The winning atmosphere surrounding Cadillac Racing’s championship in the inaugural Grand Touring Prototype season carried over to a chilly January weekend as Cadillac swept the front row with a record-shattering qualifying for the 62nd Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Reigning IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTP champion Pipo Derani toured the 3.56-mile, 12-turn Daytona International Speedway course iin the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac V-Series.R in 1 minute, 32.656 seconds during the 15-minute session to earn his 10th IMSA pole overall and Cadillac’s fourth since the first season of DPi competition in 2017.
Sebastien Bourdais, driving the No. 01 Cadillac V-Series.R, was close behind at 1:32.727 to complete the front-row lockout. The previous track record was 1:33.695, set in 2019. Also, for comparison: 2023 pole-winning lap time in first race of GTP era – 1:34.031. 2022 pole-winning lap time in final year of DPi era – 1:34.034.
“I’m so proud of everyone involved in the program. The work has never stopped since we started designing the car to the development, to testing to the races to whatever they consider the offseason,” GM sports car racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser said. “It shows the amount of hard work and effort put in that we came ready and will continue to push and be ready to chase the win.”
Cadillac entries paced the 10-car GTP field on the time chart in four of the six test sessions leading into qualifications at the Roar Before The 24. Cadillac prototype entries have won the Rolex 24 four times since 2017.
“With the help of a great team and a great car beneath me, obviously the Cadillac was flying out there today. It’s a privilege and pleasure to drive such a car. It was really well-balance today,” said Derani, who will co-drive the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac V-Series.R with Jack Aitken and Tom Blomqvist. “I think we’re working in the right direction. Obviously, last year we were close to pole position, but we were not quite there. I think in the end, everyone is really tight.”
Blomqvist will aim for his third successive victory in the North American endurance classic.
Bourdais is co-driving the No. 01 Cadillac V-Series.R with Renger van der Zande, Scott Dixon and Alex Palou – a stout roster that represents seven Rolex 24 At Daytona overall victories and 12 INDYCAR championships.
“It was obviously a great day for Cadillac; you always want to go P1-P2,” said Bourdais, who 10 years ago co-drove a Chevrolet Corvette DP for Action Express Racing and earned the first of his two overall wins in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in the inaugural IMSA WeatherTech race following the merger.
“For us, it was a solid effort, but we just didn’t quite get everything the way we wanted for that perfect run. But we have a really solid racecar and now we will just try to adjust things over the next week to get it the best we can for the race. We’ll try to execute as a team, with the drivers, and hope that we can come out of this with a watch.”
Cadillac Racing Rolex 24 At Daytona poles
2023 — Whelen Cadillac V-Series.R (Pipo Derani, Jack Aitken, Tom Blomqvist)
2021 — Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R (Tristan Vautier, Sebastien Bourdais, Loic Duval)
2018 — Spirit of Daytona Racing Cadillac DPi-V.r (Matt McMurry, Tristan Vautier, Eddie Cheever III)
2017 — Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R (Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, Filipe Albuquerque
- No overall wins when starting from pole.
2020 (Renger van der Zande, Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon, Kamui Kobayashi)
2019 (Renger van der Zande, Fernando Alonso; Jordan Taylor, Kamui Kobayashi)
2018 (Christian Fittipaldi, Filipe Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa)
2017 (Jeff Gordon, Jordan Taylor, Ricky Taylor, Max Angelelli)
An interview with Pipo Derani, No. 31 Whelen Cadillac V-Series.R
Setting an overall track record of 01:32.656-seconds, co-driver of the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series R. Your 10th career pole, with all nine cars in the class qualifying under the old track record. Congratulations. How’d you do?
“With the help of a great team and a great car beneath me, obviously the Cadillac was flying out there today. It’s a privilege and pleasure to drive such a car. It was really well-balance today. I think we did a qualifying simulation before and were missing a couple of tenths to P1, and I think we worked exactly on what we needed to for qualifying in this gap that we had from practice to qualifying. Great teamwork there not to turn things around but improve what was needed to qualifying. Today, the car felt on rails and it was nice to enjoy and feel the full potential of the GTP.”
Cadillac went 1-2 in qualifying. What does that say about the program?
“I think we’re working in the right direction. Obviously, last year we were close to pole position but we were not quite there. I think in the end, everyone is really tight. I think Porsche was almost within a tenth from pole, if I’m not wrong. I think it’s details. At the end of the day, it’s fining those little details to find the little extra time, and we were able to do just that today.”
Did you think a 01:32.6-second run was possible going into this session?
“Well, to be honest, we weren’t really talking about what was possible. We were just trying to maximize the tools we had. We knew that we were pretty much there when we did the simulation in practice, but quite honestly, I was quite surprised we were almost a second quicker than the previous practice. I think the conditions were perfect for that as well. I think the cold, and the tires working well, obviously in qualifying you are lower on fuel and so on. I’d say we were a bit more surprised than not for a lap time.”
Cadillacs were quickest in most of the sessions this weekend. Do you think the other manufacturers are showing their true hand right now?
“I do the best that I can with what I have. If they are showing or not, we will see during the race. We certainly are doing the best we can with what we have, and it showed today with pole position. If it wasn’t enough, or if it was much, much quicker than anybody else, it’s completely out of my control. I’m just trying to do the best I can with what I have.”
Both you and Ben (Keating) talked about the ideal conditions for qualifying today. How much of that extra time from a year ago falls under that, and how much is having that much more knowledge of that car and getting software better, what you can control better, etc.?
“To be honest, I think a lot of it is just understanding the car. I think, obviously, the conditions help, but as usual, this time of year it’s quite cold at Daytona. More or less, the perfect condition for qualifying, but I think everyone else is just so much more integrated with their tools and how to extract lap times from such a difficult car. I would say, at least on our side, we are a much better team with the electronics and the complexities with the hybrid race car than we were 12 months back.”
Cadillac Racing PR
- Anthony Perrego Clinches Victory in Spectacular BELFOR Property Restoration East Coast Indoor Dirt Nationals - February 24, 2024
- Stewart-Haas Racing: RAPTOR King of Tough 250 from Atlanta - February 24, 2024
- RCR NXS Race Recap: Atlanta Motor Speedway - February 24, 2024