By Jeff Olson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Rain and a penalty didn’t create any problems Sunday for Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani.
Relegated to a sixth-place starting position after their No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi V.R failed technical inspection Saturday night for being underweight, the duo rallied to win the inaugural Motul Pole Award 100, which determined the starting order for next weekend’s 59th Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The race began under wet conditions but quickly dried. With 48 minutes left in the 100-minute race, Nasr completed the charge to the front by passing Tristan Vautier for the lead.
Harry Tincknell put together a charge of his own in the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports Mazda DPi to finish second, while Vautier’s co-driver, Loic Duval, finished third in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class.
In the end, the wet conditions and being moved from first to sixth for the start of Sunday’s race didn’t affect the pair. In fact, the challenges may have provided incentive.
“Rules are rules, but we didn’t let the frustration get to us,” Nasr said. “It was all about getting our head down. When we saw the weather was changing (before the race), we knew an opportunity was coming. That’s racing. We took whatever came and worked our way up through the field. It was awesome.”
Derani, who finished off the 3.664-second victory, said the team treated the qualifying race – a new format for the Rolex 24 – as it would any other.
“We used this as just a normal race,” Derani said. “For us, it’s really important to try everything we can so we can get here next week understanding all our needs for a good race. … A race win is a race win, whether it’s 35 points or 350 points. That’s how we go racing. We always try our best.”
Nasr, Derani, reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott and Mike Conway will share the No. 31 car in the Rolex 24, which is scheduled to start Saturday at 3:40 p.m. ET with live NBC network television coverage. Tincknell, Oliver Jarvis and Jonathan Bomarito will co-drive the No. 55 car, which will start alongside the No. 31 on the front row.
Duval, Sebastien Bourdais and Vautier will share the No. 5 JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi V.R, which will benefit from a second-row start.
While Nasr and Derani were teaming to take the overall win and DPi Motul Pole Award for Saturday’s start of the Rolex 24, Mikkel Jensen charged into the lead with 10 minutes remaining to win the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) pole.
Ben Keating qualified first in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07 but was bitten by the tricky conditions and spun in Turn 6 on the final pace lap, dropping him well down the running order.
That gave the class lead to Roberto Lacorte in the No. 47 Cetilar Racing Dallara LMP2 during the opening laps of the race. After both teams changed drivers, Jensen rallied to pass Antonio Fuoco in Turn 3 on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course.
Ferdinand Habsburg-Lothringen finished second in LMP2 in the No. 20 High Class Racing ORECA LMP2 07 he co-drove with Dennis Andersen.
Jensen, Keating, Nicolas Lapierre and Scott Huffaker will co-drive the LMP2 pole winner, which will start eighth overall Saturday.
Jensen pursued Fuoco – driving the only Dallara in class – until he was able to pull alongside heading into Turn 3.
“It was intense,” Jensen said. “The Dallara is significantly faster in the straights, so I had a hard time to try to get by, but I tried to push very hard and plan before the Bus Stop to leave a gap when he was in traffic so I really could try to get close to him in Turn 1. After three or four times, he made a mistake, which I benefited from.”
In the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) class, Moritz Kranz and Laurents Hoerr capped an outstanding weekend by claiming victory in Sunday’s race a day after qualifying first for the Motul Pole Award 100 and winning the Scouts of America 145 IMSA Prototype Challenge race.
The German teammates are Rolex 24 rookies in the No. 6 Muehlner Motorsports America Duqueine M30-D08, but the team is based in nearby DeLand, Florida.
“It’s an awesome experience and an awesome opportunity for us,” Kranz said. “So far, we only know this race and this venue from TV. So far, it’s a clean sweep. Everything went as we had hoped for, now we have to prepare for the next weekend, because for sure it’s going to be a different story then.”
The No. 6 will start first in class and 27th overall when the twice-around-the-clock challenge begins at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC. After the first hour, the flag-to-flag coverage moves to NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold before returning to NBC on Sunday at 2 p.m. for the conclusion.
IMSA Radio also will cover all the action live on IMSA.com and SiriusXM Radio.