The 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway kicks off at 2pm Saturday January 25th as part of the inaugural Tudor United SportsCar Championship season. The 52nd anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona will be the first race for TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, the newly unified organization between the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón. Celebrate the start of a new era, as America’s two major sports car racing leagues unify for their history-making first race.
The gird has officially been set as Alex Gurney turned in a best lap of 130.416 mph (1:38.270) in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP he shares with Jon Fogarty, Memo Gidley and Darren Law to earn the pole position for this weekend’s twice-around-the-clock event on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road circuit. It was the second Rolex 24 At Daytona pole for Gurney, who took the No. 1 starting position in 2007 as well. “I’m obviously really happy and excited about it all,” Gurney said. “(It’s) been a really difficult offseason and I have to say a big thank you to (team owner) Bob Stallings and everybody on the team. I think most of the teams worked straight through Christmas and New Year’s with no real time off with all the rules changes and a lot of challenges there, so this means a lot to all of us and our team. We’re not set for the whole season so this is one of our times to shine. It feels really good to have pulled it off.”
Richard Westbrook piloted the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Corvette DP, he shares with Michael Valiante and Mike Rockenfeller, to a best lap of 130.219 mph (1:38.487), as he qualifies second for the race. Third on the grid will be the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa, Sebastien Bourdais and Burt Frisselle, Fittipaldi qualified the No. 5 machine fourth, turning a best lap of 129.903 mph (1:38.658). However, the third-quickest qualifying time posted by Brendon Hartley in the No. 78 Starworks Motorsport Dinan/Riley was disallowed due to post-race technical inspection showing the No. 78 failed ride height measurements and had an unapproved aerodynamic device installed.
Colin Braun continues to show his experience at Daytona International Speedway as he piloted the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA FLM09 to take the Prototype Challenge (PC) class TOTAL Pole Award. Braun posted a best lap of 125.922 mph (1:41.777). “It’s great to be on the pole here in Daytona,” Braun said. “It’s a really cool race and [you know] as soon as the green flag drops everybody forgets it, so we’ve got to enjoy it while we can. But I’m really proud of the guys; I think it comes down to preparation here. It’s all about the work they do in the offseason over the time we have off because you show up and you only get an hour and a half of practice; you’ve got four or five drivers to run through and lots of red flags, lots of traffic, so it’s all about being prepared and ready to go execute or game plan once we get here.”
Second in PC qualifying was Renger van der Zande in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport ORECA FLM09. Van der Zande turned in a best lap of 125.875 mph (1:41.815) in the car he shares with Mirco Schultis, Eric Lux and Sam Bird. Bruno Junqueira was third in PC with a lap of 125.731 mph (1:41.932) in the No. 09 RSR Racing ORECA FLM09. Junqueira’s co-drivers are Duncan Ende, David Heinemeier-Hansson and Gustavo Menezes.
Marc Goossens captured the GT Le Mans (GTLM) pole for Saturday’s 52nd Rolex 24 with a lap of 122.634 mph (1:44.506) in the No. 91 SRT Motorsports SRT Viper GTS-R, co-drivers Dominik Farnbacher and Ryan Hunter-Reay will be looking to follow up the showing of the ORECA Viper GTS-R in the 2000 edition of the Rolex 24, which took the overall victory 14 years ago. , “It’s awesome to be on the pole for the first race of the year. It’s a great way to start the season, and it’s a great boost of confidence for the whole team.” Goossens later stated.
Nick Tandy qualified the No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR second in GTLM with a lap of 122.545 mph (1:44.582); Tandy will be joined in the race by Richard Lietz and Patrick Pilet.
Jonathan Bomarito will be joined by Kuno Wittmer and Rob Bell in the No. 93 Pennzoil Ultra SRT Viper GTS-R after qualifying at 122.504 mph (1:44.617). After running fastest for much of the 15-minute session, Oliver Gavin wound up fourth in the No. 4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R co-driven by Tommy Milner and Robin Liddell. The team’s sister car of Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Ryan Briscoe did not participate in qualifying due to a throttle problem.
The ultra-competitive GT Daytona (GTD) field will be led by the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia after post-race technical inspection revealed an unapproved rear wing endplate on the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS that had originally qualified on the class pole position. Toni Vilander turned a best qualifying lap of 119.744 mph (1:47.028) in the No. 63 Ferrari, which he shares with 2013 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT champion Alessandro Balzan, Jeff Westphal and Lorenzo Case. “I missed the Roar [Before The Rolex 24 test}, because I was busy doing other racing,” said Vilander. “Even with the track time being so little, I was confident, I got in the car and was on the pace immediately. When I got in it, the car was already good. We didn’t need to change the balance that much. It’s good to see so many manufacturers so close. At the same time, I’m confident for the race. We drivers and the crew have to do a good solid job, and I think we’ve got a good chance.”
The No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports Audi R8, which originally qualified third in GTD, was also moved to the rear of the grid due to a ride-height violation, while the No. 65 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 shared by Brazilians Francisco Longo, Daniel Serra, Xandinho Negraõ and Marcos Gomes will start second on the class grid with a best qualifying lap of 119.718 mph (1:47.052).
The No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage shared by David Block, Al Carter, Brandon Davis and James Davison will start third in GTD with a lap of 119.714 (1:47.055).
The 52nd running of the Rolex 24 at Dayton International Speedway is set to be an exciting event as teams look forward to kicking off the 2014 Tudor United SportsCar Championship. FOX network will air the first two hours of Rolex 24 At Daytona action on Saturday, Jan. 25 beginning at 2 p.m. ET, anchoring 15 total hours of FOX Sports coverage of the event.
Photo Credit: GAINSCO Bob Stallings Racing, SRT Motorsports, Scuderia Corsa Ferrari