With the sun setting and the track entirely in shadow by the end of the qualifying session, the times set by the DPi cars in qualifying for the 24th Petit Le Mans kept dropping. Felipe Nasr was the first to set a time in the 1m08s with a lap of 1m08.816s. Dan Cameron was next with 1m08.920s in the No. 60 Mike Shank Racing Acura, and then Harry Tincknell in the No. 55 Mazda. But Nasr had just a little bit left, knocking a tad more than a tenth off his previous best time on his eighth lap to put the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac that he’ll share with full-time partner Pipo Derani and Mike Conway on pole for tomorrow’s race.
“There’s so much on the line and you just want to deliver,” Nasr said. “I had a lot of fun, it’s a great car to drive — the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac was awesome. It was all about getting the tires in the window, bringing them up, and nailing the lap. I don’t think I had anything left in the car.”
As important as Nasr’s pole was in the championship fight was where Filipe Albuquerque qualified — seventh and last in the DPi field, 0.65s behind Nasr. Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor have a negligible lead in the championship, only eight points after qualifying. The No. 31 has had pace on the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura driven by Albuquerque, Derani and Alexander Rossi, all weekend. The gap in qualifying isn’t a good sign for them for tomorrow’s race, where whichever car finishes in front earns the title for its full-time drivers. The last time Nasr earned pole at Road Atlanta, in 2019, he, Derani and Eric Curran won the race.
Tincknell will start alongside Nasr for the Mazda’s last race, having set a time only 0.015s slower in the car he’ll share with Jonathan Bomarito and Oliver Jarvis. The No. 5 Mustang Sampling/JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac of Sebastien Bourdais, Tristan Vautier and Loic Duval will be on the inside of the second row, courtesy of Bourdais, with the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac of Kevin Magnussen (qualifying driver), Renger van der Zande and Scott Dixon alongside.
Ben Keating only has to start the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA he’s sharing with Mikkel Jensen and Scott Huffaker for he and Jensen to claim the LMP2 title, but nevertheless he put it on pole with the intention of winning tomorrow, having a fine adventure along the way.
“On my first flyer, I came up on Turn 2, right at the top of the hill, right as the sun was directly in your eyes and I could not see Turn 3, which has a big curb,” Keating explained. “I had to guess where to turn in, and I guessed a little bit too early. I hit the curb at Turn 3 and launched myself into the grass across the track, spun around, I think I collected a sign. But luckily I downshifted as I was spinning around and I was pointed in the right direction and I got going again.”
Indeed he did, dropping time almost every lap thereafter, running a best lap of 1m12.229s, 0.354s quicker than the No. 11 WIN Autosport ORECA of Steven Thomas (qualifier), Tristan Nunez and Thomas Merrill, on his final flyer.
“Every time I went around thinking I had done everything I could do, the crew was on the radio telling me someone was going faster behind me and I needed to find a little more,” he said. “The last lap was the lap where I ended up doing my quick lap, and it was a couple of tenths quicker than anything I had done before. It was a challenge to myself to go out there and find another tenth or two … I’m confident I’ve never been through Turn 1 at Road Atlanta faster than I just did. That was an adrenaline rush.”
Niklas Kruetten claimed the LMP3 pole, turning a 1m15.664s in his first time at what the German claims is his new favorite track. Kruetten will start on the LMP3 pole in the No. 2 United Autosports USA Ligier he’s sharing with Tom Gamble and Andrew Meyrick. Rasmus Lindh held the fast time for a good bit of the session in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier until Kruetten pipped him by only 0.086s. There was a big 1.4s gap to the third-place qualifier, Jarett Andretti in the No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier.
Jesse Krohn hadn’t yet topped a time sheet this weekend, then he put the No. 24 BMW Team RLL M8 on the final GTLM pole with a 1m15.226s lap, beating Matt Campbell in the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR by a substantial 0.512s.
“I knew it was going to be the last qualifying for this car,” said Krohn. “This beast with low fuel and new tires is just a blast, so I was just going out and having fun and seeing where we end up.”
Fred Mackowiecki had been quick all week in the second WeatherTech Racing Porsche, but couldn’t closer than 0.778s to Krohn and will start on the outside of the second GT row, next to the No. 3 Corvette C8.R of Antonio Garcia.
Madison Snow managed to nip the GTD pole by the smallest margin possible, 0.001s, turning a 1m19.272s to beat Benja Hites in the NTE Sport Audi and earn the most poles of the season. Nabbing the pole does have championship implications for the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan driver, as he and Bryan Sellers sit 50 points behind the Pfaff Racing duo of Laurens Vanthoor and Zachary Robichon. The No. 9 Pfaff 911 will start eighth tomorrow.
“I mean, you tell me it’s so close on timing and scoring and I haven’t looked at it,” said Snow. “But it’s funny because in the car that doesn’t make any difference. That’s nothing, but at the same time, I can’t tell you anything I would have changed if I had been the guy in second to go a thousandth of a second faster. You know, it’s identical.”
In the second GTD qualifying session, where the pro drivers went for points only, Jack Hawksworth got the fast time with a 1m18.843s in the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F, but the car was underweight and will start at the back. That put Sellers in the No. 1 Huracan at the top, with Vanthoor fifth in class. That is only a nine-point swing, not enough to affect the position that Paul Miller Racing would have to finish ahead of Pfaff Motorsport to claim the championship.
UP NEXT: The Motul Petit Le Mans field will have a 20-minute warm-up session at 9:15 a.m. ET tomorrow before they grid up for the final WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race of the season. The 10-hour race is set for a green flag at 12:10 p.m. ET.