Rolex 24: SMP Racing to lead the field to green after rain-soaked qualifying

BY foxsports • January 28, 2016

A Russian prototype will lead the field to the green flag in Saturday’s 54th Rolex 24 at Daytona, following a bizarre, rain-soaked qualifying session for the opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Mikhail Aleshin wound up quickest of the Prototype class cars in qualifying, which saw the top seven overall quickest times set by GTLM cars in dryer conditions.

Aleshin took his SMP Racing BR Engineering BR01 to a best lap of 2:05.708, outpacing the Tequila Patron ESM Ligier JS P2 Honda of Pipo Derani by 0.511 seconds.

It marked the first pole for the Paolo Catone-designed LMP2 car, which is making its U.S. debut this weekend.

Aleshin will share driving duties with Nic Minassian, Maurizio Mediani and Kirill Ladygin in the around-the-clock Florida endurance classic.

Derani will line up alongside the SMP entry in second, thanks to a 2:06.304 lap time that put the young Brazilian 12th on the overall time sheets.

The No. 20 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09 will lead the PC field at the start of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Johnny Mowlem stormed to his second consecutive Rolex 24 class pole in PC.

Mowlem reeled off a best time of 2:05.708 in his No. 20 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09, outpacing the No. 85 JDC Miller Motorsports entry of Stephen Simpson by 1.705 seconds.

The two BAR1 entries were in the top-three, with Ryan Eversley qualifying the No. 26 car in third, just three-tenths slower than Simpson.

Class pole-sitter Mowlem will share driving duties this weekend with Tomy Drissi, Brendan Gaughan, Marc Drumwright and Ricardo Vera.

Two of the pre-qualifying favorites elected to keep their cars parked in the treacherous conditions.

As a result, both defending race winners PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports and 2015 class champions CORE autosport will start from the rear of the eight-car PC class field.

Conditions during both the P and Prototype Challenge class sessions deteriorated compared to the GT sessions.

The No. 911 Porsche 911 was the fastest overall during qualifying and will lead the GTLM field to green at this weekend's Rolex 24 at Daytona.

In what essentially morphed into a one-lap shootout in the GT Le Mans class, the pair of Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSRs have swept the class front row courtesy of fliers from Nick Tandy and Fred Makowiecki.

Tandy set a 2:01.408 in the No. 911 car with Makowiecki posting a 2:02.364 in the No. 912 car.

Tandy will share the No. 911 car with Patrick Pilet and Kevin Estre for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

John Edwards took the No. 100 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM into third on the grid, ahead of the Scuderia Corsa and Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTEs.

However, the GTLM session sustained a 14-minute red flag due to a rare accident by Gianmaria Bruni in the third of the new Ferraris, the No. 72 SMP Racing entry.

Bruni hydroplaned off course entering Turn 1, and the car lost the rear wing and damaged the left rear quarter panel.

The red flag meant the session was extended for several additional minutes to meet the 10-minute minimum green flag time.

While the top seven in class produced times clear of the GT Daytona field, the best of the debuting Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs will line up ninth in class.

The No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche will lead the GTD field to green at the start of this weekend's Rolex 24 at Daytona.

In what was a less wet GTD session, Norbert Siedler took the pole, in one of the debuting Porsche 911 GT3 Rs.

Siedler, who will share the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche with Joerg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey and Matt McMurry for the race, laid down a best time of 2:05.798.

Marc Basseng took the Lamborghini Huracán GT3, in the car’s U.S. race debut, to second on the grid in the No. 28 Konrad Motorsport entry at 2:06.357.

Leh Keen was third in the No. 22 Alex Job Racing Porsche at 2:06.357 and Damien Faulkner fourth in the No. 93 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R at 2:07.392.

Sven Mueller, the Porsche Junior, took the Frikadelli Racing Porsche into fifth on the grid.

Richie Stanaway was fastest of two Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3s in seventh, with Andy Lally the best of three new Audi R8 LMS in 10th, and the best BMW M6 GT3 and Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 13th and 14th, respectively.

Neither the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Audi nor the No. 16 Change Racing Lamborghini completed laps in this qualifying. Stevenson’s team was working on the Audi and Change was still fixing the left front of the car after Spencer Pumpelly’s accident in first practice.

The 54th Rolex 24 at Daytona gets underway Saturday at 2:40 p.m. local time, with LIVE coverage starting at 2 p.m. ET on FS1.

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