IMSA: Mikhail Aleshin Leads SMP Racing to Rolex 24 Pole in Rain-Soaked Qualifying Session

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – official series release — F. Peirce Williams/LAT for IMSA photo —

Russian IndyCar driver Mikhail Aleshin overcame extremely wet conditions to capture the Prototype class TOTAL Pole Award for the 54th Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Aleshin ran a lap of 2:05.793 (101.882 mph) in the Nissan-powered No. 37 BR01 fielded by Russian-based SMP Racing. The Prototype debuted in 2015 ELMS competition and is racing in North America for the first time.

”I think the conditions were surprising for everyone,” Aleshin said. “During qualifying I was never sure while braking for any turn if I was going to be on the optimal line and not hitting the wall – but this is racing. You have to take risks sometimes. But at the same time, you’ve got to save the car and keep it in one piece. The race is the most important thing.”

Luís Felipe “Pipo” Derani backed up his fastest lap of the recent Roar Before the Rolex 24 test by running the second fastest lap in the Prototype class at 2:06.304 (101.469 mph) in the No. 2 Tequila Patrón ESM Honda Ligier JS P2.

Ozz Negri was third in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Tire Kingdom Honda Ligier JS P2, posting a best time of 2:07.432 (100.571 mph). He will be joined on the second row by Ricky Taylor, who turned a best lap of 2:07.966 (100.152 mph) in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Konica Minolta Corvette DP.

Johnny Mowlem captured his second-consecutive Prototype Challenge (PC) TOTAL Pole Award at Daytona for the Rolex 24, running a lap of 2:06.312 (101.951 mph) in the No. 20 BAR1 Motorsports Zoolander/Southwest Realty Advisors/Top 1 Oil ORECA FLM09. He will share the car with NASCAR veteran Brendan Gaughan, as well as Marc Drumwright, Tomy Drissi and Ricardo Vera.

“I had a really great qualifying last year and it came down to the final lap,” Mowlem said. “The conditions today were absolutely dreadful; I was actually getting sideways on the banking. So it shows how hard it is with the PC cars.

“We were here at the Roar (Before The Rolex 24 At Daytona test), and I was particularly happy with the car. I wasn’t able to work on the race setup like I wanted. We’ll be double and triple stinting into the night, and in the dry we might not be looking after the rear tires as well. CORE autosport has done a little bit more testing and running, so it could be tough if we go dry for the whole time.”

Stephen Simpson qualified second with a lap of 2:07.413 (100.586 mph) in the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports entry, followed by Ryan Eversley at 2:07.485 (100.529 mph) in the No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports Case-It/Southwest Funding/advisors.com ORECA.

Driving the No. 911 Porsche North America with teammate and last year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTLM champion, Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy – a two-time GT Le Mans pole winner in 2015 and the reigning 24 Hours of Le Mans overall champion – posted a best time of 2:01.408 (105.561 mph) to score the class pole for the Rolex 24, as well as set the fastest time overall during TOTAL Pole Qualifying.

Frédéric Makowiecki qualified second in GTLM with a time of 2:02.364 (104.737 mph) in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR, making an all-Porsche front row for Saturday’s starting lineup. The qualifying session was interrupted by a red flag for an incident involving Gianmaria Bruni in the No. 72 SMP Ferrari 488 GTE and was extended by a few minutes to satisfy the minimum guaranteed green-flag time requirement of 10 minutes.

“In the end it was a really interesting qualifying session,” said Tandy, who also won the GTLM class in the 2014 Rolex 24. “When we went out after the red, there was only time for one flying lap. The risk of going off and getting higher on the grid was really high. We got the cars one-two on the front row, and that’s what we wanted.”

John Edwards qualified third in the No. 100 BMW Team RLL IHG Rewards Club BMW M6 GTLM with a time of 2:02.497 (104.623 mph).

The new Porsche GT3 R made good in its debut at Daytona Int’l Speedway, winning the GT Daytona (GTD) TOTAL Pole Award in the hands of Norbert Siedler. The Park Place Motorsports driver posted a best time of 2:04.798 (101.878 mph) in the No. 73 Park Place Porsche/Jet Edge entry.

“The Porsche is a car you want in conditions like this, the Porsche is always good in the rain,” said Siedler. “Conditions were quite tricky, but I couldn’t be happier for the team. To capture the pole for Park Place is pretty special.”

Marc Basseng qualified second in the No. 28 Konrad Motorsports Lamborghini Huracán GT3 with a time of 2:06.357 (101.427 mph). This weekend marks the first appearance for Lamborghini in the 54-year history of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Leh Keen took third on the GTD grid in the No. 22 Weather Tech Porsche 911 GT3 R with a time of 2:06.556 (101.267 mph).

CREDIT: IMSA Communications

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