Kobayashi & WTR Pace Final Rolex 24 Practice

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Kamui Kobayashi put the Wayne Taylor Racing entry on the top of the speed charts during the final Rolex 24 practice. (IMSA Photo)
Kamui Kobayashi put the Wayne Taylor Racing entry on the top of the speed charts during the final Rolex 24 practice. (IMSA Photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Wayne Taylor Racing, trying to defend its title with a reconfigured driver lineup, paced the final practice ahead of Saturday’s 58th running of the Rolex 24.

Kamui Kobayashi led the session with a lap of 1 minute, 35.340 seconds (134.424 mph) in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi, topping the headlining Daytona Prototype international class. Kobayashi and Renger van der Zande are returning Wayne Taylor Racing drivers, joined at this year’s Rolex 24 by newcomers Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon. Dixon is one of six Indianapolis 500 champions in the field.

“I’m very happy with how the car has felt during the practice sessions [but] the team built a great car for the race which is very important,” Kobayashi said. “We’re going to fight to win … we’ve worked very hard to get to this point.”

Another champion in the field – two-time and reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch – was back on track Friday along with his No. 14 Lexus RC F co-drivers, Jack Hawksworth, Michael De Quesada and Parker Chase.

With Hawksworth driving, the No. 14 posted the seventh-fastest time in the production-based GT Daytona (GTD) class, at 1:47.310 (119.429). The team opted out of Thursday’s qualifying due to an engine change. The Lexus returned for Thursday’s night practice and had the 11th-fastest GTD lap.

“There have been a lot of changes [with the car] overnight,” Busch said after Friday’s encouraging session. “We made a couple of gains on it but not as much as we’d hoped to gain, so we certainly feel like we’re off a little bit on speed and overall lap time. We’d love to get that better so we can be more competitive and from there we just want to try to stay on track and complete all 24 hours.

“It was unfortunate to get in [the car] early [Thursday] but I got some good laps last night and got a couple more good laps this morning.”

The pole-sitting No. 77 Mazda DPi co-driven by Oliver Jarvis, Olivier Pla and Tristan Nunez were seventh-fastest in Friday’s practice; Nunez logged that lap, 1:37.076/132.020). The No. 77 captured the Rolex 24 pole for the second consecutive year on Thursday.