The hometown team will start from the inside of the third row for this weekend’s Rolex 24 At Daytona, as Spirit of Daytona Racing put its No. 90 Cadillac DPi-V.R into fifth position on the starting grid for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s endurance classic.
With the team completing nearly 200 laps at the Roar Before the 24 test earlier this month, just two practice sessions were on the schedule ahead of the afternoon qualifying.
The driving trio of Tristan Vautier, Matt McMurry and Eddie Cheever lll put the Cadillac through its paces, with Vautier taking the wheel for qualifying. The team led the timing sheets for a short time during the 15-minute session despite having only two weeks of running the new car under their collective belt.
A flurry of quick laps at the end settled them into fifth position with a lap of 1:36.472-seconds, a mere four-tenths of a second off pole position.
The race reflected the expectation that the race will be incredibly competitive, underscored by the fact that the top 13 in the field were separated by less than one second.
Vautier was exceptionally proud of the team’s hard work in putting together the Cadillac DPi-V.R so quickly (the team’s initial shakedown with the new car came only days before the Roar) but disappointed with what might have been.
“Considering we started with the car January 2nd, it was a good effort today,” Vautier said. “Starting fifth is a good result. A top five with a new car and a new team is a positive result. It is very close out there with the competition, and we have to maximize our effort. We now need to find a few fixes to make the car good over the 24 hours. We have a good driver line-up, the car is very comfortable, and the Spirit of Daytona guys will get the car right. It’s a long race so you have to pace yourself at the start, so I want to have a good safe start and not risk the car. This is the team’s home race, so that helps to motivate us even more.”
Team owner Troy Flis appreciated the effort by the entire team to put the car in the top five, and looks forward to what will be the team’s 32nd appearance in the Rolex 24.
“It’s amazing, to look at that scoreboard and see the top eight within half a second,” said Flis. “The competition is unbelievable – and it’s great to see so many manufacturers participating. Now it’s time for us to do our job and put Cadillac on top. I thought it had a top 1:36 in it, and we ran a 1:36.4 so I’m happy with it. We’re in this for the big trophy, so if we keep doing what we’re doing, I think we’ll be there. We have a great package with this Cadillac and a great team so we’re super excited. We’ll stay out of trouble and be there for the later hours. We’d love to be able to do this for our hometown fans.”
Source. Sunday Group