No. 5 Cadillac Will Start First in Qualifying Race;
Keating Tops LMP2, Shields Leads LMP3
Tristan Vautier was fastest when it mattered most Saturday at Daytona International Speedway: before the red flag was displayed.
Vautier was the fastest qualifier for Sunday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship qualifying race. The results of that 100-minute race determine the starting order for the Rolex 24 At Daytona that opens the 2022 season Jan. 29-30.
Driving the No. 5 Mustang Sampling/JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi V.R, Vautier posted a lap of 1 minute, 34.034 seconds (136.291 mph) before a red flag ended the qualifying session with four minutes remaining.
Vautier could tell by the tone of the voices over the team radio that his lap would hold up.
“I knew it was good and I knew it would be tough to improve,” Vautier said. “The team didn’t tell me how much time was left, but I had a good sense when it went red that there was no way it was going to back to green.”
Vautier knew his lap was probably the best he would squeeze from the car, given traffic and wet conditions that narrowed the racing line. With five minutes remaining in the session, Renger van der Zande went off course and into the tire barrier in the No. 01 Cadillac V-Performance Academy Cadillac, eventually forcing the red flag and end to the session. For causing a red flag, van der Zande forfeited his best lap and will start the qualifying race sixth in the DPi field.
The No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 driven by Filipe Albuquerque posted the second-fastest DPi lap (1:34.156), but a post-qualifying technical inspection found the car out of compliance by failing to meet the minimum rear wing assembly angle. The No. 10 will go off from seventh position and last position in the DPi class in the qualifying race.
Saturday’s session determined the starting order of all five classes for Sunday’s 100-minute qualifying race.
“It’s good and important to validate our speed, but it’s very early,” Vautier said. “It’s qualifying for a qualifying race. There’s a lot of work ahead. Although we’re happy, we’re not going to have much time to celebrate.”
While Vautier was winning the pole for the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class, one of his teammates was the fast qualifier in another class. Ben Keating, who is also part of the No. 5 JDC-Miller driver lineup in DPi with Vautier, Richard Westbrook and Loic Duval, had the fastest lap in the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class driving the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07. Keating will drive stints in both cars during the Rolex 24.
“I went into this qualifying legitimately telling myself that it doesn’t really matter,” Keating said. “We’re qualifying to be able to qualify for a 24-hour race. The only time I’ve won this race, we started dead last.”
Keating, who won the GTD class in the 2015 Rolex 24, recorded a lap of 1:37.296 (131.721 mph) over the 13-turn, 3.56-mile DIS road circuit. He’ll co-drive the No. 52 with Mikkel Jensen, with whom he won the 2021 LMP2 championship, in Sunday’s qualifying race.
In Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3), Cameron Shields landed the top starting position with a lap of 1:42.182 (125.423 mph) in the No. 26 Muehlner Motorsports America Duqueine D08. That topped Nico Pino’s best lap of 1:42.468 in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier JS P320.
Shields said the car did well through the Bus Stop, the Turns 11 and 12 chicane that usually creates issues in intermediate weather conditions.
“It was quite difficult to get to the brake point fast there,” Shields said. “That was challenging, but we definitely improved the car a lot through that section. It’s a lot more manageable for us to drive.”
The 100-minute qualifying race is scheduled to begin Sunday at 2:05 p.m. ET. Live coverage is available on Peacock and IMSA Radio. Live coverage of the Rolex 24 on NBC begins Jan. 29 at 1:30 p.m.