IMSA: Westbrook battles through wet conditions to put Ford GT on pole at VIR

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Courtesy: IMSA Wire Service

DANVILLE, Va. – Ford Chip Gannasi Racing’s Ford GT teams have been dominant in the middle part of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule. That run continued Saturday as Richard Westbrook battled the elements to place his No. 67 Ford GT on the pole for Sunday’s Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway.

The rain started during GT Daytona (GTD) qualifying, and while it let up before the start of the GT Le Mans (GTLM) session, teams still needed to use wet weather tires. At the beginning of the session, the teams were running laps that were just over two minutes, but toward the end of the session, the pace quickened, and times dropped by 4-5 seconds.

Westbrook took advantage of the drying conditions and posted a time of 1:55.580 seconds (101.851 mph) to earn the No. 67’s second pole of the season. He enters the weekend with three wins and leads the GTLM points along with co-driver Ryan Briscoe.

Richard Westbrook came out on top in a very wet GTLM qualifying. Photo courtesy of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.

“We just thought there was no need to panic,” Westbrook said. “We went out on wets and the tires were good at the end because we hadn’t been pounding round and round. I think we got it just right. I love the wet. It’s my first time around here in the wet. It’s a lot of fun. It’s pretty tricky because there are so many different sealants on the tarmac so you’ve got grip and then you don’t have grip. So, it’s difficult to judge but thoroughly enjoyable. At this stage in the season I’m going to say this is an important pole.”

Patrick Pilet in the No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR was second with a time of 1:56.170 (101.333 mph) while John Edwards was third in his No. 24 BMW Team RLL M8 GTE 1:56.185 (101.320 mph).

Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen, co-drivers of the two-time defending winner of the Michelin GT Challenge in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R, qualified fourth as Garcia posted a time of 1:56.760 (100.821 mph).

The Michelin GT Challenge will start at 1 p.m. EDT with live television coverage beginning on FS1 for the first hour before moving to FS2 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET IMSA Radio also will offer live coverage on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and Sirius XM Radio (Sirius 138/XM 202/App 972). Tickets are available now on VIRNow.com.

Hawksworth Earns Series-High Fourth Motul Pole Award In GTD Qualifying

Jack Hawksworth put 3GT Racing on the pole in GT Daytona. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Jack Hawksworth became the first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver to win four Motul Pole Awards this season as he put his No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 on the pole in the GT Daytona (GTD) class for tomorrow’s Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway.

Hawksworth earlier won poles this year at Mid-Ohio and then on consecutive weekends at Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Rain started to fall halfway through the session, and it turned into a downpour with about two minutes remaining. Hawksworth was able to post his time of 1:44.107 seconds (113.075 mph) before the heavy rain fell.

“In these conditions anything can happen,” Hawksworth said. “In the rain it’s a little bit of a lottery. Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s not. I’d rather it be dry to be honest with you. When it started to sprinkle then I thought I should push a little bit more. I managed to get a good lap in there and then it started raining halfway through my next lap, luckily enough it was fast enough for the pole.”

Jeroen Bleekemolen, in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 was second at 1:44.323 (112.841 mph) while Bill Auberlen was third posting a time of 1:44.360 (112.801 mph) in his No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3.

Madison Snow, who along with co-driver Bryan Sellers, lead the GTD points, quailified fifth in their No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 with a time of 1:44.626 (112.541 mph).

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Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, points

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

POINTS: Standings after Rolex 24 at Daytona l Michelin Endurance Cup standings l Daytona endurance points

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.