Michael Shank Racing made a solid start to their defense of the Rolex 24 at Daytona title after finishing qualifying fourth and sixth on the grid.

Michael Valiante set the pace for the team in the #6 Ford-Riley with AJ Allmendinger lining the #60 on the outside of row 3.

“It’s all good. We’re first in class – we are the fastest Fords,” said team owner Mike Shank.”The cars are ready, we’re good for the race, and I’m pretty happy so far. We’ll go into night practice now, try to get the drivers happier with the cars. We have a good start to the weekend. It’s where we qualified last year (sixth) when we won the race so, we’re good.”

Valiante set a fastest time of 1:41.236 around the 3.56-mile circuit and will start the race before handing over to Chris Cumming, Jorge Goncalvez and Gustaco Yacaman.

“It would have been nice to be on the front row at least but we’ve kind of been dealt the cards in our hand with the rules right now in GRAND-AM,” said Valiante. “It’s a BMW 1-2-3, and so it’s a bit tough. The main thing is we’ve got a car that’s really consistent. It’s a great race car, and we’ve got a good driver line-up. We just need to be there at the end. Qualifying is more bragging rights than anything.”

A consecutive eighth Rolex 24 at Daytona start awaits AJ Allemndinger while he shares the #60 with 2012 winners John Pew, Ozz Negri and Justin Wilson while being joined by ex-V8 and NASCAR racer Marcos Ambrose.

A two hour night practice will be held later today followed by a final practice session tomorrow (Friday).

The race starts are 8.30pm Saturday in the UK and theCheckeredFlag.co.uk will be providing hourly updates and news throughout the whole of the race.