Cadillac Sets The Pace In Toasty Rolex 24 Practice

Cadillac

The No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R prototype led the practice charts Thursday at Daytona Int'l Speedway. (IMSA photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Preparations for the 62nd running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona Int’l Speedway got a lot hotter Thursday: literally.

The 59 car and driver combinations entered for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener practiced in conditions up to 30 degrees warmer than when qualifications were staged last Sunday, during an overcast day that topped out at 55 degrees Fahrenheit with gusty 30-mph winds.

Thursday afternoon’s 81-degree reading was the highest temperature seen so far this year in the Daytona Beach area. However, the results on the 3.56-mile DIS road course in the heat were essentially the same as they were in the chill, with the Cadillac V-Series.R setting the pace.

Grand Touring Prototype Practice Results

Both Thursday sessions were led by the No. 01 Cadillac in the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class, with Scott Dixon topping the charts in the morning session at 1 minute, 36.012 seconds (133.483 mph) and co-driver Alex Palou improving to 1:35.589 (134.074 mph) in the afternoon.

Dixon and Palou are the endurance add-on drivers in the No. 01 this week, joining full-season co-drivers Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

“We don’t know what other teams and manufacturers are doing, but we know what we’re doing, and the car feels really good,” Palou said. “We’ve made a lot of progress since last week, and from what Dixon and Renger said, it’s a lot better than it was in the December test here. The team did amazing work.

“So yeah, we’re confident. But then, it’s a 24-hour race, so it’s all about keeping the car in one piece until the last two hours and then going for it. It’s going to be up to the drivers to do that for the No. 01 car.”

Connor De Phillippi came closest to besting Cadillac in the morning session, lapping the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8 in 1:36.139 (133.307 mph).

Porsche came to the fore in the afternoon, with Felipe Nasr clocking 1:35.724 (133.885 mph) in the factory Porsche Penske Motorsport No. 7 Porsche 963, closely followed by Gianmaria Bruni in Proton Competition Mustang Sampling’s No. 5 entry at 1:35.754 (133.843 mph).

Le Mans Prototype 2 Practice Results

In the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class, times were faster in the morning session. Toby Sowery was quickest, notching a 1:39.407 (128.924) mph lap in the No. 04 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA LMP2 07.

Clement Novalak led the afternoon session for the No. 52 Inter Europol by PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA at 1:39.416 (128.913 mph).

GT Practice Results

In the GT classes, Katherine Legge turned the fastest lap of the day, also in the morning session.

Legge toured the speedway road course in 1:46.585 (120.242 mph) in the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 in the Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) class.

Legge’s time was nearly two-tenths of a second better than Jack Hawksworth in Vasser Sullivan’s GTD PRO class No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 entry (1:46.783/120.019 mph).

She was also fastest in cooler conditions on Jan. 19, the first day of Roar Before the Rolex 24 testing.

“I’ve done this race 12 times now, and this is the best handling car I’ve ever had here,” said Legge, whose best Rolex 24 finish was second in the GTD class in 2018. “I think a lot of people feel like it’s going really well, but there’s a lot of pressure that comes along with that. It’s a really long race, trying to not get in anybody’s way but still be competitive, not make any mistakes and not get taken out.

“Twenty-four hours is such a long time when you’re behind the wheel,” she added. “I think it’s about just trying to keep your head down to control the things you can control. We’re super fortunate that our JG Wentworth Acura is fast and seems solid.

“I just really, really hope that come hour 23-and-a-half, I’m in it for the end.”

Rolex 24 activities were scheduled to continue into Thursday night with a 90-minute practice under the DIS lights, with final practice scheduled for 11:20 a.m. ET Friday.

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