Action Express claims Rolex pole, front row sweep

Action Express claims Rolex pole, front row sweep

IMSA

Action Express claims Rolex pole, front row sweep

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Action Express Racing’s new Cadillac DPis swept the front row in Thursday’s qualifying for the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona, led by Joao Barbosa with a Prototype class-record lap of 1m36.903s in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi.

Barbosa nipped Action Express Racing teammate Dane Cameron (1m36.973s in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering entry) by 0.070s. Neil Jani led the international specification LMP2 cars, running 1m37.123s in the Gibson-powered No. 13 Rebellion Racing ORECA.

“I pushed really hard,” Barbosa said after winning his first career IMSA WeatherTech Championship Total Pole Award. “It took awhile for the tires to come up to temperature, but the car was really great. Hats off to all the Action Express guys for fixing the little glitches. It’s great to be on the pole for our first race here for the new era of Prototype cars. Qualifying is good for what it is, but the race is 24 hours. I think it’s going to be a tremendous race.”

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing swept the top three GTLM positions running in numerical order. Joey Hand (1m43.473s) won the pole in the No. 66 Ford GT, followed by the No. 67 of Richard Westbrook (1m43.704s) and No. 68 of Olivier Pla (1m43.987). Pla had a scare late in the session when he spun in the International Horseshoe, but managed to avoid contact.

“Dirk Mueller put this car on the pole at Le Mans and we won,” said Hand, who will co-drive with fellow 2016 Le Mans winners Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais. “We were struggling today trying to get it together, because it felt a lot different from what it did at the Roar. We all put our heads together. We wondered if we should throw the book at it or just wing it. I’m a ‘wing it’ kind of guy, so we made a small change to the car and I went for it.”

The fastest non-Ford was the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Toni Vilander (1m44.121s), with the top seven cars separated by 0.886s.

Ferraris swept the front row in GTD. Alessandro Pier Guidi won the pole, 1m47.099s in the No. 51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3, 0.018s faster than defending class champion Alessandro Balzan (1:47.117s) in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa entry. Different marques took up the next five positions, with the top seven separated by 1.169s.

“It was really tough,” Pier Guidi said. “I pushed like hell from the beginning, and the car was great.”

James French ran a fast final lap of 1m42.559s to lock up the PC pole in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09. French denied No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports driver Johnny Mowlem (1m43.396s) his third consecutive Daytona pole by 0.837s.

“Absolutely, I was pushing 100 percent [for the pole],” French said. “We wanted to start out the best we could, especially with the tough GTLM field, so I did the best we could.”

Fifty four of the 55 entries qualified for Saturday’s race, which starts at 2:30 p.m. ET. The lone car on the sidelines was the No. 81 DragonSpeed ORECA, which was badly damaged in FP2 but is expected to be ready for Friday morning’s final practice at 10 a.m. ET.

Complete results can be found here.

NEXT UP: FP3 (Night Practice), 7-8:30 p.m. ET.

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