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Stars shine in Daytona Rolex 24h qualifying

27 January 2012

Qualifying in the Daytona Prototype (DP) class of the 50th anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona saw the cars of IZOD IndyCar Series stars Ryan Briscoe, Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon all qualifying in the top three.

The #10 SunTrust Racing team, which includes Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe, qualified in second place thanks to the efforts of Briscoe's team mate Max Angelelli putting in a lap of 1:41.240s (126.590 mph) on the 3.56-mile, 12-turn speedway/road course at Daytona International Speedway in Florida.

But they were knocked off an earlier provisional pole position by a flying lap of 1:41.119s (126.741 mph) from Ryan Dalziel driving the #8 Starworks Motorsport car, which includes former F1 driver and Le Mans 24h veteran Allan McNish among its driver line-up. The achievement was all the more remarkable given time lost to an engine failure in the morning, limiting their track activity to just one hour.

Third place went to the #02 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley, with its all-star driver line-up consisting of Ganassi's IndyCar champions Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon allied with their NASCAR Sprint Cup counterparts Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray. Dixon had been handed the task of setting the team's qualifying time on Thursday and managed a run of 1:41.463s (126.312 mph).

Another Ganassi IndyCar driver, Graham Rahal, did not have such good luck in the team's other car, the #01, which suffered a blown engine and dropped cylinder in practice. The car will have to start from the back of the 14-car Daytona Prototype field after being unable to be repaired in time to take part in the qualifying session. A small oil fire also hit the #5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP driven by Darren Law, Christian Fittipaldi and David Donohue.

Britain's Justin Wilson - returning to racing for the first time since sustaining back injuries in a mid-season accident in IndyCar practice at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course - saw the #60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Ford Riley car qualify in sixth place with a time of 1:41.662s (126.064mph) in the hands of his team mate, NASCAR Sprint Cup driver AJ Allmendinger.

The second, older model Starworks Motorsports Ford Riley DP also made it into qualifying, despite key sponsorship falling through earlier this week. That had meant the team had to stand down its intended IndyCar star trio line-up consisting of Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan and EJ Viso on Tuesday.

Starworks owner Peter Baron managed to put together a re-jigged operation and even to find a new spot for Hunter-Reay, who had been especially gutted at the prospect of missing the Daytona 24h for the first time since 2006. Hunter-Reay will now share the #2 with Lucas Luhr, Scott Mayer, Miguel Potolicchio and Maurizio Scala.

“This race means a lot to me,” said Hunter-Reay, who drove the car to ninth place in qualifying and who will take the first driving stint in the twice-around-the-clock event at the weekend. "24 hours is about endurance and I kind of like the cards we're holding right now. We're in something that is tried and true and could be in a good position.”

Hunter-Reay added that the event had become an important part of the way he got himself ready for the upcoming IndyCar season, which starts in March. “It's good to start your year off with 24 hours of racing, a lot of seat time and shaking all the cobwebs off from the two months we were off," he said.

The GT class pole went to Andrew Davis in the #59 Brumos Racing Porsche GT3 with a time of 1:49.342s (117.210 mph). In total, 60 cars are scheduled to take place in the weekend's event in all classes.

SPEED TV are covering the Rolex 24 At Daytona, with live coverage in the UK available on the Motors TV channel from 8.30pm on Saturday evening and 2pm on Sunday afternoon. The channel is available on Sky (channel 413 free-to-view) and Virgin Media (channel 545 for XL subscribers)


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