Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) with Curb-Agajanian driver Tom Blomqvist captured the pole position for the 61st Rolex 24 in dramatic fashion on Sunday, with Blomqvist topping the charts with an all-or-nothing final lap of 1:34.031-seconds in the No. 60 MSR Acura ARX-06 LMDh.
The qualifying result is MSR’s third Rolex 24 Hour pole position, also capturing the leading spot overall in 2008 and 2015. Blomqvist qualified on pole three times last season for MSR in DPi competition – at Watkins Glen, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
MSR opened a new era of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition by dominating the Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway, running at the top of the GTP leader charts for much of the three-day test in the new hybrid-powered Acura LMDh driven by Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Colin Braun and Blomqvist.
The team took advantage of new qualifying rules that extended the session to 20 minutes and allowed teams to change tires. Running second on scuffed tires after two laps, MSR elected to pit to change to slick Michelin tires. That move nearly backfired, though, when a red flag stopped the action with only 8:36 remaining as Blomqvist slipped to seventh in the running order as none of the other teams pitted.
The track was cleared with just enough time for one flying lap. Blomqvist rose to the occasion, capturing the Motul Pole Award.
“I’m so relieved right now and we have to attribute a result like this to HPD, Acura, all the engineers, mechanics and folks at MSR and of course our badass driver Tom (Blomqvist),” said MSR co-owner Mike Shank who captured Rolex 24 Hour overall victories in 2012 and 2022. “To have one lap to do it – we thought we were screwed when the red came out. He’s [Tom Blomqvist] a rock star, and we love having him on board. Winning the pole for this event really matters – we have high stakes on this event.
“Winning pole really matters especially when you have high stakes, OEM racing like this,” continued Shank. “We need to come out here and prove ourselves. We have a lot to do before we get to next weekend, but we know this affirms all the work that David (Salters), Kelvin Fu and a ll the folks have put in. It’s amazing. This gives me more joy than I felt in a long time. I am really happy.”
It was the fourth career pole for Blomqvist in IMSA’s top class.
“That was a bit wild,” Blomqvist. “I knew I had a good car, but I had no point of reference and had to wing it a bit. If it was under me I knew I had the car to do it, but the tires weren’t even up to temperature. I just had to lick the stamp and send it. MSR, Honda Acura, Oreca, everyone built a fantastic car. It’s really promising for next weekend, but there’s 24 hours of racing before we can set our sights on being up here for another year. I had a lot of confidence here after last year, and the team put a lot of faith in me.”
MSR set the tone for qualifying by leading the opening four sessions. They Roared right out of the box, with new addition Braun leading Friday’s opening session with a lap of 1:35.635-seconds. Later in the day, Castroneves improved to 1:35.210-seconds to lead all competitors in the test opener. On Saturday, Blomqvist led morning practice (1:35.942-seconds), before Braun set the fastest practice lap of the day in the afternoon (1:35.038-seconds).
The next practice session for the WeatherTech Championship competitors will be Thursday at 11:05 a.m. (all times ET). The 61st Rolex 24 At Daytona is set to take the green flag at 1:40 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28.
Source. Sunday Group