Forty years after his late father, MARK DONOHUE, won the Rolex 24 in the Penske Racing Lola, son DAVID DONOHUE put the No.58 Brumos Porsche Riley Daytona Prototype on pole for Saturday’s Grand-Am Rolex 24 at Daytona. David’s record-breaking lap was 1:40.540/127.472 MPH. As the qualifier, Donohue will start the race as required by Grand-Am rules. His co-drivers are ANTONIO GARCIA, DARREN LAW and BUDDY RICE.
Donohue finished a mere 0.001 second ahead of runner-up, TIMO BERNHARD in Penske Racing No.16 Porsche Riley. It will be an all-Porsche Riley front row. Donohue is running the original Riley chassis, while Bernhard has the new Riley evolution chassis. Donohue broke last year’s qualifying record set by OSWALDO NEGRI/Michael Shank Racing No.60 Ford Riley.
Donohue said that pole position meant a lot to him because of the stiff competition. The last time a driver won from the pole position was DIDIER THEYS in 2002. Donohue wants to be the next such driver. “As I’ve said before, in this race all that counts is where you are at 3:30 PM on Sunday.”
Donohue was only eight when his father died, so he didn’t get much chance to know him or watch him race as Mark Donohue was off racing much of the time. David remembers seeing his father race at the 1971 Pocono race and testing a Ferrari at Sebring with DAVID HOBBS, who is now covering the 2009 Rolex for SPEED TV.
Regarding the ‘retirement’ of his Brumos teammate, HURLEY HAYWOOD, Donohue said that Haywood would only be running the long races. Donohue deadpanned that he reckoned that Haywood “could still get it going, so I think we’ll keep him around a little longer.”
Eighteen of the 19 DP cars qualified. The Childress-Howard Motorsports No.2 Pontiac Crawford had an engine change after blowing a hole in the side of the block earlier in the day. There are two Pontiac DP’s in the field, and both feel they are down on power. ALEX GURNEY qualified the No.99 GAINSCO/Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley in eleventh place. As Childress-Howard’s car is co-owned by RICHARD CHILDRESS, who runs four Chevrolets in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series, the No.2 car won’t be changing engine manufacturers any time soon.
Thursday’s qualifying locked in the top 20 grid positions for each of the two Rolex Series classes, so if the Crawford makes an attempt in the second qualifying session, it will still start last in its class, as the field only has 19 DP cars.
SYLVAIN TREMBLAY has the GT pole for Saturday’s race, driving his No.70 SpeedSource Mazda, with a lap of 1:49.445/117.100 mph. It’s the third consecutive Rolex pole position for the team, owned by Tremblay. Driving with him will be JONATHAN BOMARITO, NICK HAM, and DAVID HASKELL.
Tremblay said “I kept my head down and drove as hard as I’ve ever driven here to try to get that lap. I know it doesn’t mean much for a 24-hour race, but it means a lot to the team, it means a lot to my boys, and it means a lot to me.”
ANDY LALLY nearly had the pole in TRG’s No.67 Porsche GT3 Cup car, but will start on the GT front row besides Tremblay. The two are close friends and Lally said he didn’t mind losing to Tremblay. Lally drives with JORG BERGMEISTER, PATRICK LONG, JUSTIN MARKS, and RJ VALENTINE.
Lally will be back in Daytona soon, as he just was offered a ride in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series by the very small FDNY Chevrolet team, which donates all of its prize monies to the fund for NYFD firefighter’s families and children.
Three GT entries weren’t out for qualifying, but only one of them is firmed to race. The No.31 Battery Tender/MCM Racing Porsche GT3 Cup Car had mechanical problems earlier in the day. Orbit Racing had a late entry for one of its two Porsche GT3 Cup cars, and I’m told that car, No.35, will run the race and the No.34 – which didn’t qualify – will be a spare/parts car. Likewise, it’s believed that the second of the two Team Sahlen Corvettes – No.43 – wouldn’t compete in the race, and it didn’t qualify.
Coming up -Night Practice.
PHOTO BY MARK WEBER