Tom Blomqvist wins Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position for Meyer Shank Racing in GTP debut

Rolex 24 Daytona pole
Rolex 24 Daytona pole

Beating the clock with a blistering lap, Tom Blomqvist kept Meyer Shank Racing atop the speed chart in Rolex 24 at Daytona qualifying and put the defending race winners on the pole position.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 34.031-second lap in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 that he started just before the checkered flag fell in the first qualifying session ever for the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category. He narrowly beat the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 of Felipe Nasr, who was bumped just seconds after his 1:34.114 lap.

“That was a bit wild,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee on Peacock. “I had no real reference, to be honest. I just had to wing that one a bit. I knew I had a good car and if it was under me I could do the job, but yeah, the tires weren’t even up to temperature. I just kind of licked the stamp and sent it.

ROLEX 24 DETAILSHow to watch, entry lists schedules for the IMSA season opener

“So fantastic job by HPD, Acura, MSR and Oreca. They built a fantastic car. It’s really promising ahead of next weekend, but thre’s 24 hours of racing before we can set our sights on being back here again for another year.”

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The end of the qualifying session turned into a massive scramble after a delay of several minutes because of a red flag for Nick Tandy’s crash in the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963.

Blomqvist barely had enough time to back up what MSR had done the past two days in the Roar Before the Rolex 24, setting the pace in four consecutive dry sessions Friday and Saturday.

“I’m so relieved right now,” MSR co-owner Mike Shank told Lee. “To have one lap to do it and that’s it, we thought we were screwed when the red came out. Really a lot on (Blomqvist) today. He’s a rock star. He’s the future, and we love having him on board.”

After closing the DPi era with a championship last fall that capped a 2022 season opened with Shank’s second Rolex 24 victory, the team gained extra prestige with the first pole of the new premier prototype class whose hybrid engines have attracted Porsche, Acura, Cadillac and BMW to GTP.

“It matters when you have high stakes OEM racing here like this,” Shank said of the pole. “We need to come out and prove ourselves. Listen, we got a lot to go on next week, but this affirms all the work. This was more joy than I’ve felt in a long time.”

Tandy’s crash occurred in the Bus Stop chicane on the backstretch. Though he drove away from the scene, the wreck ripped off the left front and hood. It was the first significant damage for one of the new Le Mans Daytona hybrid prototype cars since they hit the track Friday in preparation for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener Jan. 28-29.

“The wind is so strong right now to go into Turn 3 and the Bus Stop is very, very tough,” said MSR driver Helio Castroneves, who had paced practice Friday.

Ricky Taylor qualified third (1:34.198) in Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Acura, followed by Sebastien Bourdais (134.262) in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 01 Cadillac, Alex Lynn (1:34.389) in the No. 02 Cadillac, Tandy (1:34.453) and Pipo Derani (1:34.608).

The two BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8s qualified eighth (Philipp Eng, 1:34.723) and ninth (Nick Yelloly, 1:34.846) as less than 0.9 seconds separated the nine cars in the GTP class.

In other categories:

LMP2: Ben Keating put the No. 52 PR! Mathiasen Motorsports on the pole position in the season opener for the fourth consecutive year, turning  a lap of 1 minute, 40.541 seconds.

The session ended early for a crash involving the No. 8 ORECA LMP2 07 of Tower Motorsports. John Farano was behind the wheel of the car that he is sharing with Team Penske IndyCar drivers Scott McLaughlin and Josef Newgrarden (who both are making their IMSA sports car debuts).

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LMP3: Nico Pino, 18, earned his first career pole position with a 1-minute, 43.197-second lap in the No. 33 Ligier JS P320 of Sean Creech Motorsport, nipping Dakota Dickerson (1:43.307) in the No. 36 of Andretti Autosport.

GTD, GTD Pro: Mercedes AMG GT3s swept both divisions with the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing first in GTD Pro and the No. 57 of Winward Racing tops in GTD.

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Tom Blomqvist wins Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position for Meyer Shank Racing in GTP debut originally appeared on NBCSports.com