NASCAR Race Weekend Central
(Photo: Phil Allaway)

Action Express Racing Goes 1-2 in Rolex 24 Qualifying

On Thursday afternoon, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship held qualifying for this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.  With teams not necessarily showing their full hand during the Roar Before the 24, it was unclear what everyone truly had.  However, when it was time for brass tacks, Action Express Racing came to play.

Joao Barbosa won the overall pole for Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona with a lap of 96.903 seconds (132.265 mph).  The lap is more than a second faster than Ben Hanley‘s fastest lap from the Roar.  In addition, it is the third fastest pole time in the history of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.  Only 1992 and 1993 had faster times.

Afterwards, Barbosa was very happy with his car and his performance.

“The Cadillac was a really fun car to drive today,” Barbosa said during the post-qualifying press conference.  ‘The tires took a bit to come up and once they were in, the car would do everything I wanted it to do. The qualifying is important, and it’s really cool to give Cadillac [their] first DPi pole position.  [However], it doesn’t matter how you start though, it matters how you finish.”

Action Express Racing teammate Dane Cameron challenged Barbosa late in the session, but came up just short.  Cameron will start second after qualifying seven-hundredths of a second slower than his teammate to complete the Cadillac DPi-V.R. front-row sweep.  REBELLION Racing’s Neel Jani was the fastest of those running the LMP2-spec entries in third, a tenth and a half off the pole.  Wayne Taylor Racing’s Ricky Taylor was fourth quickest, while Brendon Hartley qualified Tequila Patron ESM’s No. 22 Nissan DPi in fifth.

DragonSpeed’s No. 81 ORECA 07-Gibson did not set a time in qualifying.  The team chose to skip the session after Loïc Duval crashed the car right at the end of the second practice session.  The team is currently repairing the car in the garage.

In Prototype Challenge, the teams were unable to match the lap time of 101 set by James French during the Roar.  However, French was just the man to come the closest to the Roar time.

Early on in the session, BAR1 Motorsports’ Buddy Rice set the pace, but was unable to eclipse the times set by the fastest GTLM teams.  Then French came along and set a time in the 103-second bracket to put himself on top.  Rice could not keep pace, but teammate Johnny Mowlem was able to move up to second.

Despite having the pole all but clinched late in the session, French set his fastest lap, a 102.559 second (124.962 mph) on his ninth lap of the session to take the PC pole.  The lap was roughly six-sevenths of a second faster than Mowlem in second.  Rice was another tenth and change back in third.

The two Starworks Motorsport entries trailed considerably.  Chris Cumming qualified the No. 8 fourth in class, 26th overall.  His lap was slower than all 11 GTLM cars.  To make matters worse, his session was adventurous as he spun the car on the backstretch.  Teammate Alex Popow was 29th overall in the No. 88 entry.

In GT Le Mans, it was more or less a repeat of the Roar test.  All Ford, all the time.

Joey Hand won the class pole for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing with a lap of 103.473 seconds (123.858 mph) in the No. 66 Ford GT.  This lap was nearly a second faster than what Ryan Briscoe was able to do in the No. 67 at the Roar.

Also similar to the Roar, the front of the pack appears to be a Ford train.  Richard Westbrook qualified the No. 67 second, a quarter of a second behind.  Olivier Pla qualified the No. 68 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing UK entry third, but spun out on his own entering the International Horseshoe.  The incident resulted in a big gasp from the assembled crowd, but no apparent damage.

Risi Competizione’s Toni Vilander was fourth quickest in the sole Ferrari 488 GTE out there, while Patrick Pilet was fifth in Porsche North America’s new mid-engined 911 RSR.

GT Daytona saw Ferrari come out to play with their 488 GT3’s.  Granted, there’s only two of them in the field, but they put themselves front and center.

Alessandro Pier Guidi won the GTD pole with a lap of 107.099 seconds (119.665 mph), but he had to fight for it.  Scuderia Corsa’s Alessandro Balzan ended up just .018 of a second behind in the other Ferrari.  Aston Martin Racing’s Marco Sørensen was third quickest, six-tenths of a second further back.  Manthey Racing’s Matteo Carioli was fourth in a Porsche, while Mirko Bortolotti was fifth quickest in the No. 11 Lamborghini for GRT Grasser Racing Team.

On-track action continues with night practice tonight in Daytona.  In addition, there is one more daytime practice on Saturday morning.

Click Here for full Qualifying Results.

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About Phil Allaway

Phil Allaway
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor. Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as Tony Stewart's Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions.

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