Helio Castroneves edged out the two Mazda Motorsports entries to capture the pole position for tonight’s WeatherTech 240 at Daytona International Speedway, the return of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition after an absence of more than five months.
The session also saw the first pole position for the new Corvette C8.R in GT Le Mans, while McLaren captured its first WeatherTech Championship pole in GT Daytona.
Castroneves ran a lap of 1m34.390s before parking the No. 7 Team Penske Acura ARX-05 DPi with four minutes remaining in the 15-minute session.
“It was a little bit of a gamble,” said Castoneves after winning his fourth IMSA pole. “I could have kept pushing — I always keep pushing — but we decided to save the tires for the race. That was our strategy from the beginning, and we were able to execute.”
Qualifying was held in 88-degree heat under partly sunny skies, with the forecast thunderstorms now expected later in the afternoon — but expected to clear before the 6:10 p.m. ET scheduled starting time.
“It was so close; it’s going to be a very competitive race,” Castroneves noted. “But the race is to two hours and 40 minutes, and we have to make sure to save our times in this extreme heat – and be ready for whatever happens with the weather. We’ve got a good place to start.”
Oliver Jarvis was second in the No. 77 Mazda Motorsports Mazda DPi, a miniscule 0.032s back, followed by teammate Jonathan Bomarito, 0.064s behind in the No. 55 Mazda.
Starting on the outside of row two will be Juan Pablo Montoya, 0.142s behind in the No. 6 Acura. Ryan Briscoe was fastest of the four Cadillacs, 0.671s off the pace in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R.
Corvette Racing took 1-2 in GTLM qualifying while rival Porsche and BMW came up short in a waiting game. Oliver Gavin led the session with a lap of 1m42.251s in the No. 4 C8.R — the first pole for the new car — 0.272s better than teammate Jordan Taylor.
“It’s great to be back here racing, especially on the Fourth of July,” said Gavin, scoring his 24th IMSA pole. “Corvette Racing really embraced the time off, working on the new car. They made it more driver friendly and found a little more pace. You could see it out there today. It’s great to see the plan all coming together.
“Tonight’s race is going to be tough. It’s very hot, and we might see some weather coming at some point to spice it up.”
The Porsche GT Team sent its two cars out with 9m30s remaining in the session, while BMW Team RLL waited until the final six minutes. Both came up short of the Corvettes. Jesse Krohn will start third, 0.377s back in the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE, followed by Laurens Vanthoor, 0.378s back in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR-19.
Corey Fergus gave McLaren its first WeatherTech Championship pole by leading GTD in the No. 76 Compass Racing McLaren 720S GT3. Fergus ran 1m47.015, beating Aaron Telitz in the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 by 0.137s and Robby Foley in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport Liqui-Moly BMW M6 GT3 by 0.316s.
“A lot of amazing things happened at the same time,” Fergus said. “It was my first pole in WeatherTech Championship competition, the first GTD pole for Compass Racing and the first WeatherTech Championship pole for McLaren. It’s very special.”
UP NEXT: WeatherTech 240 At Daytona, Saturday, 6:10pm, NBCSN