in. I out-braked myself where I could and somehow it turned out to be a fast lap.”

The top 13 Prototype qualifiers in a field of 17 were separated by less than one second. “Qualifying laps against such good drivers and teams, I guess you have to be a little lucky as well,” Van Der Zande said. “It is for sure very, very tight and the most competitive field in a long time here. So to be snatching the pole here is a bit of luck and, I would say, balls-out.”

Billed as “North America’s Most Prestigious Sports Car Race,” IMSA’s season-opener is scheduled to begin at 2:40 p.m. (EST) Saturday. Its opening segment will air live on the FOX network from 2-5 p.m. with additional coverage across FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2, FOX Sports Go and IMSA.com. Live audio coverage of practice, qualifying and the race from IMSA Radio is available on IMSA.com.

“This race is so long and so much can happen that it’s all about staying up in the front and not making mistakes,” Van Der Zande said. “So P1, P2, P3 is not a big difference. Four hours into the race and you’re leading, you’re not dealing with it the same as with 20 hours. It’s the last hour where you have to do a bit of qualifying style. Stay up there as long as you can…and if you keep your head cool you should be fine.”

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Magnussen put Corvette Racing on-pole in GTLM 20 years after the marque’s competitive debut in this event. Almost unbelievably, Magnussen registered his first pole at Daytona as he and Garcia begin defense of their GTLM Championship. Additionally, the team is aiming for its fourth Daytona class victory _ and third in four years _ during the twice-around-the clock classic.

“I’m super-pleased,” Magnussen said. “I have to say I’m a little bit surprised with the result. Nobody on the team thought we were going to be able to go for pole, but the lap came together fantastically. On top of that, I had a super big tow from Olly (teammate Oliver Gavin), and he didn’t mess with me. It came together and it’s a lot faster than we have been here at any time before.

“It’s a good feeling for the team to have pole position. Today it means a lot, but after that it doesn’t mean anything. It’s a long race, but it does pump the team up and gives us a good feeling for the race. Usually when you have a fast car in qualifying, it translates to a fast car in the race. We’ll be racing in a lot of different conditions, so it’s a matter of figuring out the race pace and staying out of trouble so you are there for the end when possibly some weather comes in, which is what it looks like now.”

Magnussen will start 18th overall, one spot ahead of the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT qualified by Joey Hand in 1:42.789-seconds/124.665 mph. Hand will share the Blue Oval entry with Dirk Mueller and Verizon IndyCar Series regular Sebastian Bourdais.

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David Hobbs, whose career as a championship driver spanned three decades and his stint as a television commentator more than four, has received the Road Racing Drivers Club’s Phil Hill Award for 2018. RRDC President Bobby Rahal made the presentation during the annual RRDC members’ dinner Wednesday night as a prelude to the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

The Phil Hill Award has been presented annually since 1993 to the person the RRDC feels has rendered outstanding service to road racing. The recipient may be a driver, entrant or outstanding member of a sanctioning body. The award honors America’s first Formula 1 World Driving Champion (in 1961), and is not only a tribute to his accomplishments on the racetrack but also recognizes his contributions as an ambassador for the sport. Hill passed away in 2008.

“Phil Hill represented everything that was great about the American spirit internationally,” Rahal said. “He was the first U.S. Formula 1 champion and multi-time winner of Le Mans. He was a gentleman in the finest sense of the word.  He was very much a class guy, and he let his driving speak for him. He wasn’t a braggart. He just did his thing and he won a lot of races, including Le Mans in the ’50s and ’60s. He drove for Chaparral, and pretty much did it all.

“We think the Phil Hill Award represents something that’s very special in motorsport. And David Hobbs clearly lives up to that example. He is indeed a worthy recipient of the Phil Hill Award.”

A tribute video produced by Hobbs’ longtime rival and friend Sam Posey was shown. “David has a third career, which is just being himself, exuding good humor and comfortable at being a genuine celebrity,” Posey said. “From the beginning he was seen as a cheery chap at the pub in Upper Boddington (United Kingdom), but over time David emerged as a man who was dead serious about his driving and thus staying alive in what was in those days, the mid-1960s, an extremely dangerous sport.

“A combination of modesty yet confidence would serve him well throughout his driving years.”

Hobbs was not in attendance as he was home ailing from the flu, but he did provide a video message. “I want to thank my very old friend Sam Posey for putting together yet another wonderful piece of fiction _ absolutely, as always, beautifully narrated,” said Hobbs, 78. “Thank you very much, Sam, indeed, for those very kind comments.

