Level 5 Motorsports will start the 52nd annual Rolex 24 At Daytona from inside the top-10 of the highly competitive GT Daytona (GTD) class, following solid qualifying runs for both of its Ferrari 458 Italia GT3s Thursday at the “World Center of Racing.” This weekend’s around-the-clock marathon kicks off the brand-new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and is also the first round for the new Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.
Townsend Bell took the No. 555 Revo-sponsored Ferrari to a best lap of 1:47.062 to qualify 6th in the GTD class. Bell’s time was less than one-tenth of a second slower than the pole-sitting car, showing the strength of the new production-based class, which makes its highly anticipated debut.
“We’ve got an excellent car,” said Bell. “The Ferrari feels just amazing. I just did a few laps and put a time in. We’ll save our tires for the start of the race and save our car and focus on the longest race there is. I’m really pleased with where we sit right now. The lap time seems to come pretty easy for us. Hopefully that carries into the race.”
Level 5’s No. 556 Ferrari will start 8th in the 29-car class, thanks to a 1:47.348 lap time set by Terry Borcheller. The three-time Rolex 24 champion, who also set the car’s quickest time at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test earlier this month, was pleased with the effort despite having gotten limited running time in this morning’s chilly practice session.
“We were chasing the track a little bit with the temperatures this morning, as cold as it was,” said Borcheller. “Everybody was trying to figure out if it was the setup or the temperature of the tire. But when push came to shove, our Level 5 guys put it together at the right time and we had the best car for the race weekend so far and that’s all you could ask for. They did a good job.”
Borcheller will share driving duties of the No. 556 Ferrari with Scott Tucker, Guy Cosmo, Milo Valverde and Mike LaMarra. Borcheller and LaMarra step up to the GTD class after winning the 2013 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge (CTSCC) Street Tuner (ST) championship and will also be participating in Friday’s BMW Performance 200, which opens this year’s CTSCC season.
“It’s been good,” said LaMarra. “The extra laps and seat time is always good. It’s been a little bit of an adjustment going from an ST car to a GTD car but I’m getting more familiar to it, so I’m looking forward to some night practice this evening. It will be my first 24-hour race and I’ve learned so many things from Terry already, obviously with the car and some of the strategy and how it works. It’s really great.”
A veteran of seven Rolex 24 starts, Segal, who completes the driver lineup of Level 5’s No. 555 car with Tucker, Bell, Bill Sweedler and Alessandro Pier Guidi, feels this year’s race will be tougher than ever, with proof of that coming in Thursday’s hard-fought qualifying session.
“I think everybody knew GTD was going to be really closely contested. I don’t think anybody thought it would be this close,” said Segal. “There’s six cars that are within one-tenth at the front; it’s pretty crazy. I think the race is going to be just as crazy. We had a bit of rough morning and rebounded nicely in the second practice. Townsend did a great job in qualifying. Now we’re just working on protecting the car. This race is going to be crazier than the 24 in years’ past. There will be more traffic, more closing speeds and more mayhem. We’re hoping to stay out of it and be there at the end.”
Final practice is set for Friday Jan. 24 at 11:30 a.m., with the 52nd annual Rolex 24 at Daytona taking the green flag on Sat. Jan 25 at 2:10 p.m. ET. Live TV coverage will be available on the FOX family of networks, with the race also being carried live on MRN Radio.