Second-generation driver Alex Gurney smashed the Daytona Prototype track record Thursday in Rolex Sports Car Series qualifying for the 45th Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway, lapping the 3.56-mile, 14-turn road course in 1:43.475, at an...
Second-generation driver Alex Gurney smashed the Daytona Prototype track record Thursday in Rolex Sports Car Series qualifying for the 45th Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway, lapping the 3.56-mile, 14-turn road course in 1:43.475, at an average speed of 123.856 mph. Gurney, who will share his Pontiac Riley in the twice-around-the-clock event with Jon Fogarty, Jimmy Vasser, and Bob Stallings, was .005 seconds faster than Max Angelelli in the SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley. Marc Goosens, driving the Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley, was third fastest, with a time of 1:43.516.
"It's a really big thrill," said Gurney after his fourth career Rolex Series pole. "It definitely means a lot to me because there are so many stars in the race, so many good drivers and good teams. I feel like I have come a long way as a driver in the last couple of years. And maybe this is some proof of that. More importantly, I am happy for me team, which has put a lot of effort into the car this year."
Front runners throughout much of last year, a combination of bad luck and inopportune mistakes kept Gurney and his regular teammate, Fogarty, out of the winner's circle. But this year Gurney hopes to parlay a new, full-time crew chief and a bigger, more experienced team into his first Rolex Series win. "Obviously, qualifying really doesn't matter that much -- it's mainly for bragging rights and we're happy with that for the next day or so," he stated. "But we've been thinking about the race a lot and trying to learn from last year. Hopefully, we can just keep it steady and be there at the end. We just need to be on top of things and be more organized. We just need to keep it simple and not get too crazy in the beginning. The team is just better now. Hopefully, that will show up on Sunday."
Gurney's father, Dan, won the first major sports car race at Daytona, in 1962.
While Gurney has an improved team for 2007, Angelelli will be breaking in a brand new team this weekend. "This is brand new team that we just started two months ago. Our technical director has worked day and night to put things together. I am really pleased and happy to be here. We did not lose any performance -- actually we improved our performances from the past. It's going to be nice to start in the first row. I can see my pictures next year in the posters.
"But for a 24-hour race, this doesn't mean a lot. If you remember, last year I was last. Anything can happen. We need to stay on the track, not crash, and not make any mistakes. We're going to try to drive a really easy race and not get around too many cars. We have to be in the race in the morning."
Angelelli is slated to share the driving chores with car owner, Wayne Taylor, and NASCAR star Jeff Gordon. Gordon's NASCAR teammate and the reigning Nextel Cup champion, Jimmy Johnson, will be driving the third fastest qualifier with Goosens, Jim Matthews, and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
"It was a good run; especially after all of the problems we had in the previous session," said Goosens. "We made a few changes to the car and it was pretty good for qualifying. Everybody keeps saying that it is a 24-hour race and that qualifying is not important. But I think it is. You have to be up there from the beginning, especially with the number of cars on the track. You need to be up there constantly and you can't afford to drop back too far."
Rounding out the top-five in the Daytona Prototype class was the No. 58 Brumos Porsche Riley of David Donohue and the No. 11 Samax Pontiac Riley of Patrick Carpentier.
A crash involving Oswaldo Negri shortened the 15-minute Daytona Prototype qualifying session by six minutes. Negri was not injured.
Patrick Huisman, driving the No. 81 Synergy Racing Porsche, was the fastest qualifier in the GT class, with a lap of 1:51.800. Wolf Henzler qualified second in the No. 74 Tafel Racing Porsche, followed by the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 of Sylvain Tremblay.
Thursday's qualifying session set the top-20 positions in each class. Cars outside of the top-20 in each class will have another chance to qualify