The Russians are coming!
The Russians are coming!
Actually – they are not coming – they are already here….and they are fast!
The Russian SMP Racing Nissan-powered BR01 prototype will lead the field to the green flag for today’s running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
IndyCar racer Mikhail Aleshin starred in the wet qualifying – taking the team to the fastest overall prototype time ahead of the fancied Daytona Prototype stars and P2-style entries from Michael Shank Racing, PatrÃ³n Racing ESM and Mazda.
The result for Aleshin marked an amazing comeback for the racer who was seriously injured in an IndyCar crash at the end of 2014. He made his sportscar debut last year and contested the last IndyCar race of last year. He is due to return to the series full time in 2016.
Aleshin will be joined in the race by fellow Russian Krill Ladygin, former factory Peugeot LM P1 driver Nic Minassian and Italian Maurizio Mediani.
“The car I’m driving is a Russian made car and brand new since 2015,” Aleshin said.
“I was one of the drivers who developed the car last year. The start was very difficult during last season. We were on the podium a few times on the ELMS, to be on the pole in the Daytona 24 hours is a great feeling.”
Despite topping the Prototype times, Aleshin wasn’t the overall fastest – seven GTLM cars led by Porsche’s Nick Tandy and the PC car of Johnny Mowlem actually went faster in wet conditions on Thursday.
“It’s a great result for all of us because we have been working on the car. It’s great for the whole family. It’s a funny situation because we are driving different tires than the GTs. And the prototypes are all slower because of that,” he said.
“In these conditions we are, obviously, thats why the time difference is so big. Beside that, at the end of the session, the track conditions became worse and it started to rain more. I almost hit the wall a couple of times on my fastest lap. Surprising for myself, I managed to stay on track and first in class.”
Aleshin is set to become a regular visitor again to the US during 2016.
“In the whole year in 2015 I was racing in ELMS, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the final race in the WEC with the BR01,” he said.
“At the end of August I was in the final race of IndyCar when I finished P10 on a brand new aerokit and lots of new things in the car. Beside this race, I will take part in whole IndyCar season. The IndyCar series is one of the greatest series in the world, and I’m very happy to be back.”
But before the IndyCar season kicks off in St Petersburg, Russian fans will have their eyes on Daytona today. Many are glad they stayed up late on Thursday night to watch the IMSA qualifying live stream.
“For sure, we have a lot of fans for our team and they are looking after us. A lot of them were not sleeping on Thursday,” Aleshin said.
“The difference is a lot, maybe two or three in the morning. I’m sure they are very happy.
“Race day is another day, we now focus on all the preparation for the race, to make sure we have the good setup to do all of the Daytona 24 hours. It’s not going to be an easy race. It’s one of the most difficult races in the world. It should be a tough fight, but I think we’re ready for it.”