A Russian prototype will lead the field to the green flag in Saturday’s 54th Rolex 24 at Daytona, following a bizarre, rain-soaked qualifying session for the opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Mikhail Aleshin wound up fastest of the Prototype class cars in qualifying, which saw the top seven overall quickest times set by GTLM cars in dryer conditions.
Aleshin took his SMP Racing BR Engineering BR01 to a best lap of 2:05.708, outpacing the Tequila Patron ESM Ligier JS P2 Honda of Pipo Derani by 0.511 seconds.
It marked the first pole for the Paolo Catone-designed LMP2 car, which is making its U.S. debut this weekend.
Aleshin will share driving duties with Nic Minassian, Maurizio Mediani and Kirill Ladygin in the around-the-clock Florida endurance classic.
Derani will line up alongside the SMP entry in second, thanks to a 2:06.304 lap time that put the young Brazilian 12th on the overall time sheets.
Per IMSA rules, the starting grid will see the P and Prototype Challenge class entries grouped ahead of the GT Le Mans and GT Daytona cars.
Conditions during both the P and PC class sessions deteriorated compared to the GT sessions held earlier in the afternoon.
The No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier Honda of Ozz Negri will start third in the P class, ahead of Ricky Taylor, who managed to be the best of the DP entries with his No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP in fourth.
Alex Wurz, in his Rolex 24 debut, completed the top-five in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford DP.
Johnny Mowlem, meanwhile, stormed to his second consecutive Rolex 24 class pole in PC.
Mowlem reeled off a best time of 2:05.708 in his No. 20 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09, outpacing the No. 85 JDC Miller Motorsports entry of Stephen Simpson by 1.705 seconds.
Mowlem’s time was actually quicker than Aleshin’s P class-winning pole by 0.085 seconds.
The two BAR1 entries were in the top-three, with Ryan Eversley qualifying the No. 26 car in third, just three-tenths slower than Simpson.
Class pole-sitter Mowlem will share driving duties this weekend with Tomy Drissi, Brendan Gaughan, Marc Drumwright and Ricardo Vera.
Two of the pre-qualifying favorites elected to keep their cars parked in the treacherous conditions.
As a result, both defending race winners PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports and 2015 class champions CORE autosport will start from the rear of the eight-car PC class field.
The 54th Rolex 24 at Daytona gets underway Saturday at 2:40 p.m. local time, with live coverage on FOX Sports 1.