The starting grid of the 59th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona will be determined nearly a week ahead and in a new manner — with a 100-minute qualifying race for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener.
The Motul Pole Award 100 will be held Jan. 24 as the concluding event of the revamped Roar before the Rolex next year. The preseason test on Jan. 22-24 will lead directly into the Rolex 24, which will take place over Jan. 30-31.
Previous editions of the Roar were held three weeks earlier at Daytona International Speedway; this year IMSA teams will be remaining at the track to prepare for the prestigious 24-hour endurance race (which typically had held standard time trials as to set the starting grid a day before the race).
“The Rolex 24 At Daytona is a special event that is worthy of a unique qualifying format,” IMSA president John Doonan said in a release. “Not unlike the Daytona 500, which has set its field through the Duel At Daytona qualifying races for decades, introducing the Motul Pole Award 100 qualifying race for the Rolex 24 brings a new and exciting dynamic to the Roar.”
The Jan. 24 qualifying race will feature all five classes (DPi, GTLM, LMP2, LMP3, GTD) in the series, and teams will be required to use two drivers per car (with LMP2, LMP3 and GTD using Pro-Am lineups as in sprint races).
Under a new format in which points also will be awarded for qualifying in the 2021 season, the pole-sitter will receive 35 points (10 percent of a race win under a new structure that increases points awarded by a factor of 10).
Though the qualifying race will limit cars to two drivers, points will be awarded to all entered drivers for the Rolex 24, and any entrant in multiple classes must designate in which they will earn qualifying points.
The lineup for the qualifying race will be determined through traditional qualifying sessions Jan. 23, and a 20-minute prerace warmup session will be held Jan. 24.
Practice sessions on Jan. 22-23 (including a two-hour night session) will be open to all drivers.