Rolex 24 Qualifying

Pole winning Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac. [Photo by Jack Webster]

Pole winning Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac. [Photo by Jack Webster]

By Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

The weather was cool and windy, but the competition on the track was hot, very hot on Thursday at Daytona as qualifying took place for the 2018 running of the Rolex 24.

When all was said and done, Renger Van Der Zande took the pole for the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac with a time of 1:36.083, besting Helio Castroneves in the all new Penske Racing Acura DPi by only .007 seconds! Third was Filipe Albuquerque in the Mustang Sampling Cadillac.

Renger Van Der Zande said: “I’m super thrilled to be here. I’m thrilled to be in the seat I’m in. I’ve come a long way in the last few years. Stepping up to prototype class and getting promoted to the championship team. I can’t thank this whole team and crew enough. Being here feels incredible. I didn’t expect to grab this pole. They waited until I was in turn 5 before they told me I was on the pole and I was over the moon. I thought it was a good lap. I thought I overshot on turn 5, so I floored it and managed to get the car going, maybe that’s what did it, but I made it. The lap felt so good.”

In the Prototype class, the top ten cars were separated by only .848 seconds.

It is going to be a very competitive Rolex 24.

In GTLM, Jan Magnussen pulled off an upset by putting the Corvette C7.R on pole with a lap of 1:42.779, besting Joey Hand in the Ford GT by just .019. Laurens Vanhoor took third in the Porsche 911 RSR. The top 10 GTLM cars are separated by just 1.634 seconds.

Jan Magnussen: “Obviously, I’m super pleased. I have to say, I’m a bit surprised by the results. Nobody on the team thought we could go for pole, but the lap came together fantastically.”

In GTD, it was an all Ferrari front row, with Daniel Serra setting the pole time of 1:46.049, followed by Miguel Molina with a time of 1:46.502. Following the two Ferraris were a Lamborghini, Lexus, another Ferrari, a second Lexus and Acura and Audi. As usual, the GTD class was tight from top to bottom, and the eventual winner is anyone’s guess.

GTD pole winner Daniel Serra said: “The car was really, really good. This morning I did just a few laps and the balance was just not there. Our engineer did a few changes and the car came back really good. I’m really happy. I had a little bit of a tow on that last lap, so yeah, I’m really happy.”

There is one more practice session on Friday and then the race on Saturday afternoon. A very long 24 hours later, the winners in all classes will be known.

As mentioned before, it was cool and windy today at Daytona, Friday looks to be a bit better and Saturday looks to be about perfect weather conditions. There is a good chance for rain on Sunday, but if everyone’s luck holds out, the rain may not arrive until the race concludes.

The 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona is shaping up to be a flat out 24 hour sprint and we are sure that there will be lots of action and drama before the overall winner and class winners are determined on Sunday.

Stay tuned.

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