Blomqvist had to “wing it” on Rolex 24 at Daytona pole lap

Tom Blomqvist says his pole lap for Rolex 24 was sketchy since a red flag left the GTP cars inadequate time to warm their tires for their final run.

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The Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-06 led four of the five sessions across Friday and Saturday, with Blomqvist new full-time teammate Colin Braun and endurance teammate Helio Castroneves all taking turns at the top.

But the battle between Acura and Porsche closed up throughout the sessions, and the Penske-run Porsche 963s were firmly in the pole battle, as the two Acura teams adopted different tactics for qualifying. Ricky Taylor in the Wayne Taylor Racing entry went out on fresh tires and whittled his time down to 1min34.198sec, while Blomqvist went out on scrubbed Michelins and returned to the pits for new ones.

Meanwhile, the Porsches of Nick Tandy and Felipe Nasr responded strongly to WTR's challenge, but after setting fastest times in Sectors 1 and 2, Tandy lost control at the Bus Stop chicane and struck the tire wall. By the time his car was retrieved and the tires were re-stacked, the GTP cars had time for just a warm-up lap and a single flyer.

Nasr was first to beat Taylor’s benchmark, by a mere 0.084sec, but Blomqvist then beat the Porsche ace by 0.083sec.

“It was a bit wild,” said the defending IMSA Prototype champion to IMSA TV. “I had no real reference to be honest, I had to wing that one a bit.

“I knew I had a good car, I knew if it was under me that I could do the job, but the tires weren’t even up to temperature so I had to lick the stamp and send it sorta thing.

“Great job by the team, Acura, HPD and Oreca; it’s really promising ahead of next weekend. A lot of work still ahead of us to be back here [in Victory Lane] next weekend.

“Maybe I’ve been lucky with genetics that some things don’t faze me, I dunno. I’ve got a lot of confidence after last year and the team has a lot of faith in me to do the job, which makes my life more relaxing in the car, and that enables me to extract the right kind of performance.” 

Team founder and co-owner Mike Shank said: “I’m so relieved – tribute to HPD, Acura and Honda, all the engineers and mechanics at MSR and, of course, our badass driver Tom Blomqvist.

"To get one lap to do it… we thought we were screwed when the red flag came out. It was on him today, he is a rockstar, he’s the future and we love having him on board. 

“Pole matters when you have high-stakes OEM racing like this. We have to come out here and prove ourselves.

“We’ve got a lot to go on next week, we know that, but this confirms all the work that all the folks have put in. That’s more joy than I’ve felt in a long time.” 

An admiring Castroneves added: “It was a little nerve-wracking. Tom is a superstar, he did a phenomenal job. The wind is so strong at Turn 3 and the Bus Stop, it’s so tough out there. What an incredible job from Acura and MSR.”

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