On Saturday, Jan. 24, the first major automobile race of the year – the iconic Rolex 24 At Daytona – will see the waving of the green flag that signals the start of the 52nd edition of the historic twice-around-the-clock challenge. At Daytona International Speedway, home to the race since its inception in 1962, steel girders crown the stadium which where the true spirit of #DaytonaRising is on full display.
A partner of track racing in Daytona Beach from its beginnings in the late 1950s, Rolex has been Title Sponsor of this motor-sport legend since 1992. The Rolex 24 At Daytona celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012 – just one year ahead of the Cosmograph Daytona, the Rolex chronograph dedicated to racing drivers. On its launch in 1963, the watch brand baptized its new model “Cosmograph Daytona” to mark the connection with the Daytona International Speedway, the fastest American track of its era.
Preparations for the event have been underway, in one form or another, since the checkered flag fell on the 51st running of the race around the clock in 2013. On Thursday, drivers and teams took to the speedway to determine their starting positions for the historic event.
Earning pole position in the Prototype (P) class, Alex Gurney turned in a fastest lap of 1:38.270 in the #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Corvette DP.
“I am really so happy to have won pole position,” said Gurney. “I want to thank Bob Stallings and everybody on the team. Most of the team worked through Christmas and New Year’s and with all the rule changes and other challenges this means a lot to all of us.”
In the Prototype Challenge (PC) class, Colin Braun drove the #54 Core Autosport ORECA FLM09 to a class fastest time of 1:41.777.
“Obviously it is very good to be on pole here at Daytona,” said Braun, crediting the prep work done during the off season. “With an hour and a half for practice, four or five drivers to run through, and with caution periods, it’s all about getting here ready to race. It’s very tough competition. Wth our class being spec, it comes down to all the fine details.”
In the GT Daytona (GTD) class, Christopher Haase had the fastest time of 1:46.973 with the #48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8, though the time was disallowed following post-qualifying inspection. That penalty moves the Scuderia Corsa No. 63 Ferrari 458 Italia qualified by Toni Vilander, and co-driven by Alessandro Balzan, Jeff Westphal and Lorenzo Caseto the pole position in GTD.
A sister Corsa Ferrari, the No. 65 driven by Daniel Serra, Xandinho Negrao, Marcos Gomes and Francisco Longo, moves up to second, while TRG-AMR’s No. 007 Aston Martin Vantage GT3, driven by James Davison, Al Carter, David Block and Brandon Davis, is now promoted into third.
In the GT Le Mans (GT) class it was Marc Goosens with the fastest lap of 1:44.506 in the #91 SRT Motorsports SRT Viper GTS-R who took the pole.
“It’s not the most important thing to be on pole for a 24 hour race,” said Goosens. “But our team has put good people together and after a year and half of hard work we are able to get up to this level. We have the momentum going so its motivation for the whole team.”
The winners will be presented with the coveted Rolex timepiece at the conclusion of racing on Sunday, 26 January 2014. Live coverage of the Rolex 24 At Daytona begins on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 2 p.m., and continues on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2, with overnight streaming video on www.imsa.com.
Stay tuned to this column for continuing coverage of the run-up to the Rolex 24 at Daytona, as well as in-depth analysis and live reporting from the speedway this weekend. Be sure to subscribe to the West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner, and keep track of your favorite racers. If you're a motorsports fan, and know of an event, team, or person you'd like to see profiled, please let me know. Also, be sure to follow me on twitter, and read my articles about local getaways, HOAs, elections, and restaurants.