By IMSA Wire Service
BRASELTON, Ga. – Felipe Nasr rocketed to the top of a record-setting qualifying session Friday at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, collecting his first Motul Pole Award in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition and earning the prime starting spot for the 22nd annual Motul Petit Le Mans.
Piloting the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac, Nasr shattered by nearly two seconds the lap record set a year ago by co-driver Pipo Derani, to take the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) and overall pole positions. Nasr sped around the 12-turn, 2.54-mile Michelin Raceway road course in one minute, 8.457 seconds (133.573 mph) to nail down his maiden pole position in his second season in the series.
“Finally! It’s great to get a pole position, after all I’ve spent, what, two years in the series,” Nasr said. “I’ve been close a few times, but never got the job done. It’s a nice place to do it here at Road Atlanta.
“I have to say I was pretty happy with the lap. … I felt pretty confident going into qualifying because I knew the car I had on my hands. I worked with my engineer on the final details and I think it paid off.”
The effort also kept alive the No. 31’s hopes to repeat as DPi champions. Nasr, Derani and third driver Eric Curran must win Saturday’s iconic 10-hour race and have the No. 6 Acura Team Penske DPi finish ninth or worse to complete the back-to-back feat.
“Action Express has done an amazing job to get our Whelen car up front, but I feel like we have a winning package all around,” Nasr said. “It’s the final race of the season, so I want to go for the victory. The boys are in the same spirit as well, so we all want to get the job done and race smart.”
Dane Cameron qualified the No. 6 Acura in fourth position with a lap of 1:08.802 (132.902 mph), during an amazing session that saw all but one of the 11 DPi entries eclipse Derani’s 2018 lap record of 1:10.437. Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya clinch the DPi championship with a finish of eighth place or better on Saturday, no matter what the No. 31 does. Reigning Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud fills out the No. 6 driver lineup for Saturday.
The top five qualifiers Friday were covered by a blanket, all separated by less than four-tenths of a second. Ricky Taylor, Cameron’s teammate in the No. 7 Acura Team Penske, was second at 1:08.598 (133.297 mph). Joao Barbosa, Nasr’s Action Express teammate in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac, was third at 1:08.629 (133.237 mph). Timo Bernhard took fifth in the No. 77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda at 1:08.847 (132.815 mph).
Mason Earns LMP2 Second Consecutive LMP2 Pole
In Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) qualifying, both entries blasted the 2-year-old lap record by nearly six seconds. Kyle Masson put the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA on the LMP2 pole with a lap of 1:10.722 (129.294 mph). Matthew McMurry was close behind in the No. 52 PRI Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA at 1:10.853 (129.055 mph).
McMurry will win the LMP2 driver’s title and the No. 52 will take the team crown by starting Saturday’s race.
“It was a really competitive qualifying,” said Masson, who will share the No. 38 with Cameron Cassels and Andrew Evans in the race. “Matt (McMurry) did a great job putting down a time. When I heard his position in front of me on our third lap out, I knew I had to put it down. But (1:10)-something for the LMP2 cars, especially with the added weight and the BOP, it was about all I had. I was really happy with it.”
Risi Competizione Ferrari Celebrates Return with Pole-Winning Effort in GTLM
The familiar No. 62 red Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT3 has returned to IMSA and the Motul Petit Le Mans for the final race of the year and marked that reappearance with a bang by winning the GT Le Mans (GTLM) pole.
James Calado piloted the car to a lap of one minute, 15.639 seconds (120.889 mph) Friday to earn his
first WeatherTech Championship pole. The time broke the old mark of 1:17.006 set by BMW’s John Edwards last year.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Calado said. “It is so nice to come into the box and see the team’s spirit lifted and the emotion on everyone’s faces. So this is what’s important in going forward and winning races.”
While he easily set a record, Calado mentioned it wasn’t the best he could have done.
