Sunshine, cool conditions and a brisk wind in the optimal direction helped lead to records falling in three classes as the Roar Before the 24 ended with qualifying for the 62nd Rolex 24 At Daytona, the opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The record breaking was led by GTP pole qualifier Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac Racing V-Series.R, who smashed Oliver Jarvis’s track record by more than a second.
With every GTP qualifier under Jarvis’s record, Derani’s 1m32.656s stood on top as he led a Cadillac lockout of the front row.
“With the help of a great team and a great car beneath me, obviously the Cadillac was flying out there today and it’s just a privilege and a pleasure to drive such a car — really well balanced today,” said Derani. “We did the quali simulation before and we were missing a couple of things to P1, and I think we’ve worked exactly on what we needed to for qualifying and this gap that we had from from practice to qualifying. So you had great teamwork there to … not turn things around, but just to improve what was needed to qualify. The car felt on rails and it was nice to enjoy and feel the full potential of the GTP.”
Sebastien Bourdais, who had set the best time in the pre-qualifying test session, was 0.071s off Derani’s best time in the No. 01 Cadillac Racing. The No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963 will start on the inside of the second row thanks to Felipe Nasr’s 1m32.876s lap, with Connor De Phillipi on his right in the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL M Hybrid V8. The two Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acuras will occupy the third row, Louis Deletraz in the No. 40 ARX-06 just bettering teammate Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 10.
The No. 5 Proton Competition Porsche 963 did make the qualifying session after Neel Jani crashed the car in the final pre-qualifying practice session.
Ben Keating led the way in LMP2 for United Autosports. Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images
Ben Keating didn’t have a chance to beat the lap LMP2 lap record thanks to the Gibson engines in the class still carrying 35mm restrictors to separate them from the GTP cars, but in taking the LMP2 pole he tied a record of a different sort — the most poles at Daytona International Speedway. Keating posted a 1m38.501s in the No. 2 United Autosports ORECA to claim his fifth pole, bringing him even with Nick Tandy.
“The track was unbelievably fast today,” stated Keating, who will do double duty in the race, also driving the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Porsche 963 in GTP. “It’s almost perfect conditions — the sun’s out, it’s nice and cold, you’ve got a headwind coming into the bus stop and a tailwind going down the front straight.
“I never really knew what quite to expect. It’s not that much different than my quali sim yesterday afternoon. I did a 1m39.0s in my qualifying sim yesterday, which was a really, really fast lap, and I thought that if I could do that again, that that would be enough. I think it was my fourth lap and it didn’t feel like I was that far up on the delta, but I believed the dash and it said that I was up and so I continued to push even though I felt like I was still warming the tires up. On my dash, I think it showed up as a 38.3, something like that. And I was shocked. I couldn’t believe how quick it was.”
Nick Boulle set a best time of 1m38.603s in the No. 52 Inter Europol by PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA, 0.102s off Keating’s pole time. George Kurtz was bit farther off to claim third at 1m39.252s, and will start the NO. 04 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA inside LMP3 convert Gar Robinson, who set a best time of 1m39.297s for Riley Motorsports. The No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsports Ligier will start fifth after Dan Goldburg’s 1m39.506s lap.
Seb Priaulx and the AO Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R took a bite out of the GTD PRO field in the abbreviated qualifying session. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images
A crash early in the combined GTD PRO and GTD qualifying session left drivers with only seven minutes to put in a flyer. David Brule crashed the No. 92 Kellymoss with Riley Porsche 911 GT3 R heading into Turn 3, the International Horseshoe, on his out-lap, bringing out a red flag. The cleanup took long enough that the clock had to be reset to the minimum allowable green flag time to make the qualifying session official.
When the session resumed, the GTD PRO cars came on slowly, languishing in the field until the very late stages. Katherine Legge, who was the first GTD car to break the qualifying record, sat at the top until Seb Priaulx moved the No. 77 AO Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R to the front with a new GTD PRO record of 1m44.382s. That broke Laurens Vanthoor’s two-year old record, also set in a Porsche.
“I can’t thank AO enough for giving me a great car today,” said Priaulx after scoring his first pole in IMSA. “I got the tire temperature up nicely and I prepared the car well on the out lap and just put everything together and it just clicked today. I haven’t qualified the car for a long time — probably a bit rusty, but it did seem to pay off today, so I’m happy.”
Jack Hawksworth got close to Priaulx on his final flyer, but fell 0.08s short in the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus. Antonio Garcia was third quickest in GTD PRO in the Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports Z06 GT3.R, but he’ll have six GTD cars in between he and Priaulx as he’ll start on the inside of the fifth row. Franck Perera in the No. 19 Iron Lynx Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo2 was fourth in GTD PRO, 11th overall, followed directly by Daniel Serra in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3.
Parker Thompson paid his Vasser Sullivan Lexus team back for his promotion by taking GTD pole. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images
Parker Thompson kept Porsche from claiming a double GT pole by taking GTD honors, and will start inside the second row in the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3. Thompson set a new GTD record as well with a 1m44.462s, breaking a five-year old 1m44.541s previous best by Marco Gomes in a Ferrari 488 GT3.
“I think it’s a weight off my shoulders coming into the season with a full-time drive with Lexus racing and Vasser Sullivan,” said Thompson, who was the endurance third driver in 2023 and swapped roles with Aaron Telitz for 2024. “It was my first-ever qualifying session in GTD — I just wanted to kind of go out and have fun, and it’s it’s amazing what happens when you just go out and have fun. The Lexus Racing RCF was a rocket today. Hats off to Vasser Sullivan. I can’t thank them enough for the trust to put me in full-time. And I think this is a great start to reward them with that effort.”
Klaus Bachler was 0.043s off Thompson’s pole time in the No. 86 MDK Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R and will start outside the second row. Legge in the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX Evo22 will be on the inside of the third row of GTs, with Kyle Marcelli in the new No. 45 WTRAndretti Lamborghini Huracán alongside. The No. 78 Forte Racing Lamborghini (Loris Spinelli) and No. 34 Conquest Racing Ferrari 296 GT3 (Alberto Costa Balboa) will make up the fourth row.
UP NEXT: Practice for the Rolex 24 At Daytona begins on Thursday, with the race kicking off at 1:40 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 27.