The Tudor United Sportscar Championship always starts with a bang in Daytona, with their center piece Rolex 24 at Daytona always opening the season in late January. After a very close Roar before the 24 pre-season test in which the top six cars were seperated by tenths of a second, it should come as no surprise that yesterday's qualifying session was just the same as Ozz Negri claimed pole for Michael Shank Racing and their new Ligier JSP2-HPD car.
The vastly experienced Brazilian produced a 1m39.194 lap time, which was enough for pole by just over a tenth of a second from the first of the powerhouse Chip Ganassi Daytona Prototype entries piloted by Indycar star Scott Dixon. The second Chip Ganassi entry driven in qualifying by Scott Pruett claimed third, just 0.007 of a second off the front row. The reigning champions Action Express entry was 4th driven by Joao Barbosa, whilst Andy Meyrick in the highly unusual Deltawing entry and the Krohn Racing Ligier JSP2 completed the top six.
In the other classes it was firstly the returning Johnny Mowlem in the BAR1 Motorsport entry which claimed pole in the Prototype challenge one make class, with reigning champions CORE Autosport in second with Colin Braun, whilst Tom Kimber -Smith put the PR1/Mathieson Motorsport entry in third.
In the hotly contested GTLM class it was Oliver Gavin the works Chevrolet Corvette C7.R who claimed pole on home soil, with the rapid Italian Gianmaria Bruni second in the AF Corse Ferrari, whilst Pedro Lamy completed the top three in the works Aston Martin entry. Finally in GTD it was James Davison who took a fifth consecutive pole for the TRG customer Aston Martin team. Jeroen Bleekomolen was second in the customer Riley Viper, whilst Christopher Zoechling put the Konrad Motorsport Porsche 911 GT America third on the grid.
After being a long running Daytona Prototype team, Michael Shank made the brave decision to switch to the Ligier JSP2 LMP2 car for this year. The switch seems to have already started well with this pole, although of course in a 24 hour race winning pole it purely for bragging rights. Predicting a winner in the Rolex 24 is always very difficult, although this year it's almost impossible to choose a potential winner.
There is at least 8-10 entries in the prototype class which can realistically fight for victory during the 24 hours. This is a race that you will not want to miss for sure.
What are thoughts on the race? Please feel free to comment below.
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