IMSA qualifying: Wayne Taylor Racing, Corvette, Spirit of Race take Rolex 24 poles

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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A thrilling qualifying for the Rolex 24 at Daytona has set the stage for what should be an even more thrilling 24-hour race this weekend, with the Prototype and GT Le Mans classes especially close as the closest of margins decided the pole positions in those classes.

All told, an incumbent team knocked off a newcomer for pole in Prototype, Corvette and Ford dueled for the pole in GTLM — with Corvette getting the upper hand — and a former class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans rose to the occasion to take pole in GT Daytona.

Below are qualifying reports for all three classes.

Prototype: Van Der Zande Nips Castroneves in the Final Seconds for Pole

Maybe the most exciting show of the day came from the Prototype class. The 15-minute session saw a seemingly endless string of teams take turns at or near the top of the leaderboard, with Wayne Taylor Racing, Acura Team Penske, Action Express Racing, Spirit of Daytona Racing, Performance Tech Motorsports, and CORE Autosport all taking turns at the sharp end of the grid.

In the end, it appeared that Helio Castroneves was going to give Acura and Team Penske the pole on their debut effort as a team at the Rolex 24. However, in the final seconds, with Castroneves in the pits waiting to emerge from his No. 7 ARX-05 and greet the swarm of media gathering around him, Renger Van Der Zande snatched the pole away on his own debut with Wayne Taylor Racing. Van Der Zande replaced the outgoing Ricky Taylor, who ironically enough is partnered with Castroneves in the No. 7 Penske Acura.

Van Der Zande’s final lap of 1:36.083 nipped Castroneves by only seven thousandths of a second, with Castroneves turning in a 1:36.090, to put the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R on pole. Afterward, a dejected Castroneves was forced to drive his car back to the garage as the media swarm migrated over to the elated Van Der Zande.

Behind the front two, Filipe Albuquerque qualified third in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi for Action Express. Pato O’Ward, a standout in the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, qualified an impressive fourth for Performance Tech Motorsports, who are making their debut in Prototype with an Oreca 07 Gibson.

Tristan Vautier completed the top five in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Cadillac DPi. Of note: Dane Cameron qualified the sister No. 6 Penske Acura in tenth while Fernando Alonso qualified his United Autosports Ligier JS P217 Gibson in 13th, the best of the Ligier entries.

GTLM: Magnussen Takes Pole for Corvette

The GT Le Mans class saw a classic Chevrolet vs. Ford battle between Corvette Racing and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing. In the end, Jan Magnussen put his No. 3 Corvette C7.R on pole ahead of Joey Hand’s No. 66 Ford GT by less than two hundredths of a second – Magnussen’s best lap was a 1:42.779 to Hand’s 1:42.798.

Laurens Vanthoor and Patrick Pilet put their Nos. 912 and 911 Porsche 911 RSRs in third and fourth for Porsche GT Team, while Richard Westbrook completed the top five in his No. 67 Ford.

GT Daytona: Daniel Serra, Spirit of Race Take Pole as Ferraris Dominate

The Ferrari 488 GT3 was the car to have in GT Daytona qualifying, as three Ferraris qualified in the top five, including a sweep of the front row.

Daniel Serra blitzed the GTD field with a best lap of 1:46.049, nearly half a second quicker than the second place car, to take pole for Spirit of Race in the No. 51 Ferrari. Miguel Molina qualified second in the No. 82  Risi Competizione Ferrari.

Behind the front two, Mirko Bortolotti qualified third for GRT Grasser Racing Team in the No. 11 Lamborghini Huracan GT3, followed by Jack Hawksworth in the No. 15 Lexus RC F GT3 for 3GT Racing. Alessandro Balzan rounded out the top five in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari.

Full qualifying results can be found here. The Rolex 24 begins on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EST.

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Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”