With the qualifying for the Rolex 24 at Daytona done, here is a round up from the top manufactures from their points of view.
Defending Rolex 24 at Daytona and series champions – Acura and Meyer Shank Racing – got their 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season off to a strong start Sunday, with driver Tom Blomqvist putting together a last-lap “flyer” in qualifying aboard his electrified Acura ARX-06 to claim the pole for next weekend’s 61st running of the 24-hour endurance race at Daytona International Speedway.
The qualifying session capped a weekend of full-field IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship testing, known as “The Roar Before the 24” and set the grid for the 61-car field that will be running next weekend’s twice-around-the-clock endurance contest.
In a session marked by a brief stoppage to clear debris from another competitor’s crash, Blomqvist took advantage of a fresh set of Michelin tires to vault to pole as the checkered flag fell to end the 15-minute qualifying. The pole position is the first for any manufacturer in the new hybrid-powered GTP era of IMSA competition, and the second consecutive pole at Daytona for Acura.
Last year’s pole qualifier, Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport, will start third. Driver Ricky Taylor led the opening half of qualifying, but his team elected to use only one set of tires for qualifying, and Taylor remained in pit lane with the qualifying resumed, dropping from first to third in the final minutes of the session.
Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 In the production-based GTD category, Racers Edge Motorsports and Gradient Racing will start fourth and fifth in the strong, 25-car field. Kyle Marcelli piloted the #93 Racers Edge Acura to fourth, with Mario Farnbacher just behind in his Gradient Racing NSX.
Rolex 24 Qualifying Results
Pole Qualifier - #60 Tom Blomqvist, Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-06. Co-drivers for the Rolex 24 are Colin Braun, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud.
3rd overall - #10 Ricky Taylor, Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport Acura ARX-06. Co-drivers will be Filipe Albuquerque, Louis Deletraz and Brendon Hartley.
4th GTD - #93 Kyle Marcelli, Racers Edge Motorsports with WTR Acura NSX GT3 Evo22. Co-drivers include Ashton Harrison, Danny Formal and Ryan Briscoe.
5th GTD - #66 Mario Farnbacher, Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo22. Co-drivers will be Katherine Legge, Sheena Monk and Marc Miller.
At the start of the 20-minute GTP qualifying, Tandy and Nasr initially waited in the pits with their two 500 kW (680 PS) Porsche 963. After about seven minutes, the two hybrid vehicles headed out onto the 5.73-kilometre racetrack to chase top times. Both Porsche works drivers put in a strong drive and quickly positioned themselves among the frontrunners. On lap four, Tandy pulled out all stops: the outright Le Mans winner of 2015 set top times in the first two sectors and was on course for pole position – only to lose the rear of his Porsche 963 when braking for the last chicane. The vehicle shot over the grass and crashed into the tyre barrier. Despite damage to the front of the car, Tandy managed to drive slowly back to the pits – however, the stewards had already red-flagged the session. The IMSA regulations clearly state that the driver who caused a red flag in qualifying has their two fastest lap times voided. As a result, the No. 6 car will take up the race from the back of the GTP field.
When the qualifying session finally went green for the remaining two and a half minutes, Nasr again launched a blistering attack in the No. 7 car. With mere seconds left on the clock, the Brazilian catapulted his 963 to the front of the field, only to be pipped to pole by the No. 60 Acura in a last-ditch effort. The qualifying on Saturday marks the conclusion of the so-called “Roar” at Daytona. As part of the three-day test event, Porsche’s two new hybrid prototypes covered a total of 1,541 kilometres in preparation for the season-opening round this coming Saturday and Sunday. Tandy shares the cockpit of the No. 6 Porsche 963 with his works driver teammates Mathieu Jaminet from France and Dane Cameron from the USA. Nasr drives the sister car with the Australian Matt Campbell and Michael Christensen from Denmark.
“Congratulations to Acura on securing the first pole position in the new GTP era,” says Urs Kuratle, Director Factory Motorsport LMDh. “We’re pleased with our qualifying result because we’ve clearly underlined that we’re up with the play. When the session restarted towards the end, we didn’t have enough time to get the tyres back up to the optimum temperature. Nick’s accident is a pity for the crew of the No. 6 car but it’s by no means an indication of how the race will pan out. 24 hours is a long time and a lot can happen – and we’re part of the action!”
In the GTD-Pro class, the new Porsche 911 GT3 R (Gen. 992) concluded its qualifying debut in eighth place. Works driver Laurens Vanthoor from Belgium turned seven qualifying laps and improved significantly over the course of the session. However, the vehicle fielded by the defending champions Pfaff Motorsports was unable to join the fight for pole position. In the GTD category, the six new identical 415 kW (565 PS) GT3 vehicles from Weissach also struggled. Jan Heylen (Belgium) and factory driver Kévin Estre from France planted the two cars from Wright Motorsports on positions 14 and 18. Both cars fielded by Kelly-Moss with Riley take up the race from P19 and P20 of the GTD field. Lining up on the grid behind them are the vehicles from MDK Motorsports (P21) and AO Racing (P23).
The two BMW M Hybrid V8 prototypes finished the GTP class session in seventh and eighth places and will start the season-opener of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship from the fourth row of the grid next Saturday. BMW M works drivers Philipp Eng (AUT) and Nick Yelloly (GBR) were at the wheels of the #24 and #25 cars. BMW M Team RLL used the test sessions to get mileage on the newly developed cars and gain valuable experience with regards to the big challenge ahead.
Throughout the three test days the BMW M Hybrid V8 ran without any major issues and preparation proceeded as planned. Next week, five more test sessions offer the opportunity to further improve performance, driveability and reliability of the cars.
In GTD class qualifying, Turner Motorsport finished seventh in GTD PRO with the #95 BMW M4 GT3 driven by Bill Auberlen (USA). The #96 sister car driven by Robby Foley (USA) will start the race from P12 in GTD class. Right ahead of him, Madison Snow (USA) finished the GTD session in eleventh place with the #1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3.