Pole and extended run out front as GTP category debuts at Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (28 Jan. 2023) – Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) got off to a strong start in the opening hours of the 61st Running of the Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona which saw Tom Blomqvist take the lead in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 LMDh after starting from pole position. After nearly nine hour of racing, the MSR Acura has led 117 laps as the 24 hour classic heads into the overnight hours.
Blomqvist led the opening 61 circuits, and quickly extended his lead early on. Two hours later, Braun took over and maintained the lead, pacing 40 circuits during a lengthy two-and-a-half hour stint into dusk – all run on one set of tires. Braun made a impressive debut during his first stint onboard the MSR Acura, taking an offensive approach maneuvering through traffic as he set the pace up front.
After the team made quick work of a precautionary change of the rear wing, Braun was able to turn the car over to Simon Pagenaud from the lead. The 2023 Rolex features a number of firsts, including the first-ever deployment of two new Michelin tire compounds combined with a reduced tire allotment, making tire conservation key. Pagenaud led twice for 13 laps as he explored what kind of grip was on offer as the race has featured extensive green flag running.
Helio Castroneves took over near the sixth hour, and ran in podium contention until a caution waved. Running second on the restart, Castroneves made a bid for the lead entering Turn 1 on cold tires. His move came up short as a rear end lock up sent him for a quick spin. While the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner avoided contact, the spin forced an extra stop in pit lane for a fresh set of Michelin tires.
Castroneves charged back through the field and got back to second before pitting seven-and-a-half hours into the race, giving the Acura back to Blomqvist running sixth with plenty of racing remaining.
The conditions continue to be favorable, in a stark contrast to the frigid overnight temperatures that greeted the teams and drivers in the 2022 edition of the race. The field will continue to race through the night until the 7:14 am sunrise, which will signal just over six hours of racing to go to the finish.
Meyer Shank Racing 2023 Rolex 24 At Daytona Opening stint Quotes:
“That was my longest time in the car since we got it. We’re driving it into the unknown now. We’ve done everything we can. We know it’s a strong, fast car, but there are so many things to learn it almost feels like we’re winging it. It’s a constant learning curve, for both me as a driver but for the whole team. We’ve had a good start to the race, but there’s a lot of race to go and anything can happen.”
“We know we have a fast car, so for us, it was more about leaning about how the car will be for the end of the race than anything else. We have a lot of tools in the Acura to work with and switches to play with. We’re trying to learn early on how long the tires will hang on and about the deg. I did a two-and-a-half stint on one set of tires, and it was dicey my last 10 laps, I was just hanging on. It was pretty wild racing out there.”
“The car feels strong in mechanically. It’s going really well and the team is doing a great job with strategy. We’ve got a pretty good pace as well, so it’s nice to be in this situation. Very strong under braking, very strong on the straightaway, very strong mid-corner, so it was quite easy to drive. It’s obviously early still, but I’m very happy to see the performance of the Acura and how far it has come since this car was born.”
“That was a wild ride. I just got caught up in the moment and I’m not sure what happened. It locked the rear so unexpectedly. Certainly, the car is fast. There’s a lot of traffic – it was very, very difficult. The Acura has good pace so far and we are learning a lot in a short time. We need to be smart with the tires because it can be tricky in the first part of the stint and you have to be thinking all the time about what they will be like in the end. But it’s a good start so far!”