In fact, Benz’s handsome coupes will occupy the first four positions on the grid, since Fabian Schiller of SunEnergy1 Racing and Mikael Grenier of Team Korthoff Motorsports were second and third fastest.
Ellis, who took pole by 0.219sec, told NBC Sports: “We just hope to keep the momentum we had from the end of last year. The first half of last season was a bit of a struggle, but everybody kept their heads up and we knew what the team could do.
“It’s good to be back and start off strong, we won the quali race here last year and [won the Rolex 24] in 2021, so it’s not unfamiliar territory.”
Ellis played down the fact that his GTD car was almost seven-tenths of a second faster than Engel’s GTD Pro machine.
“It’s the same car, so it’s nice to be in front,” he said, “but it doesn’t mean much for a 24-hour race. We only have to be the leading car for the last minute. It’s nice for the team especially.”
Engel, who beat the next GTD Pro car – Ross Gunn’s Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage – by a mere 0.041sec, said: “Putting the car on pole is definitely a good start to the Rolex 24. We missed some practice time, but we showed well in practice last night and had a good run in qualifying.
“The car was really good in the session. I was able to get a little faster each lap. As you can see the GTD Pro field is very close, so we are looking forward to a good race next weekend.”
His teammates were left impressed by Engel’s efforts.
“We wanted to show what the car could do and Maro went fast,” said Cooper MacNeil. “The WeatherTech Racing/Proton Competition crew has not had it easy the last two days but were able to get everything adjusted, so the pole is a nice reward for them too.”
Said Jules Gounon: “Amazing. We were able to fix our issues. We had a fuel leak that we were able to fix, or we may have lost our baby.
“Being on pole is great. We have some early points – that always helps. The WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 on pole is great and a great way to start the season.”
Daniel Juncadella commented: “I am sure many things will change by next weekend but starting on the pole is always great. I have had some good laps in the car.
“I love being back in the USA and racing. We have a very good baseline for the race.”