Angelelli captures Rolex 24 pole
29 January 2010
Max Angelelli prevailed in a back-and-forth battle to capture pole position for the 48th Rolex 24 at Daytona, securing top spot for the opening round of the 2010 Grand-Am Rolex Series with a lap of 1min 40.827secs in the #10 SunTrust Ford Dallara as Thursday's timed session set the top 13 positions in the Daytona Prototype class and the top 20 in GT.
It was Angelelli's fourth career pole in the Rolex Series, as the #10 SunTrust entry he shares with Wayne Taylor, Ricky Taylor and Pedro Lamy again proved to be the class of the field. The Italian was fastest in a three-day practice session earlier in January, after which he said all the team needed to do was 'wash the car' to be ready for the Rolex 24.
"Winning the pole was really important for the team, after the disappointment of losing last year's championship in the final race," Angelelli said, "It was good for team morale. We really wanted it.
"The car is great. It's really easy to drive and it's fast. We have everything in place, and we're really looking forward to the race to get a good result. Now it's up to us as drivers to make it happen."
The next four cars were separated by 0.064secs. Oz Negri will start from the outside of row one after running 1min 41.100secs in the #60 Crown Royal XR Ford Riley, edging out Michael Shank Racing team-mate Michael Valiante's 1min 41.110secs effort in the #6 Ford Riley.
"My car was still getting better late in the session," said Negri, who won the pole for the 2008 Rolex 24 in the same car, "My tyres were finally where I wanted them to be on the final lap. Who knows what would have happened if I had another lap, but I am very happy being on the front row."
Valiante led both of Saturday's practice sessions but slipped to third after running up front early in the 15-minute qualifying round.
"We've been quick all weekend and at the test, but we missed it by just a little bit in qualifying," the Canadian said, "I think we've got a real good car for the race, and that's what's important here."
The TELMEX/Target Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates cars qualified fourth and fifth, with Scott Dixon running a lap of 1min 41.147secs in the #02 BMW Riley to edge out the #01 machine of team-mate Scott Pruett.
"It was close," Pruett admitted, "The quality of these cars and drivers is just phenomenal. It shows in qualifying. The cars were so unbelievably close it was incredible. I see that for the race too. I see it going down to the absolute finish, just like last year."
Rounding out the top ten qualifiers were Christophe Bouchut's #55 Crown Royal/NPN Racing BMW Riley, Darren Law's #59 Brumos Porsche Riley, Joao Barbosa's.#9 Action Express Porsche Riley, Ricardo Zonta's #75 Krohn Racing Proto-Auto Ford Lola and Buddy Rice's #90 Spirit of Daytona Porsche Coyote.
The main drama of the day came in the opening practice session, when four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson emerged unhurt from an incident that badly damaged the championship-winning #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley. However, while the team initially planned on calling its Texas shop for a back-up car, it was later determined that the car could be fixed in time to be ready for the race.
"I put myself in a position with a GT car that I shouldn't have and paid the price," Johnson confessed, "I hate it that I tore up equipment and put the guys in this spot, but it looks like we will get this fixed and hopefully everything will be good for tomorrow."
Lucas Luhr and Martin Ragginger also escaped injuries in morning session incidents, with their contending race cars also expected to be ready to race following extensive repairs.
GT qualifying saw both Jeff Segal, with a lap record, and Jordan Taylor edge Segal's team-mate Sylvain Tremblay for the top position on the final lap to give Mazda a 1-2-3 qualifying sweep.
A year ago, Tremblay won the GT pole in dramatic fashion, running a track-record lap on his final lap of qualifying, but was this time on the receiving end as Segal broke that mark with a lap of 1min 49.282secs in SpeedSource's #69 FXDD Mazda RX-8.
"I think it's a testament to the SpeedSource team how close the cars are," Segal said, "They build the cars from scratch. It was remarkable to see the car go from nothing over the winter to what it is today, and how close the cars are matched. It speaks volumes about SpeedSource."
Also passing Tremblay on the last lap was Taylor, after running a lap of 1min 49.371secs in Racers Edge Motorsports' #30 Cobalt Friction/IDEMITSU RX-8.
"I pushed a lot harder on my last lap to try to pick up a few tenths," said the University of Central Florida freshman, who was qualifying for the first time in a Rolex Series event, "I picked up some time in the bus stop, and that did it. I'm happy with the front row start."
Tremblay ran 1min 49.462secs in Speedsource's #70 Castrol Syntec-backed Mazda, which won the GT class in the 2008 Rolex 24.
"The team won the pole on the last lap - again," he noted, "As a driver, I ended up third. I had nobody to work with at the end, which was fine, and I'm really proud of the #69 car winning the pole. It's one shop, one goal, and to have Mazdas 1-2-3 at Daytona is really special."
Paul Edwards qualified fourth in the debut race for the #07 Godstone Ranch Motorsports Corvette, followed by Andy Lally in the #66 TRG AXA Porsche GT3.
Friday's schedule opens with practice, followed by final qualifying at 11am ET.