Wayne Taylor Racing will start Rolex 24 on pole after surviving late bump in qualifier

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DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — Overcoming adversity with the resilience that’s become a trademark during its championship run, Wayne Taylor Racing won Sunday’s qualifying race to earn the pole position of the 60th Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The No. 10 Acura is aiming to win a record fourth consecutive Rolex 24, and the team showed its championship mettle over a 24-hour roller coaster at Daytona International Speedway.

“It was a lot of work,” said Ricky Taylor, who took the checkered flag after hanging onto the lead despite a bump in the left rear from Richard Westbrook’s No. 5 Cadillac entering Turn 1 on the last lap. “The last stint, (Westbrook) felt quite a bit stronger than us. He was really putting on a lot of pressure.

RESULTS: How they finished in the Rolex 24 qualifier l Results by class l Lap leader sequence

“Really fun racing, though. If that’s a glimpse of what the Rolex 24 is like, I don’t think people are going to sleep much — fans, drivers and teams.”

After teammate Filipe Albuquerque qualified second Saturday for the 100-minute race that set the field for the endurance race class, the team’s time was disallowed by IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship officials because of an improper rear wing assembly angle.

Though Taylor paced Saturday night’s practice on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course, he also damaged his ARX-05 in a collision with a GT car.

But WTR’s fortunes quickly turned positive Sunday just as they always seem to do when the green flag waves at Daytona. After starting seventh at the rear of the DPi field, Albuquerque diced through traffic and needed only 19 laps to take the lead before handing off the car to Taylor on the next pit stop.

Despite a mistake in traffic that briefly cost him the lead to Westbrook’s pole-sitting Cadillac, Taylor retook first through pit strategy and led the final 22 laps of an “exhausting” sprint race.

“Obviously it’s been very bumpy the last 24 hours, but I think the team doesn’t miss a beat,” Taylor said. “They always are prepared for anything. They’re such a great group of guys.

“That’s what is great that separates the great teams from the not-so-great is when you do have a bump or mistake, everyone is trying their best. We don’t blame anybody for being on the edge, and they do the same with us. When you have that trust back and forth, we can just doing all our jobs to our best, and pick up where we left off. It just goes to show the strength of the team from top to bottom.”

Though he celebrated with typical exuberance, team owner Wayne Taylor told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee that the win “doesn’t really mean much,” especially given the strength of the competition.

“Right at the end, the competition was really heavy,” said Taylor, whose team won its third consecutive Rolex 24 last year despite a mad scramble after an offseason switch to Acura. “The Cadillacs were super, super fast, but we were able to keep them off.

“We like to win in Daytona, but we have to work hard for next week because those cars have something, I’m not sure where they’ve got it from, but we’ll have to see.”

Though the Acuras of WTR and Meyer Shank Racing led every practice session of the Roar before the Rolex 24 weekend and won the qualifier, the other five Cadillacs in DPi showed considerable speed.

Albuquerque joked that his car could stand to lose about 10 kilograms and suggested IMSA might consider rules tweaks to bring the manufacturers in line.

“I think IMSA will have the read now,” Albuquerque said. “That’s what this race is for to analyze data and go on, but to be fair, I think it was a nice race. They looked strong in the end. We need to analyze that to be better, and for sure for them as well. So we need to wait to see what IMSA’s call is about Balance of Performance and so on, but so far, we are happy with this first win, but for sure going to be always tight.”

Said Ricky Taylor of the Cadillacs: “I think in different circumstances, they seem strong. Definitely last night, we were really strong. There were times over the weekend when we seemed to have great pace. Filipe was really fast in qualifying, but at the end of the race, they did seem like they had a lot of pace. So whether it was us backing up to them or them picking up the pace at the end, we don’t know.”

Despite spinning from his contact with Taylor, Westbrook finished second a little less than 2 seconds ahead of Kamui Kobayashi, who co-drove the No. 48 Ally Cadillac with Jimmie Johnson.

There were no hard feelings between Westbrook and Taylor, a former teammate.

“I’m on a steep learning curve,” Westbrook said. “I’ve come from GTs for the last four years, though I’ve done DPs before, and I’m on a fast track to where I need to be. Today was all about learning what I can get away with and what I can’t in traffic. I don’t think it could have gone better. Battling with Ricky, my former teammate, I enjoyed every minute. We had good pace and the setup of the car was really good. There’s more to come.”

Though Sunday’s race ran without a caution flag, there were plenty of close calls and contact among the 61 cars, the most entries for a Rolex 24 since 2014.

With 35 GT cars now running with the same specifications (since the offseason removal of the GTLM class), Albuquerque and Taylor both said Sunday’s laps were important for gauging how to navigate traffic.

“It’s really busy,” Taylor said. “I made a mistake on judgment last night and today. There’s definitely a new dynamic. And it just takes a little bit of a learning curve to get the rhythm. Watching back this race before we go start the 24 Hour will be good to study a bit and see the flow a little more.”

Albuquerque said he went to IMSA race director Beaux Barfield before Sunday’s race to lobby for emphasizing traffic management in prerace driver briefings, especially where slower cars should be positioned while being overtaken.

“I don’t know if my heart will survive,” Albuquerque told Lee about the Rolex 24. “If this is 100 minutes, 24 hours like this, it’s going to be crazy. It’s a good start. It shows that it doesn’t matter where you start. It’s going to be a hell of a race.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III