DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Local race fans will have no problem finding a car to cheer for in Saturday’s 52nd Rolex 24 At Daytona.
After qualifying second on Thursday, Spirit of Daytona Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest in Friday’s final practice before the debut of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.
Westbrook ran a lap of 1:39.256 (129.121 mph) in the No. 90 Corvette DP to lead the one-hour session. He will be joined racing for the Daytona Beach-based team by Michael Valiante and Mike Rockenfeller for Saturday’s race that begins at 2:10 p.m. ET.
“It’s nice knowing that we have the pace to be contenders under our right foot,” Westbrook said. “We’ve had a real nice build up for the Rolex 24. The car is fast and comfortable to drive. This is the first time I’ve been at the Rolex 24 in a DP where I can say I have a chance to fight for the win. We’ve got the pace. Now, we have to stay out of trouble and give ourselves a chance. We’ll give it a go.”
Pole winner Alex Gurney was second fastest on Friday, running 1:39.256 in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Corvette DP.
After missing Thursday’s qualifying due to an electrical problem in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia, Matteo Malucelli turned in the fastest lap in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class in Friday’s session, 1:45.007. He will co-drive with Formula One veterans Giancarlo Fisichella, Gimmi Bruni and 2000 Rolex 24 winner Olivier Beretta in the event.
Sam Bird was fastest in Prototype Challenge (PC) in final practice, running 1:42.176 in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport ORECA FLM09, while Milo Valverde led GT Daytona (GTD) competitors with a lap of 1:48.073 in the No. 556 Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia.
Earlier in the day, the pole winner in the GTD class was changed yet again. After winning the GTD pole in Thursday’s qualifying in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS, Christopher Haase’s time was disallowed in post-qualifying inspection. After review by IMSA supervisory officials, however, the post-qualifying infraction penalty was rescinded on Friday morning, putting the Audi back on the pole.
“We were not as much concerned about the pole as our interpretation of the rule,” team owner Paul Miller said. “Qualifying position is not very important in a 24-hour race. We were concerned about the rule that was in dispute, and were very upset with the way it was initially handled. We’re grateful that IMSA took a deep breath, took a good look at the rule, and changed their minds.”