By IMSA Wire Service
– Speeds continued to climb on the second day of the Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona under Chamber of Commerce weather conditions in front of a huge crowd at Daytona International Speedway.
Jonathan Bomarito ended Saturday atop the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship time charts by the slimmest of margins, posting a best lap of 1 minute, 34.533 seconds in the No. 55 Mazda Team Joest RT24-P Daytona Prototype international (DPi). Bomarito’s time, which came under the bright lights of the 3.56-mile circuit Saturday night, was just one-thousandth of a second quicker than Renger van der Zande’s lap of 1:34.534 in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R from the afternoon session.
Both laps were well under the current WeatherTech Championship track record of 1:36.083 set last year in Rolex 24 qualifying by van der Zande.
Nicolas Lapierre owns the fastest LMP2 lap of the Roar so far with a 1:36.553 in the No. 81 Dragonspeed ORECA. Richard Westbrook is the fastest in GT Le Mans (GTLM) with a lap of 1:43.148 in the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT and Trent Hindman tops GT Daytona (GTD) in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 at 1:45.533. All three laps took place in the Saturday afternoon session.
Sunday’s activities at the Roar include two more WeatherTech Championship practice sessions, as well as pit lane and garage qualifying for the DPi, LMP2 and GTLM classes. There also will be two IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge practice sessions.
– The all-female No. 57 Meyer-Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 team will have prime real estate to work with on Rolex 24 At Daytona weekend after Bia Figureido was the fastest qualifier in Saturday’s WeatherTech Championship qualifying session for GT Daytona (GTD) pit and garage allocations. Figureido, who was known as Ana Beatriz to U.S. fans when she raced IndyCar from 2010-13, posted a fastest time of 1:45.537 (121.430 mph).
She and the No. 57 car were second on the time charts at the end of the 15-minute session, but the session-leading No. 71 entry had all of its times disallowed as the Gold-rated Dominik Baumann drove the car during the session. IMSA rules require Silver- or Bronze-rated drivers only to participate in all GTD and LM2 qualifying sessions.
“I thought I was P2, but then with the disqualification, this is a very good position,” said Figureido, who will share the car in the Rolex 24 with Katherine Legge, Christina Nielsen and Simona De Silvestro. “It shows that we’re really competitive, so I’m really happy for everybody with our car.”
– Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 2004 champion Kurt Busch was an interested visitor to the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing pits at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday. Busch, who is joining Ganassi’s NASCAR Cup Series team in 2019, has raced twice in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
He drove a Ford Multimatic Daytona Prototype along with fellow NASCAR drivers Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle and sports car ace Scott Maxwell in 2006, then drove a Pontiac Riley DP for Penske-Taylor Racing in the 2008 race, finishing third alongside co-drivers Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves.
“It’s been like a decade since I ran a prototype,” Busch said. “I live just down the road in Wellington, Florida during the offseason. I saw a practice on the schedule, I love seeing cars, tires and burning fuel, so I’m here checking it out with the Ganassi team.”
– With a bumpy freshman year in the rearview mirror, Winward Racing / HTP Motorsport is ready for its clean slate in 2019. Fielding two Mercedes-AMG GT4s in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, the driver lineups have altered a bit since the team’s last appearance in 2018. Team Owner Bryce Ward is paired with Christian Hohenadel while Ward’s son Russell joins up with Dutchman Indy Dontje.
“I’m sure the whole team is looking forward to it,” said Russell Ward of the new year. “We’ve had some changes in the team and it’s exciting to be back here with the fresh start because it was pretty rocky last year. Second year for the team and it’s only up from here.
“My dad is driving the other car and he did a couple races with Christian and they really got along well. He made the call he’d like to do a full season with him and Indy was left open and he’s obviously very quick, so I think we make a good pairing. We get along well.”