JANUARY 23, 2015
In the world of motorsport racing, January (coming from the Latin word for door) has certainly been the door to the year as the iconic Rolex 24 At Daytona has marked the start of a new season for 52 years. With the 53rd edition of the historic endurance challenge set to get underway on Saturday, January 25, at 2:10 p.m. EST, the latest chapter in the race which has captivated the interest of leagues of dedicated followers is about to be written. The Rolex 24 At Daytona is first and foremost a test of man and machine; it offers a testament to teamwork and the pursuit of perfection. And in the end, the winning team – drivers, mechanics, pit crew and team owner – is the one whose superior efforts were balanced with a healthy measure of luck. In order to win, the team has to make it to the finish and in a 24-hour race the attrition rate is a factual footnote to the magnitude of the test.
Preparing to go head to head on Daytona International Speedway’s 3.56 mile course are 53 entries in four classes (16 in Prototype, 8 in Prototype Challenge, 19 in GT Daytona and 10 in GT Le Mans). After two practice sessions, pole position was determined in each class during the late afternoon Qualifying Sessions today.
In the Prototype class, Brazilian driver Ozz Negri, the 2012 Rolex 24 champion, put the #60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 on the pole with a 129.201 mph lap (1:39.194).
“It’s never bad when you’re on pole position,” said Negri. “We worked hard and we knew we had a good package… The pole position is bragging rights for a 24 hour race, but the real deal is the top step. After the three-day test [the Roar Before the Rolex 24, held two weeks ago], we knew we had a shot at it. We worked hard through this weekend, we improved on the areas we needed to, and it showed. We got faster and faster through practice and in qualifying. I was expecting to be up front, but I’m only a small part of it. I have a great team, a great chassis, engine, and tires. I had a few moments in the bus stop; I really thought we might not even have a car for Saturday. But for the race, you just have to play it by ear and dance according to the music and just try to dance a little bit faster than everyone else.”
In the Prototype Challenge class, British driver Johnny Mowlem, put up a fast lap of 1:42.318 to win pole in the #16 Bar1 Motorsports ORECA FLM09.
“It’s always nice to start any race from pole but it is slightly less significant in a 24 hour race,” said Mowlem. “I kept pushing and pushing and took the 21 year old attitude I used to have and threw caution to the wind. I took some liberties at the bus stop chicane and was able to get this quick lap. The biggest challenge we have with the PC cars is we are actually slower than the GTLM and the GTD cars in a straight line.”
Taking not only pole, but a GTLM class record run, Oliver Gavin put up a fast lap of 1:43.488 in the #4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.
“I’m really thrilled to start 2015 with a bang and pole position,” said Gavin. “We have a year under our belts with this car, so we know what we need to do with it to be a bit better. We’re optimistic for the race. It’s 24 hours - a long one that’s brutally hard…We didn’t think we had the overall pace to get pole. I think it was just a perfect qualifying session.”
In the GT Daytona class, Australian driver James Davison, driving the #007 Aston Martin V12 Vantage clocked a fast lap at 119.472 mph (1:47.272) to take pole position.
“I’m blown away that we ended up on pole, to be honest,” said Davison. “We were generally a second off in the practice sessions. Leading up, even in the qualifying [simulation], we were over a second off. We had to fight a bit of adversity during the session. We waited in the pits and it went red so I only had a lap to pull it off. I timed an opening in front of the #48 Audi perfectly in the bus stop for a bit of luck. Obviously the car was good and I hit my marks, but we were a bit lucky to pull it off. The strategy is to have nothing go wrong. We had a lot of good performances last year, but never ended up on the podium, believe it or not.