The first qualifying session for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was run today at Daytona International Speedway.
It wasn’t a normal qualifying, but only qualification for the pitlane positions and garage spaces for the upcoming Daytona 24 Hours later this month. The actual starting positions for the race will be determined on the race week itself.
The first one out was the GTD category and they delivered a fantastic battle as always, where the many different teams and brands trying to beat each other.
The GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini #11 has been fast all weekend long, and Mirko Bortolotti put down the fastest qualifying time ahead of Andy Lally in the Magnus Racing Audi #44 and Patrick Long in the Wright Motorsport Porsche #58.
The GTD category ended up mixed as always, with Lamborghini ahead of Audi, Porsche, Acura, Acura, Lexus, Ferrari, Audi, Lamborghini, Ferrari and Mercedes. The first 18 out of the 21 GTD cars were all within 0,980 of a second! Unfortunately, from the eyes of BMW, the Turner Motorsport #96 driven by Jens Klingmann, the 18th car.
There was more than just the pitlane positions at stake for the GTD teams, since only the top qualifiers would be in the permanent garages, while the others had to go to the extra garages. Neither the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48 nor the Manthey Racing Porsche #59 got to set a time due to technical issues. It means that both of these big teams will have to stay the furthest away from the pit area – so their mechanics will have plenty of workout during the week of the race. They are probably hoping for a faultless race, so they don’t have to run back and forth between pitlane and garage too many times during the weekend.
The next cars on the track were the GTLM cars.
Corvette Racing was the first to send both their cars on track, and quickly started swapping fastest laps with the two Ford Chip Ganassi Racing cars.
After 15 minutes of qualifying, Joey Hand in the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66 was the fastest driver ahead of Oliver Gavin in the Corvette Racing #4, with Ryan Briscoe in the Ford #67 and Earl Bamber in the Porsche GT Team #912 in the following positions. Antonio Garcia in the Corvette Racing #3 took 6th fastest time, ahead of Alessandro Pier Guidi in the Risi Competizione Ferrari #62 and Alexander Sims in the BMW Team RLL #25.
Ford and Corvette were only separated by 0,030 of a second, while Porsche was 0,278 behind – Ferrari 0,427 and BMW at 1,446 seconds behind.
BMW has been the slowest GTLM cars all weekend long, but they have brought their brand new BMW M8 GTE. It appears that they still have a bit of setup work to do.
The Prototype category were the last to go onto the track.
The Cadillac cars had been fastest all weekend long, so it was no surprise that they would come out on top – the question was, which team was it going to be.
The three Cadillac cars in the shape of Whelen Engineering Racing #31, Spirit of Daytona Racing #90 and Mustang Sampling Racing #5 were battling har to set the fastest lap, while the Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R #10 was a bit behind. The three cars with Felipe Nasr, Tristan Vautier and Filipe Albuerquerque respectively swapped fastest sectors like it was for the race win.
Nasr in the #31 ended up fastest ahead of Vautier in #90 and Albuerquerque in #5, while Renger van der Zande was fourth quickest. Acura Team Penske was 5th and 6th fastest – but almost 1,2 seconds behind the fastest Cadillac!
But if we take out the Cadillac cars from the equation, there was an amazing battle between the rest of the brands. There was less than one second from Dane Cameron in the Acura Team Penske #6 to Sebastian Saavedra in the AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier #52 – i.e. 13 cars within a second! Amongst those 13 cars we had the Acura Team Penske, Tequila Patron ESM Nissan, Mazda Team Joest, Jackie Chan DCR JOTA ORECA, United Autosports Ligier, Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA and the AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier.
Only the BAR1 Motorsports Multimatic/Riley #20 and CORE Autosport ORECA #54 were further behind, and they didn’t participate in the fight for the top times. Joel Miller in the #20 drove the fastest lap for the team during the qualifying session, so the team don’t appear to have the speed. CORE Autosport on the other hand had shown plenty of speed, but team owner Jon Bennett couldn’t match the lap times of his teammates, put down earlier in the weekend. But they are the likes of Loic Duval, Romain Dumas and Colin Braun, who all matched the other cars throughout the weekend.
All the teams have one more practice session later today, before the cars will be rolled into the transporters until the Daytona 24 Hours week starts on 25 January.