Ozz Negri takes Michael Shank Racing Ligier to Rolex 24 pole
Michael Shank Racing will kick off its new era by starting the 53rd Rolex 24 at Daytona from the pole position, following a quick lap by Ozz Negri in qualifying for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season-opener.
The Brazilian recorded a best lap of 1:39.194 in his No. 60 Ligier JS P2 Honda in the 15-minute prototype qualifying session, edging out the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford of Scott Dixon by 0.108 seconds.
It marked the first pole for a P2 car at Daytona and also in the team’s debut outing with the Onroak Automotive-built prototype, following more than a decade of running DP machinery in GRAND-AM competition.
Negri will share the P2 entry with John Pew, AJ Allmendinger and Matt McMurry this weekend.
Dixon, who reeled off a 1:39.302 in his DP car, was second, followed by the sister Ganassi entry, qualified by Scott Pruett in third.
Defending Rolex 24 winner and Prototype class champion Joao Barbosa was fourth in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP, while the No. 0 DeltaWing DWC13 of Andy Meyrick completed the top-five.
Olivier Pla made it two Ligiers in the top-six, pedaling the No. 57 Krohn Racing entry to a 1:39.683 lap time, followed by Ricky Taylor in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP.
The top-seven qualifiers all broke the 1:40 barrier and were separated by less than seven tenths of a second.
In Prototype Challenge, Johnny Mowlem claimed top qualifying honors in his return to full-time sports car racing in North America.
The Englishman reeled off a quick lap of 1:42.318 in the No. 16 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09, bumping the No. 54 CORE autosport entry of Colin Braun to second in the closing moments of the session.
It marked the first pole for the Brian Alder-led team in TUDOR Championship competition. Mowlem will share driving duties this weekend with Alder, Tom Papadopoulos, Tomy Drissi and Martin Plowman.
Mowlem edged out defending class winner and champion Braun by 0.180 seconds, with the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry of Tom Kimber-Smith clocking the third quickest time.
Renger van der Zande took his Martini-liveried Starworks Motorsport entry to fourth, while Plowman – listed to drive in both cars – who made it two BAR1 entries in the top-five.
Oliver Gavin (GT Le Mans) and James Davison (GT Daytona) scored GT class poles.
In both cases, this keeps streaks alive. Gavin’s pole makes him the 12th different driver in as many TUDOR United SportsCar Championship races to score the pole in the GTLM class, while Davison’s is his fifth consecutive in GTD.
Gavin banked an early flier in the No. 4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R, a 1:43.488 for easily the fastest lap of the weekend in class.
Several others got into the 1:43 range but none was able to top Gavin’s ultimate polesitting time. The pole is the first for Corvette Racing since Antonio Garcia’s at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last May; the No. 4 car did not score a single pole all season in 2014.
The repaired No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia, in the hands of Gianmaria Bruni, made it into second at 1:43.830. The second part-time GTLM entry, the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE driven by Pedro Lamy, clocked in third at 1:43.960.
John Edwards qualified fourth in the No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE at 1:43.966 with Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 Corvette rounding out the top five.
Four manufacturers locked out the first four positions in GTLM. Porsche’s best time was eighth, with Nick Tandy in the defending champion No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR at 1:44.082.
Davison snatched the GTD pole at the final opportunity in his No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3. His 1:47.272 beat the prior best time of 1:47.424 set by Jeroen Bleekemolen in the No. 33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R.
The pole is Davison’s fifth consecutive in the TUDOR Championship, after securing the final four in the 2014 season.
Bleekemolen clocked in second in his first Daytona appearance of 2015. The Dutchman missed the Roar Before the Rolex 24, as he was at the Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai.
Christopher Zoechling took the No. 28 Konrad Motorsport Porsche 911 GT America into third, with Jan Heylen in the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America and Daniel Serra in the No. 64 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 completing the top five.
With Markus Winkelhock sixth in the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS, that made it five different manufacturers in the top six in GTD. Only the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3 failed to figure among the frontrunners.
The top 12 runners down to 2014 polesitter Christopher Haase in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS were within one second. Haase ended 0.930 of a second behind Davison’s pole-winning time.
An incident for the No. 93 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R caused the only red flag of the session, with a right rear tire detaching from the car through the tri-oval.
The 53rd Rolex 24 at Daytona gets underway Saturday at 2:10 p.m. ET, with live coverage on FOX.