The qualifying of the first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was run under beautiful blue sky and 23 degrees temperature at Daytona International Speedway.
The track was dried up after a huge rain and thunderstorm Thursday morning local time, providing a nice condition for the quali.
The GTD cars were the first to get 15 minutes on the track.
Magnus Racing Lamborghini #44 was the first to set the fastest time. They were up against the likes of Ferraris, that were all quick.
Mercedes and Acura also weren’t ones to be looked over, in a qualifying where the laptime got faster and faster with every lap.
But it was Marcos Gomes in Via Italia Racing Ferrari #13 who surprisingly grabbed Pole Position, ahead of another surprise, Ben Keating in Riley Motorsports – Team AMG #33, while Trent Hindman in Meyer Shank Racing Acura #86 was third.
Ana Beatriz had got the honour to qualify Meyer Shank Racing Acura #57, that she shared with Christina Nielsen amongst others, and drove the car to 11th position out of 23 cars – less than a second from Pole Position.
And then it was time for the nine GTLM cars.
Risi Competizione Ferrari #62 was the first to set the quickest time, but Jan Magnussen in Corvette Racing #3 was right behind them. Nick Tandy in Porsche #911 didn’t want to wait and jumped up to the top of the list halfway through the 15 minutes time. His Porsche teammate Earl Bamber joined the fun and took the top spot with seven minutes left, in his Porsche #912.
After a couple of laps of cooling off, the drivers pushed hard again, where Tandy set a new qualifying record that was half a second faster than last year’s Pole. Jan Magnussen claimed P2 with three minutes left, but then tried to help teammate Gavin with a slipstream out on the oval.
But it didn’t help him, and the qualifying ended up with #911 ahead of #3, while Ryan Briscoe drove Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 up to third, followed by Risi Competizione Ferrari in P4. There wasn’t quite five different brands on the first five spots, since the best BMW Team RLL cars were in P7 and P8, with John Edwards and Connor De Phillippi in #24 and #25 respectively.
Oliver Gavin in Corvette Racing #4 was the slowest GTLM car – almost a second slower than Porsche #911.
DPi and LMP2 shared the track on the last 15 minutes, and right away Mazda Team Joest #55 with Jonathan Bomarito was the first car to set the fastest time.
There was a drama at Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5, where Filipe Albuerquerque came into the pits with fire on the brakes. The team quickly put out the flame, but they hadn’t set any laptime – and they weren’t allowed to go back to the track since the IMSA regulation states that you’re not allowed to pit under qualifying. It means that last year’s Daytona winner will have to start the race behind the other Prototypes.
Oliver Jarvis was flying in Mazda Team Joest #77, and was more than half a second faster than everyone else at that time.
Acura Team Penske #6 with Juan Pablo Montoya locked the right front wheel a couple of times on the way to the International Horse Shoe.
Ricky Taylor in Acura Team Penske #7 would like to join the battle for the top spot and drove himself to P2, 0,2 seconds behind Jarvis, and still under the old record.
DragonSpeed #81 was the quickest LMP2 car with James Allen, with a comfortable gap to Gabriel Aubry in PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports #52. But there were still a couple of seconds to DPi Pole, which was also natural since the DPi cars had gotten more horsepower after DPi and LMP2 got into separate classes. Roberto Gonzalez in DragonSpeed #18 was P3, ahead of Kyle Masson in Performance Tech Motorsports #38, in the four-car category.
Oliver Jarvis in Mazda Team Joest #77 claimed Pole Position in the DPi class, in front of Ricky Taylor in Acura Team Penske #7, and his Acura teammate Juan Pablo Montoya in #6. Jonathan Bomarito in Mazda Team Joest #55 sneaked himself in ahead of the best Cadillac in the shape of Whelen Engineering #31, right in front of Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac #10 and Juncos Racing Cadillac #50.
CORE autosport #54 was the slowest DPi car that set a time. But they also had the amateur driver, team owner Jon Bennett in the car, to drive against the professional drivers. So obviously there is more to expect from the Nissan DPi car.
With new qualifying track records in GTD, GTLM, DPi and even amongst the LMP2 cars, it shows how fast the development in sportscar goes, as well as the improved performance from Michelin in GTD, DPi and LMP2 teams, after using Continental for many seasons.
The teams will have to get through an evening practice tonight, and then a morning practice on Friday, before the race will start at Saturday 2.35 PM local time – or equivalent to 20.35 CET.