“The line wasn’t perfect,” he added. “I lost half a tenth (of a second) in the last corner but it was good enough for P1. It was extremely close and all manufacturers are pushing hard. It wasn’t easy out there. The track is difficult. We are confident the car is good and ready to go.”
To demonstrate how close the qualifying session was, all nine cars in the class broke the old mark set by Edwards last year. The top five cars were each from a different manufacturer and separated by just .217 seconds.
The No. 3 Corvette driven by Antonio Garcia initially qualified second with a time of 1:15.702 (120.789 mph) but was moved to the rear of the GTLM grid when its rear wing was found out of compliance during post-qualifying inspection.
Philipp Eng in the No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE held the fastest lap for a few minutes midway through the session, but finished second in the revised GTLM order with a time of 1:15.784 (120.658 mph). The class-leading No. 912 Porsche GT Team qualified third as Laurens Vanthoor recorded a lap of 1:15.842 (120.566 mph). Joey Hand was fourth in the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT at 1:15.856 (120.543 mph).
Vanthoor and co-driver Earl Bamber have a 12-point advantage in the GTLM driver and team standings over No. 911 teammates Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet going into Saturday’s race.
Lewis Claims GTD Pole in No. 48 Lamborghini after Feller’s Laps in No. 29 Audi Disallowed
Corey Lewis put the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 on the GT Daytona (GTD) pole for the second consecutive WeatherTech Championship race, setting a class lap record in qualifying Friday at Michelin Raceway.
Lewis circulated the 2.54-mile, 12-turn road course in one minute, 19.530 seconds (114.975 mph) to earn the top GTD starting position for Saturday’s 10-hour season finale. The old GTD track record was 1:19.695 set last year by Daniel Serra in a Ferrari 488 GT3.
Friday’s qualifying session was extended due to a red flag caused when Robby Foley went off course in Turn 10 and his No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M8 GT3 became stuck in the gravel trap. No driver had turned a complete lap when the red waved and the No. 96 didn’t return to the track after being carried to the paddock on a flatbed truck.
When qualifying resumed, Ricky Feller posted a sizzling lap of 1:19.185 in the No. 29 Montplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 that would have been good for pole by nearly four-tenths of a second. But all of Feller’s laps, as well as those posted by Shinya Michimi in the No. 47 Precision Performance Motorsports Lamborghini, were disallowed because their crews touched the cars during the red-flag stoppage.
Lewis was happy to accept the lap record anyway, on the heels of the pole and race win he and Bryan Sellers collected last month at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
“It’s special,” Lewis said of the Michelin Raceway GTD lap record. “I didn’t know it until I just got up here, so that’s pretty cool. So to have your name in the record books for qualifying is special for sure. It’s a nice little feather in the cap.”
Lewis also believes the No. 48, with Marco Seefried as the third driver this weekend, has a leg up for the race since Michelin Raceway is the team’s home track.
“We’re based here in Atlanta,” Lewis said. “We’ve done, over the years, a fair amount of testing here. We have a good grip on the track.
“Coming here to Road Atlanta, it’s strong suit for the team. … We have a long way to go tomorrow, but starting on the front row certainly doesn’t hurt.”
With the fallout from the penalties, Ben Keating advanced to second in class with a lap of 1:19.665 (114.780 mph) in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMY Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3. Jeff Westphal qualified third in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 at 1:19.721 (114.699 mph).
Justin Marks put the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 in fourth with a lap of 1:19.820 (114.557 mph). Mario Farnbacher and Trent Hindman, Marks’ co-drivers, can clinch the GTD driver and team championships when the car starts the race on Saturday.
Lamborghini holds the slimmest of margins, one point, over Acura in the GTD manufacturer battle.
All that remains on the 2019 WeatherTech Championship schedule is a 20-minute warmup starting at 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday, followed by the race. NBC Sports has complete coverage, starting at noon ET Saturday on NBC network with the green flag expected at approximately 12:10 p.m. ET.
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