Wayne Taylor Racing’s newcomer Renger Van Der Zande delivered the goods in his first Qualifying with the team ahead of the Rolex 24, the Dutchman setting a 1:36.083 at the very end of the 15-minute Prototype session to take pole.
In what turned into a frantic shootout between almost half of the prototype field, Van Der Zande emerged fastest, after multiple drivers laid down gauntlets throughout. In the end the top 13 were covered by less than a second.
“Honestly didn’t think pole would be within our grasp,” said Wayne Taylor, “but this team works and works and works to pull out the last tenth.
“There are those that said that Renger wouldn’t be quick enough. All I have to do is ask Jordan if I think he’s going to be quick, he said he would be, and he was right!”
Van Der Zande later added: “I’m super thrilled to be here and in this seat.
“They expect a lot from you, two days of driver change for instance. I didn’t expect to get this pole – they only told me at Turn 5. I thought it was a nice lap, overshot quite a bit in T5 but powered through it.”
Second on the grid will be taken by the #7 Acura Team Penske ARX-05, the team’s new car proving to be rapid with Helio Castroneves at the wheel, the IndyCar star missing out on the top spot by 0.007, after setting a 1:36.090 in the final few minutes to set provisional pole.
The top three was completed by the Mustang Sampling Racing Action Express Cadillac, Filipe Albuquerque touring the circuit in 1:36.194 on his final flyer to secure the place.
Behind, young Patricio O’Ward put Performance Tech fourth, with a stunning 1:36.318 at the end of the session, after multiple improvements making him the fastest driver in an LMP2 car.
Tristan Vautier put Spirit of Daytona’s new Cadillac fifth, with a 1:36.472, after going top early.
Elsewhere in the class, Fernando Alonso, who explained to the media prior to Qualifying that the team were struggling with outright performance, put the #23 United Autosports Ligier JS P217 13th.
Nicolas Lapierre also had a tough time, the Frenchman hitting the tyres at the West Horseshoe in the #22 ESM Nissan early in the session, ending the crews chances of Pole. His best time before the off was just only good enough for 28th overall.
The sister ESM DPi meanwhile, didn’t go out in the session due to a precautionary motor change, neither did the #77 Mazda Team Joest DPi, the team opting not to qualify the car after noticing something awry in the data.
In the GTLM class, Jan Magnussen was the star of the show, the Dane setting a 1:43.223 to set pole in the #3 Corvette Racing C7.R, smashing Joey Hand’s GTLM Qualifying lap record (1:43.473) from 2017 in the process.
“It’s the first Pole for me here, it was a little unexpected I have to say, it was a good lap, I had a really good tow from my teammate Oli (Gavin). We didn’t plan to go out and do that, but it all worked out. The race is a whole different ball game.”
His time was just 0.019 faster than Hand, who came so close to besting his own record in the #66 Ford. The American, after multiple improvements, came close, but had to settle for the second front row spot in the class.
Making it three marques in the top three was Laurens Vanthoor, in the #912 Porsche, the Belgian setting a 1:42.927 late in the session to push Patrick Pilet in the sister Porsche down to fourth.
The top five in the class was completed by Richard Westbrook in the #67 Ford.
Further down the order, BMW Team RLL managed two respectable times with its brand new M8 GTLMs, making their qualifying debuts at the Rolex 24. The #25 of Alex Sims finished up eighth, with a 1:43.948, ahead of the #24 of John Edwards, who ended up ninth. They’ll start from the back of the GTLM class, but with times just 1.1 and 1.6 seconds off Pole respectively.
“We’ll go back and look at the data,” BMW driver Bill Auberlin said after the session. “I’ve won this race a few times, but never from the front. You get a couple of hours of the end of the race, and it starts now. You just need to keep your car in one piece.”
In GTD, Daniel Serra emerged quickest of the 19 drivers who set times in Qualifying, the Brazilian steering Spirit of Race’s Ferrari to pole with a 1:46.049.
The 21 entires were all out and running from the very start of the 15 minute GTD Qualifying session. But there was early trouble for Côme Ledogar in the #93 MSR Acura the car losing its hood out on track.
Serra was first man into the 1:46s in the #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari – his 1:46.407 a new qualifying record, Miguel Molina in the #82 Risi Competizione 48 edging under 1:47 soon afterwards with Alessandro Balzan running third fastest.
Jack Hawksworth though, put his #15 3GT Lexus into second with under five minutes to go, 1:46.9 but was soon edged back by Mirko Bortolotti in the #11 GRT Lamborghini.
Molina though wasn’t done, the #82 second with three minutes to go only to see Hawksworth improve again, still though his 1:46.714 closing in on the provisional polesetter until Serra banged in a stunning 1:46.049.
Hawksworth baled from the session with a minute or so to go as Molina grabbed second for the third time in the session – he popped in a 1:46.502, still some way down on Serra though.
Bortolotti meanwhile put in a final effort good enough for third on the grid in the #11 GRT Lamborghioni, with a 1:46.658 in the dying moments.
Behind both Lexus’ were in the top six, Dominic Baumann in the #14 edgiong out the best of the Acuras, Alvaro Parente seventh ahead of Sheldon van der Linde in the #29 Montaplast by Land Audi with the #58 Wright Motorsports Porsche (Robert Renauer driving) and #96 Turner BMW (driven by Cameron Lawrence) rounding out the top 10.
Two GTD cars didn’t set times, the #73 Park Place Porsche, after Tim Pappas suffered a flat tyre out on track on his outlaw. The #71 P1 Motorsports Mercedes also didn’t go out, for reasons unknown.