Keeping his slim IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship hopes alive, Felipe Nasr broke the Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta track record to put the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R on the pole for Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans.
Nasr turned a fast lap of 1m08.457s, backing up the team’s performance that saw the red-and-white car lead three of the four practice sessions.
“This is my first IMSA pole,” Nasr said “I’ve been close, but never got the job done. It’s great to have one for the final race of the year.”
Nasr and teammate Pipo Derani enter the finale trailing Acura Team Penske drivers Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya by 12 points. The duo – joined by Eric Curran – trail in the Michelin Endurance Cup by only two points to Wayne Taylor Racing drivers Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande. They are seeking their second-consecutive Endurance Cup – which would be a perfect six straight for Action Express Racing since sports car racing’s unification in 2014.
“We want to win the Endurance Cup – it’s big,” Nasr said. “Our chances for the overall championship are quite slim, so we want to maximize every stage of the race tomorrow, and then go for the victory.”
Ricky Taylor put Acura Team Penske on the outside of the front row, +0.141s in the No. 7 Acura ARX-05.
Both front row starters will line up ahead of their teammates. Filipe Albuquerque starts third, +0.172s in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac, flanked by Cameron, +0.345s in the points-leading Acura.
Mazda swept the third row. Timo Bernhard was fifth, +0.390s in the No. 77 Team Joest RT-24P, joined by Jarry Tincknell, +0.747s in the No. 55 Mazda.
Kyle Masson captured his fourth IMSA pole, running 1m10.722s in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA Gibson.
As usual, qualifying was tight between the only two entries in the class. Matt McMurry missed the pole by 0.131s in the back-and-forth session in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA.
In GTLM Risi Competizione dusted off the No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE – which hadn’t raced since the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona – and James Calado put it on the pole in its return. Joined by his Le Mans 24 Hour class-winning teammates Daniel Serra and Alessandro Pier Guidi, Calado’s best lap was 1m15.639s.
“The lap wasn’t perfect, I lost half a tenth in the last corner but it was good enough for P1,” Calado said. “It was extremely close. All manufacturers are pushing hard. That wasn’t easy. The track is really, really difficult. But this makes up a little bit for Daytona, finishing second just behind the BMW. It’s a long race tomorrow. This is just one lap out of the many we have in 10 hours.”
The five different manufacturers were represented in the top five positions.
Antonio Garcia was second in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R, +.0063s; Philipp Eng was third, +0.145s in the No. 24 Team RLL BMW M8 GTLM; Laurens Vanthoor took fourth in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR; and Joey Hand was fifth, +0.217s in the No. 66 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT.
Corey Lewis led an extended GTD session, running 1m19.530s in the No. 48 Paul Miller Motorsports 1st Phorm Lamborghini Huracan GT3. That car was rebuilt following an incident in Friday’s opening practice.
“Hats off to the entire Paul Miller Racing organization,” Lewis said after winning his second IMSA pole in track-record time. “They worked their butts off to get this car ready. In motorsports, accidents happen. The hours these guys put in to get us back out to night practice. I guess this is a great way to repay them for all the hard work. We have a long day to go tomorrow. But we’re starting on the front row so it doesn’t matter.”
Ben Keating, was second, +0.480s in the No. 33 Wynns Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, followed by Jeff Westphal, +0.191s in the No. 93 Scuderia Corsa WeatherTech Ferrari 488 GT3.
Justin Marks qualifying fourth, +.0290s in the championship-leading No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3.
An incident only two minutes into the session resulted in a lengthy red flag. Robby Foley drove into the Turn 10 gravel trap in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3. IMSA officials added four minutes to meet the 10-minute minimum green-flag time.
Ricky Feller originally topped the time charts in the No. 29 Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3, 1m19.578s. However, his time was disallowed due to the team working on the car during the red-flag stoppage.
UP NEXT: Saturday opens with a 20-minute warm-up at 9:30 a.m., with the 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans set to start at 12:05 p.m.