DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The Rolex 24 at Daytona is an annual show of essentially the most attractive sports activities automobiles in a splashy opening to the North American motorsport season. The action-packed endurance race is a glittery producer showcase that pulls deep-pocketed automobile collectors to a celebration inside Daytona Worldwide Speedway.

However on this 50th anniversary season of the Worldwide Motor Sports activities Affiliation (IMSA), throughout a race that may function 13 of essentially the most revered producers in motorsport, the star-studded discipline is without doubt one of the deepest within the historical past of the distinguished twice-round-the-clock endurance occasion.

Alex Zanardi is the headliner in his first race in North America since each of his legs have been severed in a 2001 CART race in Germany. He has overshadowed two-time System One champion Fernando Alonso, who has returned to the race for a second consecutive 12 months with one of the prestigious groups in sports activities automobiles.

Alonso stole the eye final season, however he has been pushed apart this 12 months by Zanardi, who will race for the primary time with out his prosthetic legs. BMW designed a steering wheel with hand levers the Italian will use to compete. His spirit and talent have impressed the whole discipline, and the two-time CART champion and four-time Paralympic gold medalist is the preferred driver within the paddock.

Alex Zanardi watches a video monitor in his pit stall throughout a follow session for the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Thursday. AP Picture/John Raoux

“I actually felt loads of enthusiasm and loads of honest participation of individuals on this journey of mine,” Zanardi mentioned Thursday. “I’ve seen so many issues within the press and on social and it appears like I have been hitting loads of headlines, however after all it rises the sense of accountability to get the job accomplished. I do not need to make small errors or disappoint anybody with a poor efficiency.”

Zanardi was not chosen to qualify the BMW within the GT Le Mans class and ceded the seat to teammate John Edwards, who was seventh in school and 21st general.

Alonso was additionally a spectator throughout qualifying and stood atop the Wayne Taylor Racing pit stand as Jordan Taylor wound up sixth general in a Cadillac within the DPi class. The Wayne Taylor group is stacked with common drivers Taylor and Renger Van der Zande however was boosted this 12 months when Toyota lent the group Alonso and manufacturing facility driver Kamui Kobayashi.

Requested about expectations for the occasion that begins Saturday, Kobayashi was thrilled to take the microphone.

“Fernando acquired a lot of the questions final time, so I’m joyful to lastly discuss,” he mentioned.

The general pole went to Oliver Jarvis, who broke a 26-year-old document Daytona Worldwide Speedway document by placing a Mazda DPi from Group Joest out entrance. Jarvis’ lap at 1 minute, 33.685 seconds broke the mark by two-tenths of a second set by P.J. Jones in 1993 in a GTP-class Toyota.

The Englishman spoiled a powerful run by Group Penske, which has six Indianapolis 500 victories amongst its two-car lineup and certified second and third general. Ricky Taylor, who’s teamed with three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi, winner of the 100th operating of Indy, earned the second spot in Penske’s Acura ARX-05. Juan Pablo Montoya, a two-time Indy 500 winner, was third in his first time qualifying the sports activities automobile for the group. Montoya’s teammates are Simon Pagenaud and Dane Cameron.

Felipe Nasr had the quickest Cadillac DPi-V.R in fifth for Motion Categorical Racing, which can function Christian Fittipaldi in his remaining race earlier than retirement. Fittipaldi started in System One in 1992, has raced in CART and NASCAR and has been a part of sports activities automobile racing since 2003.

“I am at peace,” mentioned Fittipaldi, 48. “I did this 38 years of my life. How are you going to not miss one thing that you just did 38 years of your life? When one chapter closes, one other one opens. So I’ve all the time identified, not since starting after I was 15 years previous, however after I began understanding extra about life, that I would not be a race automobile driver till I used to be 90 years previous.”

The GTD class options an all-female lineup of 4 ladies racing for Heinricher Racing with Meyer Shank Racing. Ana Beatriz certified the Acura NSX GT3 11th in school and 34th general. Its companion automobile, which incorporates AJ Allmendinger in considered one of his remaining races earlier than he transitions right into a tv profession, certified third in school.

The race can also be the debut for the brand new AIM Vasser Sullivan group, which is headed by IndyCar group homeowners Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, and options NBC commentator Townsend Bell and Austin Cindric, a rising star in NASCAR.

Chip Ganassi as soon as once more introduced a stout two-car lineup within the GT Le Mans class. Ryan Briscoe certified Thursday third in school for the group that options five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon and final 12 months gave the group its 200th victory on this race.

Motor Sports News

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