Tom Blomqvist Fields Acura, Meyer Shank Racing on Rolex 24 at Daytona Pole

  • Tom Blomqvist turned the best lap of the entire three days of Roar Before the Rolex 24 on the track.
  • Blomqvist took No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing to pole position in the new GTP class with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-06.
  • He will lead the field of 61 cars to the green flag on January 28 after an impressive 1 minute 34.031 seconds (136.295 mph) lap at Daytona International Speedway.

    The first ‘official’ marks of the 2023 season of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship were made in Sunday’s Motul Pole Award qualifier to set the lineup for the Rolex 24 for the season opener at Daytona.

    Most of the attention was focused on the hybrid-powered prototypes that make up the reborn Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class, and qualifying lived up to the hype.

    In a dramatic final moment, Tom Blomqvist turned the best lap of the entire three days of Roar Before the Rolex 24 around the track, putting No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing on pole with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-06s. Blomqvist will lead the field of 61 cars to the green flag on January 28 after an impressive 1 minute 34.031 seconds (136.295 mph) lap.

    Rolex 24 Blomqvist Acura

    Blomqvist’s fast time – set on the very last lap of qualifying – beat Felipe Nasr in the #7 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 by an easy 0.083 seconds. The top eight GTP cars were separated by just 0.815 seconds.

    “That was one of the most difficult sessions I’ve ever done because my tires weren’t quite, quite ready and I didn’t have a good reference to go from, so I was happy to win that one,” said Blomqvist about his fourth career Motul Pole Award and first for the Rolex 24.

    Ricky Taylor qualified third in the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06 with Andretti Autosport (1:34.198, 136.054 mph), starting alongside the #01 Cadillac V-LMDh Cadillac Racing on the second row. Sebastien Bourdais set a best lap of 1:34.262 (135.961 mph) in the #01, one of two GTP cars entered by Chip Ganassi Racing.

    Meyer Shank Racing completed the first four practice sessions of the weekend before qualifying. But pole looked threatened when Nick Tandy went off course in the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport and initiated a red flag stop while Blomqvist sat in seventh place. Once the track was cleared, each car had time for a single flying lap when the green flag returned.

    “Luckily, that was just enough time for one lap,” said Blomqvist. “I don’t really know how I did it, but my lap got easier because the car was fast all weekend and I know what I had under me.”

    Blomqvist, who pitted early in the session to change Michelin tires, acknowledged he was concerned about making a jump for pole position during the red flag stop.

    “Actually, I was a little bit depressed because I thought it was done for us, and then they said, ‘You’ve got one lap,'” Blomqvist of the team radio chatter. “I didn’t know what to expect so I just went for the out lap and had to get past a car and make a legitimate move on the out lap.

    “I was lucky to have such a smooth run because the car was so good and I really didn’t have to make too many set-up changes. I knew what I had but today the track conditions were very different with the wind and heat so I just had to send it virtually and go with my instincts.

    “Luckily I survived that,” he added, smiling. “That was a fun day.”

    52 pr1 mathiasen motorsports, oreca lmp2 07, lmp2 ben keating, paul loup chatin, alex quinn, nicolas lapierre

    The American Ben Keating put the No. 52 on the LMP2 pole at Daytona on Sunday.

    IMSA photo

    Keating claims fourth Daytona pole with LMP2 Flyer

    Experienced driver Ben Keating took pole honor for the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) in the #52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07 with a lap of 1:40.541 (127.470 mph). While conditions seemed ideal for fast laps – sunny skies, mild temperatures – Keating said the windy environment made it a little treacherous.

    Two LMP2s spun in windy conditions and a ‘green track’ after Saturday’s rain showers washed the rubber from the track surface.

    “I felt like this was one of the trickier qualifying sessions,” said Keating, who claimed his fourth Rolex 24 pole and twelfth of his IMSA career. He shares No. 52 in the race with Paul-Loup Chatin, Alex Quinn and Nicolas Lapierre.

    “You position your car so that you’re standing on the edge of the bus stop (the Le Mans chicane on the oval backstretch),” Keating explained. “We had a slight headwind in the bus stop all weekend. Today we had around 30 km/h tailwind and that made a big difference in our car.”

    John Farano spun at the wheel of the #8 Tower Motorsport ORECA and made violent contact with a tire wall at Turn 7. Fred Poordad also went off course at Turn 6 of Proton Competition ORECA #55.

    “I was expecting it to be tricky, but it’s never quite real until you get out there and start doing it,” Keating said. “I had a few ‘moments’ in the car at the bus stop and wasn’t surprised when a car pulled up from there.”

    Francois Heriau in the #35 TDS Racing ORECA was a tad behind Keating with a time of 1:41.751 (125.594 mph). Steven Thomas was third in the #11 TDS Racing entry with a 1:41.813 (125.878 mph), accidentally helping Keating.

    “I got a nice tow from Thomas and that made about a half second difference,” Keating said.

    33 sean creech motorsport, ligier js p320, lmp3 lance willsey, joao barbosa, nico pino, danny soufi

    Nico Pino took his first career IMSA pole in LMP3.

    IMSA photo

    Pino secures first IMSA pole in LMP3

    18-year-old Nico Pino scored his first pole in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with a stunning lap of 1:43.197 (124.189 mph) in the #33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier JS P320. Pino jumped past Dakota Dickerson (No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier) in late qualifying. Dickerson was second fastest with a lap of 1:43.307 (124.057 mph).

    It was a big day for Pino and car owner Sean Creech, who has a race shop in Jupiter, Florida. It was Creech’s first Daytona pole as a car owner.

    “It’s something special,” said Pino. “That was my first pole (ever). We have a long race ahead of us – 24 hours. That was a 15-minute qualifying.”

    Pino shares the No. 33 with Lance Willsey, Danny Soufi and four-time Rolex 24 winner Joao Barbosa.

    “We put a lot of work into fine-tuning the car,” said Pino. “We had our ups and downs during the practice sessions but now we have a good base to work with the team for the race. I look forward to it.”

    Rolex 24 At Daytona practice begins on Thursday. The 24-hour race begins on Saturday with the start airing Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET live on NBC and the finish airing Sunday, January 29 at 12 noon. Flag-to-flag reporting is available on Peacock.


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