DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—The 2015 Tudor United SportsCar Championship season is officially under way; the first practice session for Saturday’s Rolex 24 is over, and for the first time at Daytona, P2 cars hold commanding positions.
Quickest in the session was the Honda-powered #60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier-JS P2 driven by Oswaldo Negri Jr to a lap of 1:39.633 at 128.632 mph—the only car to break 1:39 and 128 mph average speed.
The next two cars were somewhat predictably, the 2014-championship-winning #5 Action Express Racing Coyote-Corvette Daytona Prototype which Christian Fittipaldi pushed to a lap of 1:40.748 at 127.208 mph, and the #01 Ganassi Riley-Ford EcoBoost DP driven by Sage Karam to a lap of 1:40.902 at 127.0114 mph.
Fourth was Nic Jonsson in the #57 Krohn Racing Ligier-Judd, obviously responding well to the 40-kg weight break it got after the Roar Before the 24. Jonsson lapped the 3.56-mile high-baked Speedway in 1:41.107 at 126.757, only 1.474 seconds behind the leading Shank Ligier.
Jordan Taylor in the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Dallara-Corvette rounded out the top five with a lap of 1:41.185 at 126.659.
Tom Kimber-Smith topped the Prototype Challenge class with a lap of 1:43.476 at 123.885 mph in the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Oreca-Chevrolet. Bill Auberlen lapped the track in 1:44.990 at 122.069 mph in the #25 BMW Team RLL Z4 GTE to lead the GT-Le Mans class. Andy Lally in the #44 Magnus Racing Porsche 911 GT America was quickest in GT Daytona with a lap of 1:48.084 at 118.574.
Normally first-session practice times don’t signify much, but with the shortened schedule at this year’s Rolex 24, every session counts. The Tudor Championship cars get only one more daylight half-hour practice session today, and another hour Friday before qualifying. There is also a 90-minute night session tonight, but teams will need to work on low-temperature set-ups then.
Of course, pole doesn’t mean much in a 24-hour race; still, teams have only 90 minutes to fine-tune their daytime setups before the 15-minute-per-class qualifying sessions Friday afternoon and the start of the race at 2 p.m. ET Saturday afternoon.
Tickets for the Rolex 24 at Daytona can be purchased at the Daytona International Speedway website or at the gate, and for those who can’t make it, the action starts Saturday, Jan. 24 at 2 p.m. ET on your local Fox affiliate.