Rolex 24 Qualifying Has Its Ups and Downs
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 22 - At first it looked like Alegra Motorsports' Ryan Dalziel qualified fifth on Thursday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway for this weekend's Rolex 24, but now it appears the car will start 19th or 20th in the Daytona Prototype class when the green flag flies at 3:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon. The change occurred because unfortunately the team's Riley BMW didn't pass the post-qualifying technical inspection due to a ride-height violation caused by a splitter failure, forcing it to the back of the Daytona Prototype field for the start.
The Miami-based team's spirits were initially high after Dalziel's qualifying performance in the No. 22 sponsored by StrategicAir, Merchant Services LTD, Gatorade and TodayMD.com. His fastest lap took just 0.375 of a second longer th an the one that David Donohue ran to set a new track record and win the pole. His initial time was a 1:40.915 for the 3.560-mile, 14-turn road course for an average speed of 126.998 miles per hour. Donohue's pole came with a 1:40.540 at 127.472 mph.
Alegra Motorsports won this event's GT class in 2007, but it is now competing in the top class, Daytona Prototypes. Both Dalziel and the team owner, Carlos de Quesada of Coral Gables, Fla., admit that it's been a steep learning curve.
"It's a huge accomplishment for Alegra to be challenging for a top-five spot with Ganassi and Penske," Dalziel said after returning to the paddock after the qualifying session. "The guys have done a phenomenal job in the last six months. We have a great race car and a strong package to go forward. Everybody has worked very hard. I'm confident that we have a good car for the race.
"We'll fix the problem with the splitter and then with just two or three small changes to the set-up, I think we'll be right there," Dalziel added.
In addition to Dalziel and de Quesada, the car will be driven by Chapman Ducote of Miami Beach, Fla.; Jean-Francois Dumoulin of Trois-Rivieres, Quebec; and the Czech Republic's Tomas Enge of Monte Carlo in this weekend's enduro.
There is another qualifying session on Friday, but the team doesn't plan to participate in it. The top 20 positions were set on Thursday, and there are 19 Daytona Prototypes entered in the event. With just one other DP failing to record a time, there wouldn't be much for Alegra to gain by running in that session.
Enge was fourth in the first practice session on Thursday with a lap in 1:41.402 (126.388 mph). Dalziel was sixth in the second practice session Thursday with a lap in 1:41.572 (126.177 mph). Additional practice sessions will follow Thursday night and Friday.
The Rolex 24 is scheduled to be televised live on Saturday beginning at 3 p.m. EST on FOX. Fans can watch Alegra Motorsports try to fly back up through the field as the coverage switches to SPEED from 4:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. SPEED will rejoin the action at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning, with post-race interviews concluding at 4 p.m.
Live timing and scoring is planned for grand-am.com. The team's Web site is at alegramotorsports.com. Additional information can be found at merchantservicesltd.com, strategicair.com and limitlessskycard.com.