Pipo Derani took down both Acura Team Penske ARX-05s with a pair of mighty laps in his Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi to score an emphatic pole for Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Detroit.
Penske’s Helio Castroneves was fastest for most of qualifying as teammate Juan Pablo Montoya shadowed his fellow Indy 500 winner in second, but the session was thrown wide open when JDC-Miller Motorsports’ Robert Alon crashed in Turn 4 with just over five minutes left.
With the Prototype field headed to pit lane under red flag conditions while Alon’s ORECA 07-Gibson was cleared, a number of drivers — including Castroneves — failed to follow IMSA’s rule requiring each car to come to a stop in its pit stall.
The session restarted with three minutes remaining, and IMSA added a few minutes to the end to ensure the minimum standard of 10 minutes of qualifying time was met as Derani put those minutes to good use while the Acuras fought back. Initially credited with second, Castroneves was demoted to third after his fastest laps were nullified by the series, and once the confusing conclusion to Prototype qualifying was over, Montoya held second (+0.719s) and Castroneves was third (+1.002s).
“Today has been a great day,” Derani told IMSA Radio. “It’s my first time on track. We had a car that was a little difficult in first practice. It was tough with traffic and not many laps to do with shorter [time]. That shows we’ve been working very hard.”
With a hard-fought win in March at the Mobile 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Derani and teammate Johannes van Overbeek will go for their second win of 2018 when the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix gets under way at 12:30 p.m. ET.
“To put it on pole here against well-known teams is very rewarding,” Derani added. “We’re showing we can go head-to-head with these guys.”
Misha Goikhberg, driving the JDC-GAINSCO ORECA 07-Gibson, was fastest among the non-DPis in fifth (+1.111s).
In a similar fashion to Derani, who was not among the favorites prior to qualifying, Paul Miller Racing’s Bryan Sellers knocked off the fastest drivers from the first and second practice sessions to score pole in the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 he shares with Madison Snow.
Sellers (1m28.942s), in the GT Daytona championship-leading car, set a new lap record on the way to the first starting spot. The Georgia native credited a chassis setup change for the supreme pace he was able to demonstrate.
“It’s really good. We’re really happy,” he said after securing PMR’s third pole in four years at Detroit. “We made a change after that second session and it really brought the car to life, which to be honest, we sat in the lounge and said OK, this change isn’t going to do a whole lot maybe just makes it a little more comfortable. But it really made the car a lot more driveable. To be honest in that second session were really worried.
“Madison did a great job in the second session and I just had a really hard time getting his pace but it worked out. This time you know it really helps when you get to roll out first, you get clean track you get that built into it the way you want it build into it and not force any other deals. One checkmark done. Now the big one remains.”
Sellers was followed by Katherine Legge (+0.448s), whose Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 holds second in the GTD standings, and the sister MSR Acura driven by Justin Marks was third (+0.775s).
Legge, the defending GTD class winner at Detroit with Andy Lally, will share her car with Mario Farnbacher as they look to challenge Sellers and Snow for the win and points lead.