“Obviously, I’m amazingly proud to have been awarded the Phil Hill Award for 2018. Since 1993 when the award first came out it’s been won by practically every North American racing driver, team-owner, chief mechanic and writer. Finally, it’s my turn to win the award and, unfortunately, I just cannot be there to accept the award tonight and I am bitterly disappointed.”

Born in Leamington Spa, U.K., on June 9, 1939, Hobbs started racing in his mother’s Morris Oxford in 1959 and extended his driving career to the U.S. FastMasters Championship in 1993. 

His accomplishments include winning the SCCA Trans-Am championship with five victories in 1983, 11 victories in IMSA Camel GT competition, three third-place finishes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 22 race wins in a seven-year Formula 5000 career. Hobbs is second on the all-time Formula 5000 win list, winning the 1971 championship. In his Formula 1 debut in Syracuse, Sicily, in 1966, Hobbs finished third. He also set a British closed-course speed record of 167.5 mph driving the then-secret Jaguar XJ13 in 1967, a record that lasted 19 years.

Hobbs, who lives in Florida with wife Margaret, also competed in four Indianapolis 500s, finishing fifth in 1974.

A popular television analyst and color commentator since 1976, Hobbs appeared on 17 consecutive Daytona 500 broadcasts with CBS, including the 1979 Daytona 500 _ the first live, flag-to-flag telecast of a NASCAR Winston Cup race. That race, and the large audience rating it generated, became a benchmark in television coverage of auto racing in the U.S. 

Hobbs also co-hosted live coverage of Formula 1 racing on the former Speed Channel and provided commentary on Le Mans, Pro Sports Car and SCCA events. In 1987 he joined ESPN to provide coverage of Formula 1, Le Mans and several U.S. racing series. Hobbs most recently co-hosted live coverage of Formula 1 (from 2013-17) on NBC Sports Network and NBC alongside Leigh Diffey and Steve Matchett. 

He is the owner of David Hobbs Honda in Milwaukee, Wis., serving as chairman of the Wisconsin State Dealer Council from 1993-98, and was a member of the National Dealer Council for two years.

Accepting the award on Hobbs’ behalf were Diffey and Andrew Marriott, co-author of Hobbs’ new book, Hobbo, Motor Racer, Motor Mouth, which will launch at the Amelia Island (Fla.) Concours in March.

“I didn’t start the book, that’s why I call it a ‘book rescue.’^” Marriott said. “It was about two-thirds done when I started it. David kept re-remembering things, and every time he’d remember something it was different from the time he remembered it before. It has been a labor of love, this book. It’s been an endurance writing it, it hasn’t been a sprint. It’s got the most fabulous pictures in it and some pretty good stories. I think everyone will enjoy reading it.”

Diffey added, “As you saw from the video of David from his home in Vero Beach, he had a nice tan on his face, he sounded healthy. He’s completely healthy. He found out it was a cash bar and that’s why he’s not here.

“For those of you who’ve seen him on television or those who are in the room and have been friends of his, he’s the same guy. He’s the same guy here, the same guy on TV, the same guy at home, which is what makes ‘Hobbo’ so beautiful, which I think will make the book so successful. It’s killing him not to be here. He loves all of you, he loves telling stories, he loves having a glass of wine.

“He’s a serious guy. He doesn’t put himself up there with the greats. He says (it’s) because ‘My results were bullshit.’ But they weren’t. He had great results. He won his class at Le Mans twice. He’s done so much, and this sport that we all love is front and center in his heart. 

“It’s a really special time and he’s a really special man, and I feel blessed to share the commentary booth with him. Raise your glass. Cheers to Hobbo and cheers to Phil HIll as well.”

RRDC PHIL HILL AWARD WINNERS

1993 _ John Bishop

1994_ Juan Manuel Fangio II

1995_ Leo Mehl

1996_ Charlie Slater

1997 _Danny Sullivan

1998_ Rob Dyson

1999_ Bob Fergus

2000_ Elliott Forbes Robinson

2001_ Bill France Sr.

2002 _ Jim Downing

2003 _ Derek Bell

2004 _ Brian Redman

2005 _ Jim France

2006 _ Roger Werner

2007 _ Skip Barber

2008 _ Roger Penske

2009 _ Bob Bondurant

2010 _ Nick Craw

2011 _ Rick Mears

2012 _ George Follmer

2013 _ Peter Brock

2014 _ Hurley Haywood

2015 _ Vic Elford

2016 _ Scott Pruett

2017 _Chip Ganassi

2018 _ David Hobbs

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, January 25 2018
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