IndyCar Champion Paces Field through First Two Rolex 24 Race-Week Sessions

IndyCar Champion Paces Field through First Two Rolex 24 Race-Week Sessions

Palou, No. 01 Cadillac, Weather Heat Up at Rolex 24 Practice

Preparations for the 62nd running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway got a lot hotter Thursday.

The 59 car and driver combinations entered for the season-opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practiced in conditions up to 30 degrees warmer than when qualifications were staged Sunday on an overcast day that topped out at 55 degrees Fahrenheit with gusty 30-mph winds.

Thursday afternoon’s 81-degree reading was the highest temperature seen so far in calendar year 2024 in the Daytona Beach area. But the results on the 3.56-mile DIS road course in the heat were essentially the same as they were in the chill, with the Cadillac V-Series.R setting the pace.

Both Thursday sessions were led by the No. 01 Cadillac in the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class, with Scott Dixon topping the charts in the morning session at 1 minute, 36.012 seconds (133.483 mph) and co-driver Alex Palou improving to 1:35.589 (134.074 mph) in the afternoon. Dixon and Palou are the endurance add-on drivers in the No. 01 this week, joining full-season co-drivers Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

“We don’t know what other teams and manufacturers are doing, but we know what we’re doing, and the car feels really good,” Palou said. “We’ve done a lot of progress since last week, and from what Dixon and Renger said, it’s a lot better than it was in the December test here. The team did amazing work.

“So yeah, we’re confident. But then it’s a 24-hour race, so it’s all about keeping the car in one piece until the last two hours and then go for it. It’s going to be up to the drivers to do that for the No. 01 car.”

Connor De Phillippi came closest to besting Cadillac in the morning session, lapping the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8 in 1:36.139 (133.307 mph). Porsche came to the fore in the afternoon with Felipe Nasr clocking 1:35.724 (133.885 mph) in the factory Porsche Penske Motorsport No. 7 Porsche 963, closely followed by Gianmaria Bruni in Proton Competition Mustang Sampling’s No. 5 entry at 1:35.754 (133.843 mph).

In the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class, times were faster in the morning session. Toby Sowery was quickest, notching a 1:39.407 (128.924) mph lap in the No. 04 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA LMP2 07. Clement Novalak led the afternoon session for the No. 52 Inter Europol by PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA at 1:39.416 (128.913 mph).

In the GT classes, Katherine Legge turned the fastest lap of the day, also in the morning session. Legge toured the speedway road course in 1:46.585 (120.242 mph) in the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 in the Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) class, nearly two-tenths of a second better than Jack Hawksworth in Vasser Sullivan’s GTD PRO class No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 (1:46.783/120.019 mph).

Legge was also fastest in cooler conditions on January 19, the first day of Roar Before the Rolex 24 testing.

“I’ve done this race 12 times now, and this is the best handling car I’ve ever had here,” declared Legge, whose best Rolex 24 finish was second in the GTD class in 2018. “I think a lot of people feel like it’s going really well, but there’s a lot of pressure that comes along with that. It’s a really long race, trying to not get in anybody’s way but still be competitive, not make any mistakes and not get taken out.

“Twenty-four hours is such a long time when you’re behind the wheel,” she added. “I think it’s about just trying to keep your head down to control the things you can control. We’re super fortunate that our JG Wentworth Acura is fast and seems solid. I just really, really hope that come hour 23-and-a-half, I’m in it for the end.”

Rolex 24 activities were scheduled to continue into Thursday night with a 90-minute practice under the DIS lights, with final practice scheduled for 11:20 a.m. ET Friday.

Live coverage of the Rolex 24 will be carried across NBC Sports platforms beginning at 1:30 p.m. Saturday on NBC network. USA Network takes over from 2:30-8 p.m., again from 10 p.m.-midnight and once more from 6 a.m.-noon Sunday. The race to the finish then airs live on NBC from noon-2 p.m. Sunday. All 24 hours of NBC’s coverage will stream live on Peacock.

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