Brazilian Felipe Nasr has secured his drive in the 50th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona after clinching the Sunoco Rolex 24 at Daytona Challenge.
The Carlin driver only needed 12 points to seal the Challenge title after a dominant season, and his best time in qualifying was enough of 20 points – putting him out of reach of British Endurance Championship racer Javier Morcillo, the best of the rest.
Nasr waited until the final ten minutes of the half hour session at Donington Park to set the fastest time (1:23.012) and take pole position away from Carlin teammate Jack Harvey.
This is the first time in three years of competition that the Sunoco Challenge has been won before the final weekend of racing for the eligible series. Daniel Ricciardo missed out by just two points in the inaugural Challenge in 2009 and last year Jean-Eric Vergne lost out to Radical racer Ross Kaiser.
“From the start of the Sunoco Daytona Challenge the feeling amongst F3 drivers has been that they will not be able to win due to the fierce competition, within the class, resulting in that F3 drivers are 'stealing' points from each other,” said Anders Hildebrand, MD of Anglo American Oil Company. “However, Daniel Ricciardo in 2009 and Jean-Eric Vergne in 2010 came very close to winning the most wanted race seat but lost out at their last race. Now it's third time lucky and we are delighted that we will have the current British F3 Champion, Felipe Nasr, racing in the 50th anniversary of the famous endurance race against stars such as Juan Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti and Jimmie Johnson…..what an experience!”
“It's a great opportunity I'm receiving from Sunoco,” Nasr told The Checkered Flag. “It's going to be a new experience for me, who knows in the future, obviously it's my first target to get to Formula One but maybe afterwards America can be an opportunity, so it's good to get a feeling now.”
“It makes you think a little bit more during the race,” he added when asked about how racing for the Challenge has affected him during the season. “I think I did my best, not think about the points but I know if I get the results for the championship and Sunoco I knew I'd be doing well in both of them. At one stage you think I should get pole position, but that is another 20 points for the challenge, sometimes on the track you think you should go for the fastest lap and that's more extra points for the challenge and another point for the championship.”
In a career that has taken him up the single seater ladder the Rolex 24 will be Nasr's first taste of serious sportscar racing, and of racing in America – something he admits could be a option, though he remains focussed on progressing into F1.
The next step in the build-up to the Rolex 24 for Felipe is a two day test with Daytona Prototype team at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama on October 17-18.
There follows two day's testing at Daytona in December before returning there in the new year, first for the Roar Before the 24 before returning to Daytona International Speedway at the end of January for the Rolex 24 itself.