Pipo Derani put on a spectacle at the wheel of the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac V-Series.R, blitzing Daytona International Speedway in just 1:32.656 on Sunday afternoon. That was enough to break the previous lap record and clinch pole position for next weekend's Rolex 24. But while the Brazilian was able to outpace the Acuras, BMWs, and Porsches, all nine GTP cars lapped faster than the lap record set in 2019 by Oliver Jarvis in a Mazda prototype.
This level of performance in the GTP field promises an exciting race when the green flag drops on Saturday. Both teams running the Le Mans-tested Cadillacs, Action Express Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing, are pulling all the stops. Pole sitter Derani will partner Jack Aitken and veteran Tom Blomqvist in the No. 31. Ganassi, however, opted for four star-studded drivers for the No. 01 Cadillac, featuring IndyCar's winningest active driver Scott Dixon, current IndyCar champ Alex Palou, former IndyCar champion and Le Mans winner Sebastien Bourdais, and WEC veteran Renger van der Zande. Surely, Ganassi's payroll alone has got to be more than some teams' entire operating budget.
Having both Cadillac V-Series.R cars at the front of the field doesn't exactly come as a surprise, given their success across multiple series last year, including IMSA, WEC, and of course, their maiden 24 Hours of Le Mans, where they finished on the podium. Perhaps most surprising is Acura's fall to fifth and sixth place on the grid, given their dominating performance at the 3.56-mile road course the last couple of years. Surely, the legality of last year's race-winning performance by the Meyer Shank team will always be questioned, but it's worth remembering that the team had incredible runs at Daytona long before that.
With MSR's absence from the grid this year, it's up to the WTR with Andretti to try and continue Honda's winning streak in 2024. Similar to Ganassi, Wayne Taylor has put together an impressive driver lineup this year, featuring former winner Jordan Taylor, veteran Louis Deletraz, IndyCar star Colton Herta, and F1 world champion making his IMSA debut, Jenson Button in the No. 40. The No. 10 also gets an impressive roster with veterans Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuqerque, Le Mans winner Brendon Hartley, and former F1 driver and Indy 500 winner, Marcus Ericsson.
It was a relatively uneventful run for the Penske Porsche GTP team, with the No. 7 963 of Dane Cameron, Felipe Nasr, Matt Campbell, and IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden qualifying third. The outfit's second car, the No. 6 will start from sixth place on the grid.
BMW Team RLL also showed a promising pace during qualifying, with the BMW Hybrid V8 looking much more capable than during its maiden run last year. The No. 25 car was able to qualify in fourth place behind the two Cadillacs and Porsche, while the No. 24 is starting from the eighth spot on the grid.
The 2024 Rolex 24 at Daytona is set to start Saturday at 1:30 pm ET.
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