By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
LEXINGTON, Ohio– The GT Le Mans and GT Daytona class pole position battles came down to a fight for optimal track conditions and Sebastien Bourdais and Richard Heistand played that game perfectly to earn pole positions for their respective classes ahead of Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Bourdais piloted his No. 66 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT around to a fastest lap of 1 minute, 19.124 seconds around the 2.258 mile permanent road course to average 102.734 mph, beating Laurens Vanthoor’s No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR by just .275 seconds.
When the GTLM field took to the track, it was later in the morning. The GTD cars were able to give the track a small amount of rubber and temperature after the track lost some grip in the morning with a light misting.
“It was getting sketchy,” said Bourdais. “We didn’t know if it was going to be full dry or a little wet, the tire pressures got a little high at the end and it was sketchy. It was super high commitment and a lot of aggressiveness behind the wheel. I’ve rarely successfully hustled a car around like that so I’m really pretty happy for the guys and I guess I wasn’t really expecting that but I’m pretty happy with the result.”
The Frenchman has raced eight times at Mid-Ohio in open wheel cars with a best finish of second in 2014 and has a lot of experience to draw from dating back to his first race at Mid-Ohio in 2003. However, there have been some big differences between racing the Indy car and racing the sports car at the same track.
“As much as I’ve had to push that thing around and drift it and everything but it’s funny, the grip situation here is really really low and it’s very very strange,” said Bourdais. “The gap to the Indy car is much higher here than it usually is at other places so it’s really catching you by surprise and you’ve really got to accept a lot of movement from the car, especially on the soft tires which really is the only thing you can run right now with the temperatures we’re getting. I’ve seen low grip here but that’s to the point right there.”
The Lexus RC F GT3 dominated Mid-Ohio last year and are starting their weekend off the same way with Heistand’s No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan entry turning a fastest lap of 1 minute, 24.281 seconds to average 96.448 mph ahead of Ben Keating’s No. 33 Mercedes AMG GT3 entry.
Lexus scored their debut win in IMSA competition last year and led the second Friday practice session. The session started in slightly damp conditions but with no rain during the session, the track dried out and times dropped during the session.
“The lap was good, I think that the car is suited to this track,” said Heistand. “I also think that the drying conditions played into our hands as well. We have a car that turns on our tires very quickly. That’s something that hurts us at some places in certain conditions but here it helped and the combination of the car being good here and the drying condition on slick tires, I think it was a perfect scenario for us.”
A total of .902 seconds separated the first and last placed cars in GTLM while there was over a seven second gap from first to the penultimate car in GTD. Last in the GTD class was the Park Place Motorsports Porsche. The No. 73 entry never turned an official lap after receiving a penalty for causing a red flag in qualifying.
The Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio will start Sunday at 1:40 pm ET.