Ferrari and Ford on the GT Class Poles for Rolex 24 at Daytona
The 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona, is here and Ford (NYSE:F) and Chip Ganassi Racing are serious about winning.
The Big Q: How serious?
The Big A: Not only did they bring the 2 US-based cars: the Le Mans-winning #66, and the team car, # 67 – they brought the 2 Europe-based Ford GTs, #68 and #69.
And it appears they are ready for the Challenge, qualifying 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th in the 11-car field Thursday afternoon.
On the Pole was #66 driven by Joey Hand, one of the drivers who won at Le Mans. “We feel like we’re more prepared this year,” he said.
Fourth was the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, with a lap of 1:44.121 by Toni Vilander. He said he well realizes the challenge the Ford contingent presents, but says, “We have a strong lineup of drivers, and we’re looking forward to the race. We won Petit Le Mans last year,” referring to the WeatherTech Championship 10-hour season finale at Road Atlanta, “And everything we have is the same or better. We are the lonely riders, the only Ferrari in the class.”
The GT Le Mans class is mechanically much the same as it was in Y 2016, with one major exception.
The #911 and # 912 Porsche 911 RSRs run by the Porsche GT Team are all-new, with the most significant change being a shift from the traditional 911 rear-engine configuration to a mid-engine layout.
The rest of the cars: the Ford GT, Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, BMW M6 GTLM and the Ferrari 488 GTE are expected to benefit from having at least a year of competition behind them.
The Porsches were quick, but not quick enough.
In GT Daytona, it was Ferrari, Ferrari and Aston Martin.
The front row in the class will be the No. 51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3, courtesy of Alessandro Pier Guidi, whose best lap was 1:47.099.
“Ferrari and the team did a great job for me,” Pier Guidi. “I’m here for them.” He was not able to make pre-season testing at Daytona, so the pole win was impressive.
Close behind came the # 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 driven by Alessandro Balzan who, with co-driver Christina Nielsen, won the 2016 WeatherTech Championship season GTD title.
The veteran Balzan’s best lap was 1:47.117, which he set in a Hail-Mary last lap that nearly earned him the top spot. “Scuderia Corsa gave me a really good car for qualifying, Mr. Balzan said. “There’s a good energy here for the team.”
Coming 3rd was the # 98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage, driven by Marco Sorensen to a lap of 1:47.734. His Aston Martin was followed by the # 59 Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Matteo Cairoli, the #11 Lamborghini Huracán of Christian Engelhart, and the # 29 Audi R8 LMS GT3 piloted by Connor De Phillippi.
The new Michael Shank Racing Acura NSXs were seventh and ninth. The similarly new 3GT Racing Lexus RCFGT3s were 13th and 20th. And the three Mercedes AMG GT3s while not an all-new car, are new to the GT Daytona class were 18th, 19th and 24th in the field of 27 entries.
The complete results from Rolex 24 qualifying can be found here.
Enjoy the racing and have a terrific weekend.
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