Tristan Vautier put the No. 5 JDC Miller Motorsports Cadillac on pole for tomorrow’s qualifying race for next weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. Vautier had just turned a 1m34.034s and was told by the team to knock out another one to back it up when a red flag came out for Renger van der Zande ’s No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac stuffed into the tires in the West Horseshoe. Van der Zande had held the second-fastest time, but lost that time and his second-best to end up last in the DPi field.
“There was quite a lot of traffic with 15 cars,” said Vautier. “So you knew you had to put a lap in and there was a chance for a red flag, which actually happened. So yeah, when I got to the Bus Stop. I knew that that lap was good. So I was like, ‘Okay, don’t mess it up. You just got one corner to go. And the car felt great.”
Filipe Albuquerque put the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura on the outside front row with a 1m34.156s. The No. 02 Cadillac Racing car was qualified third by Alex Lynn, with Tristan Nunez putting the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac in fourth.
Ben Keating qualified the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca on the LMP2 pole. It’s a rather unusual circumstance since the other car he’ll be driving in the Rolex 24 was the top DPi qualifier, leading Vautier to quip, “I think we need to sign up Ben for more races because we seem to bring each other luck!”
Keating, who said he didn’t really have any intention of going for the qualifying race pole since he’s won his class in the Rolex 24 starting last, did a 1m37.296s. Steven Thomas put the other PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca, the No. 11, in second.
Cameron Shields was the fastest of the LMP3 qualifiers, turning a 1m42.182s in the No. 26 Muehlner Motorsports America Duqueine.
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The front row for the GT cars is all GTD Pro Porsches, as Asian team KCMG took the pole for the qualifying race in its first appearance at Daytona International Speedway. Alex Imperatori took the qualifying duties, turning a lap of 1m46.136s, the fastest GTD time of the weekend so far — rather remarkable because he hadn’t been in the car in the dry all weekend. With the GTD cars going out first, they faced challenging conditions as a light drizzle had fallen just before the session.
“It was drizzling and deposited a bit of moisture on the track,” Imperatori said. “When we went out it was very slippery on the cold tires. But we did work to get temperature in them and target the end of the session. For me, it was the first laps in the dry this weekend, so I wasn’t really actually targeting to go for pole position. I was just trying to get some good laps in and a feel for the car and for the racetrack. My teammates did a good job so far in setting up the car and the car was in a good place, and that’s how we managed to get top spot. It doesn’t mean much for for next week, but it’s always good to start on the right foot.”
Until Imperatori posted his time, it looked like it might be Mathieu Jaminet in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche, who had a 1m46.199s. Andrea Caldarelli was third in the TR3 Racing Lamborghini that was quickest in both sessions yesterday, fifth GTD car overall. The No. 23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage will start alongside, Ross Gunn having put the car in fourth in GTD Pro.
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In a bit of a shock move, Kenny Habul nipped defending Rolex 24 GTD champions Winward Racing to put the Sun Energy Racing Mercedes AMG on the pole with a 1m46.313s, good enough for third overall among all the GTD cars. Russ Ward had held the top spot with a 1m46.464s, but Habul relegated him to second at the last second to make it an all Mercedes-AMG second row for the start of the qualifying race.
“Mate, I absolutely had to drive my nuts off to be honest,” said Habul. “It was wet in places and it was a little dangerous. And I just kept my boot into it and gave it everything. It was one of the rare instances I had a good lap, so I’m happy.”
The drivers and teams have a two-hour practice session this evening, their first real chance to run in the dark, before a warmup tomorrow morning and the 100-minute qualifying race tomorrow afternoon (2 p.m. ET) that will set the starting order for the Rolex 24 next weekend.
UP NEXT: Fourth practice session, 7 p.m. ET on Saturday night.