DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The urge to merge has evolved into a compulsion to compete, and Thursday marked the first day of actual competition for the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, with qualifying for this weekend’s Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The 52nd running of the Rolex 24 opens the first season for the TUDOR Championship, which resulted from the highly anticipated merger of two formerly competing sports car organizations — the American Le Mans Series and the GRAND-AM Rolex Series. A total of 67 cars are slated to take the green flag Saturday at 2:10 p.m. ET, for the 24-hour endurance classic; Thursday, four cars claimed respective class pole positions on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course.
Start with the headlining Prototype (P) class, an amalgam of the ALMS’ exotic P2 and DeltaWing cars and the Rolex Series’ Daytona Prototypes, where a history-rich name took center stage on a day that was so much about the future.
Alex Gurney, son of legendary driver Dan Gurney – who won the first incarnation of the Rolex 24, a three-hour event in 1962 called the Daytona Continental – put the No. 99 Corvette DP on the overall pole with a fast lap of 1 minute, 38.270 seconds (130.416 mph). Gurney and his longtime co-driver Jon Fogarty – two-time champions in the Rolex Series – are joined this week by Memo Gidley and Darren Law. Somewhat surprisingly, the Gurney-Fogarty combination has never produced a Rolex 24 win.
Gurney acknowledged the satisfaction a victory this weekend would provide, saying, “It would be the biggest thing in my career, I think. But yeah, for me personally, this is the biggest race we do [in North America]. It’s the one we all want to win.”
Daytona Prototypes dominated the P class qualifying, taking nine of the first 10 positions. The fastest P2 car was 11th overall, the No. 6 Nissan ORECA driven by Klaus Graf, at 1:39.829 (128.380).
Other class poles:
– In the Prototype Challenge (PC) class, former NASCAR driver Colin Braun put the No. 54 ORECA FLM09 on point, with a lap of 1:41.777 (125.922), good for 14th overall.
– In GT Le Mans (GTLM), Marc Goossens turned a pole-winning lap of 1:44.506 (122.634) in the No. 91 SRT Viper GTS- R. The car will start 25th overall.
– In GT Daytona (GTD), the No. 48 Audi R8 claimed the top spot in the class – and 34th overall – via Christopher Haase’s lap of 1:46.973 (119.806).