Team RLL fifth and sixth in qualifying race, Farfus sets fastest time
This year’s Roar Before The Rolex 24 ended with a 100-minute qualifying race to set grid positions for next weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, the first race of the season for the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech Series.
The qualifying race started in wet conditions and turned dry later. Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley in the #96 Turner Motorsport M6 GT3 won the GTD class, benefiting from a strategy call that brought the car in for a fuel-only final stop with less than 50 minutes remaining. Auberlen fell to fourth after the stop, but regained the lead for good as the cars ahead of him made their last stops.
In the GTLM class, the #25 M8 GTE driven by Philipp Eng and Timo Glock finished fifth and the #24 car, driven by Augusto Farfus and Marco Wittmann, finished sixth after coming in for a late tire change. Nick Tandy in the #4 Corvette finished first. Farfus set the fastest lap time in the race for the entire six-car GTLM field, and the M8s started the race first and second. Marco Wittmann, running at Daytona for the first time in five years, took #24 to the pole, and Timo Glock, who will be running in the Rolex 24 for the first time, took second.
Farfus said afterward. “It was great to have this first weekend here at Daytona. Unfortunately, the qualifying race did not exactly turn out as we expected. The weather was very difficult. We made a wrong call with the first stop by having another set of wets and that I think cost us a little bit in race performance. But it was very important to prepare for the big race and to get the mileage for Marco who did a brilliant job.”
Earlier in the week, Team RLL had announced that in 2021 it would contest only the four long IMSA enduros that make up the Michelin Endurance Cup, including the Rolex 24 the 12 Hours of Sebring, the six-hour race at Watkins Glen, and the ten-hour Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta. Farfus, John Edwards, and Jesse Krohn, Rolex 24 winners in 2020, will be in #24 for the season, with Wittmann joining at Daytona. Edwards and Krohn did not run in the qualifying race. In car #25, Eng will run the four-race season along with Bruno Spengler and Connor De Phillippi, who did not run the qualifying race. Timo Glock will also be in #25 at Daytona.
Auberlen is second fastest in Roar Michelin Pilot Challenge sessions
The Michelin Pilot Series ran five sessions at the Roar. There were five M4 GT4s in the Grand Sport class. The fastest BMW racer in the class across the five sessions was Bill Auberlen in the #95 Turner Motorsport car; he was second fastest overall. Greg Liefooghe in the #43 Stephen Cameron Racing M4 GT4 was fifth fastest and Mike Skeen in the #82 BimmerWorld M4 GT4 was seventh. The fastest drivers in the other two M4 GT4s were Vin Barletta, 41st in the #96 Turner Motorsport car, and Mark Sundberg, 44th in the #37 ProSun Racing M4 GT4. Spencer Pumpelly in the BGB Motorsports Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport set the fastest time of the weekend in the Grand Sport class.
The four-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge season opener will be run on Friday, January 29 at Daytona, and the Rolex 24 will be run on Saturday and Sunday January 30–31.—Brian Morgan
[Photos courtesy BMW Motorsport.]