By IMSA Wire Service
BRASELTON, Ga. – Pipo Derani won the pole position for Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta – the season finale for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – and his last race with the Tequila Patron ESM team.
It was the second Motul Pole Award of 2018 for the team after also leading the field to green in Detroit back in June.
“Big thank you to my entire team,’’ Derani said after turning his fastest lap of one minute, 10.437 seconds (129.817 mph). “This place is such a difficult place to pass that it’s really important. Any race to start in front, it makes your life easier. I’ve said this before at Detroit, and here is the same. When you have the chance to start up front, it makes the entire team’s life easier. For my teammates, and for myself.
“Last year we started on the first row, P2. We managed to lead at the end of the first lap which was an amazing feeling. But today one place better. Hopefully we can capitalize on everything like we did today in qualifying and have a clean race. It’s not going to be easy, as we know. Petit is an amazing, tough race but very rewarding one if you go through it clean and have a nice race. Hopefully that’s our case tomorrow.”
Oliver Jarvis in the No. 77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPi was close on the heels of Derani as the navigated the 12-turn Road Atlanta circuit in a time of 1:10.561 (129.589 mph) and he will start next to the No. 22.
The two Prototype Class championship contenders will begin a little farther back on the grid. In a twist of fate, the two cars will start next to each other in ninth and 10th. The points-leading No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi driven by Felipe Nasr was ninth in qualifying (1:10.981, 128.882 mph), followed by Colin Braun in the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA LMP2 in 10that 1:11.071 (128.659 mph).
Edwards Earns Second Pole of Season to Lead GTLM Qualifying
John Edwards grabbed the GT Le Mans (GTLM) pole in the No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE entry just besting the championship-leading No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette entry qualified by Antonio Garcia.
Edwards, who took the pole position for the class over both of the championship challengers with a lap time of one minute 17.006 seconds (118.743 mph), was quite confident in his team’s chances at the race victory despite the season-long title to be decided elsewhere on the grid.
“I know it’s 10 hours and qualifying doesn’t really mean anything, but it still feels good,’’ said Edwards, who finished second here in 2017.
“There’s 10 hours tomorrow, so we’ll see. I’ve finished second here twice and that’s starting to get a little old. I definitely, definitely want to win this one. This is one of my favorite tracks. I still have a lot of family around here, my grandmother, I still have a bunch of cousins who live here and both my parents grew up around here. It’s not really a home race, but it feels like it with all the people that are here. It’s one of my favorite tracks and I hope we can pull of the win tomorrow night. …
“It’s good to know we have pace,’’ he added. “But as far as the couple hundredths it’s not going to make the difference to the win tomorrow, it’s going to come down to who can execute the best.’’
Garcia’s work of 1:17.030 (118.706 mph) was good for second place in class in the No. 3 Corvette gives that team an advantage in the GTLM class. Their closest challenger in the championship, the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT will start fourth in class, 18thoverall after Richard Westbrook posted a time of 1:17.220 (118.414 mph).
Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 Earns Motul Pole Award in GT Daytona (GTD)
Brazilian Daniel Serra, driving the No. 63 WeatherTech Racing Ferrari 488 GT3, took the Motul Pole Award in the GT Daytona (GTD) class, earning his third pole of the season.
Serra who earned the first two GTD poles of the year at Daytona and Sebring, recorded a lap of one minute, 19.695 seconds (114.737 mph). He held off Jack Hawksworth in the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 by the slimmest of margins. Hawksworth posted a time of 1:19.732 to narrowly miss his fifth pole of the season.
The GTD Class championship contenders will start next to one as they will battle for the title on Saturday.
Bryan Sellers qualified his Paul Miller Racing No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 fifth in class, one position better than Alvaro Parente in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3. In another razor-thin gap, Sellers’ time of 1:20.079 was just ahead of Parente’s 1:20.095.
Live television coverage of Motul Petit Le Mans begins Saturday, Oct. 13 at 10:30 a.m. ET on FS1, with continuing coverage on FS2 from 12 p.m. ET through the checkered flag. Live IMSA Radio coverage also will be available on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio (Sirius 119/XM 202/App 972).