Daytona 24: Thursday qualifying report

Gurney Breaks Daytona Prototype Record En Route to Rolex 24 At Daytona Pole DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 25, 2007) - Forty-five years after his father, Dan Gurney, won the first sports car race at Daytona International Speedway, Alex Gurney...

Gurney Breaks Daytona Prototype Record En Route to Rolex 24 At Daytona Pole

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 25, 2007) - Forty-five years after his father, Dan Gurney, won the first sports car race at Daytona International Speedway, Alex Gurney took the pole position for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Rolex 24 At Daytona and will lead a star-studded to the green flag at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday (Live television coverage begins at 1:00 p.m. ET on FOX Sports).

In a 15-minute qualifying session that saw the top spot changed hands several times, Gurney emerged at the top of the list with a lap at 1:43.475 (123.220 mph) in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley. Gurney will co-drive the No. 99 machine in the 24-hour race with his regular Rolex Series teammate, Jon Fogarty, as well 1996 Champ Car champion, Jimmy Vasser, and team owner Bob Stallings. The lap was more than half a second quicker than the previous Daytona Prototype track record.

"This is a big thrill, for me personally and for the team," Gurney said. "There's so many stars in this race, great cars and great drivers, I feel like I've come a long way to be able to be here. I'm happy for the team, who've put a lot of effort into their work to make this pole possible. It would be awesome to follow this up with a win. It is the crown jewel of the series. Qualifying really doesn't matter that much, it's really just for bragging rights, so we'll be happy with it for a day or so but beyond that, we've got to run 24 straight hours before we can win."

Starting second in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley will be 2005 Rolex 24 At Daytona overall winner Max Angelelli following a lap at 1:43.480 (123.850 mph). Angelelli is sharing the car once again with team owner Wayne Taylor, with whom he co-drove to the 2005 Rolex 24 victory and the Daytona Prototype championship, as well as four-time NASCAR Cup champion and three-time Daytona 500 winner Jeff Gordon and Danish driver Jan Magnussen. It will be Gordon's first appearance in the Rolex 24.

"It's going to be very nice to start on the front row, absolutely," he said. "The pictures on the posters before next year's race will look so nice! Other than that, the pole in a 24-hour race doesn't mean a lot. If you remember last year, I started last -- dead last, and I was in second position when I got out of the car after my first stint. But then we crashed (during the fourth hour) and that was the end of the race for us. We learned a lot from last year that continues to help us in our preparation. Once it starts, it's just a matter of staying on the track, making no mistakes, driving an easy pace and staying on the lead lap until the sun comes up on Sunday. That's when the real racing begins."

Belgian driver Marc Goossens qualified third at 1:43.516 (123.807 mph) in the No. 91 Lowe's Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley. Goossens' co-drivers will be 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, as well as Champ Car veteran Ryan Hunter-Reay and long-time sports car racer Jim Matthews.

"Everyone keeps saying that it's a 24-hour race and (qualifying is) not important -- but I think it is," Goossens said. "You have to be up there from the beginning, especially with the number of cars on track, there are going to be some yellows. You need to be up there constantly and you can't afford to drop back too far. I think it is still important to be in the top-five cars."

Another second-generation racer, David Donohue, will start fourth aboard the No. 58 Red/Bull/Brumos Racing Porsche Riley. Donohue, the son of 1969 Daytona 24-hour overall winner and 1972 Indianapolis 500 winner Mark Donohue, turned a best lap at 1:43.584 (123.726 mph) in the car he is sharing with 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice, 1996 Indy Racing League champion Scott Sharp and Rolex Series regular Darren Law.

Canadian Patrick Carpentier completed the top five in the No. 11 CITGO/SAMAX Pontiac Riley with a lap at 1:43.959 (123.279 mph). Carpentier--a veteran of Champ Car and IRL IndyCar Series competition--is co-driving with Scottish racer Ryan Dalziel, fellow open-wheel veteran Darren Manning and Milka Duno, who is one of three women who will compete in the Rolex 24.

The top 10 cars turned laps within one second of Gurney's pole-winning time. The No. 05 Luggage Express Team Sigalsport BMW Riley driven to the sixth-quickest time in qualifying by Bill Auberlen, incurred a post-qualifying penalty for ride height and the time was disallowed. The car may be requalified in Friday's final session.


Dutchman Patrick Huisman will start the 45th Rolex 24 At Daytona from the GT class pole position aboard the No. 81 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3 after logging a qualifying-best lap time of 1:51.800 (114.633 mph) Thursday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway.

Huisman will share the No. 81 machine with ex-NFL tight end Steve Johnson, Richard Lietz and Richard Westbrook in the twice-around-the-clock classic, with all three looking to score their first-career Rolex 24 class victories.

"It was difficult to find a position out there today because there were a lot of cars on the track," said Huisman. "I certainly didn't expect to be this high in the lineup. The first lap was good, but I had a little mistake. In the race, we have to be a little lucky, make sure to stay on the lead lap until morning and then we'll see how it goes."

Huisman posted his best lap time late in the 15-minute qualifying session, besting a 1:52.200 (114.226 mph) by Germany's Wolf Henzler in the No. 74 Tafel Racing Porsche GT3. Henzler--the runner-up in the GT championship a year ago--will co-drive the No. 74 machine with Eric Lux, Dominik Farnbacher and Jim Tafel in the Rolex 24. Henzler and Farnbacher scored the GT class victory in the 2005 Rolex 24.

Sylvain Tremblay will start third in the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 after posting his best lap at 1:52.222 (114.187 mph). Tremblay will co-drive with David Haskell, Nick Ham and defending Rolex 24 GT class winner Randy Pobst.

Defending GT class champion Andy Lally will start fourth in the No. 66 TRG Porsche GT3 with a time of 1:52.237 (114.187 mph), followed by Johnny O'Connell in the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R at 1:52.427 (113.994 mph).

The GT machines will take to the 3.56-mile, 14-turn Daytona road course for a practice session Friday morning at 9:00 a.m. ET, with final practice for the Rolex 24 At Daytona scheduled for 1:00 p.m. ET.

-credit: garra

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Milka Duno , Jeff Gordon , Alex Gurney , Ryan Dalziel , Darren Manning , Scott Sharp , Jimmy Vasser , Patrick Carpentier , Jon Fogarty , Marc Goossens , Wayne Taylor , Bill Auberlen , Randy Pobst , Patrick Huisman , Dan Gurney , David Haskell , Andy Lally , Darren Law , David Donohue , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Max Angelelli , Sylvain Tremblay , Buddy Rice , Jim Matthews , Nick Ham , Wolf Henzler , Jim Tafel , Eric Lux , Dominik Farnbacher , Bob Stallings , Richard Westbrook , Richard Lietz
Teams SpeedSource