It will be an all-Acura front row for the start of tomorrow’s Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Ricky Taylor will start the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura he shares with Filipe Albuquerque on pole for the 2h40m race — the fourth round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship — with Oliver Jarvis in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb Agajanian Acura alongside.
The WTR car — the defending Laguna Seca winners — rolled off the truck fast and Taylor has set the quickest time in each session. While Taylor went faster in qualifying, with a new record of 1m13.924s around the 2.238-mile, 11-turn circuit, so did the others. The top three were within a tenth-and-a-half, with Jarvis only 0.089s off the pole time. Alex Lynn was the surprise in the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Cadillac, nearly making it on the front row with a 1m14072s lap. Sebastien Bourdais will start alongside Lynn in the other CGR Cadillac.
“Every session has been creeping closer and closer and closer,” said Taylor. “So as long as they don’t get any closer, I think we’ll be happy. We placed a lot of emphasis on qualifying, so to get the pole is satisfying, but there’s no room for anything else and and the race will be a completely separate story with Laguna Seca requiring a lot of front grip in qualifying and then needing really good rear tire degradation for the race. It’s going to prove that different cars will be competitive tomorrow. The one thing we have in our favor is that we have track position. It’s hard to overtake here so we will always take that.”
Stephen Thomas and Patrick Kelly, in the Nos. 11 and 52 PR1 Mathiasen ORECAs, respectively, traded fast laps during the qualifying session, with Thomas eventually claiming the LMP2 pole with a 1m17.571s lap; Kelly 0.057s behind.
“My teammate is fantastic,” declared Thomas. “He’s actually got a lot more racing experience than me. He helped me, so I expected him to be right there. In the last practice, Henrik Hedman was, I think, within a tenth of me. I think I was fastest both practices, but it was narrow margin, so I thought it was gonna be a shootout which is a ton of fun.”
Hedman ended up third quickest in the No. 81 DragonSpeed ORECA with a 1m18.267s lap. Dennis Anderson will compete the second row of LMP2s in the No. 20 High Class Racing car.
Mathieu Jaminet came out late in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R GTD PRO car, but it paid off. Jaminet turned a 1m23.142s lap, seven-tenths quicker than last year’s GTD qualifying record, to claim the pole.
“We stayed a few minutes in the box for a little bit of track evolution just to see how it’s going out there and to find a nice gap,” he explained “It was maybe smarter to to leave a little bit later. We knew we could turn on the tires quite quickly; this is exactly what happened and then I put in my best lap of the weekend at the right time. No mistakes; really nailed it. The car was spot on today so I hope we’re gonna continue like this tomorrow.”
If the Porsche can get the tires working quickly, though, what does that say about possible degradation during the race for Jaminet and Matt Campbell?
“This is what we are a little bit worried [about]. Maybe…it turns on the tire so quick and then maybe we can have more deg. That’s the big question mark and the key for tomorrow, but what we have seen so far in practices is a lot of the degradation, but this seems pretty much the same for everybody in the field, so hopefully starting at the front will help us to control the pace and manage the tires,” Jaminet added.
Daniel Juncadella, in his first visit to Laguna Seca, was sitting at the top of GTD PRO until Jaminet pipped him. Juncadella had been quick from the get-go in the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG and will start outside the front row for the split GT start after a 1m23.142s lap, 0.022s off the pole. Alex Riberas put the No. 23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage on the inside of the second row, another 0.204s back.
Russell Ward came on strong late in the session, with a 1m23.567 in the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMGand put it on the outside of the second row, the fastest of the GTD field.
“Looking at the practice times, we didn’t expect to be this high up in qualifying,” Ward said. “We were really good over the distance and that’s kind of what we’re going for. In the past when I’ve raced here, it doesn’t help you to push and pull a gap. You just need to maintain a good average and have the car there at the end because once you start sliding around here, people just overtake you. The goal for us [is to] keep it clean and keep the tires under us and then put Philip [Ellis] in the car and see if he can bring it home in the position that I started.”
John Edwards was the fourth-quickest GTD Pro qualifier in the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M4 GT3, starting inside the third row. Jaden Conwright will start the No. 42 NTE/SSR Lamborghini Huracan outside Edwards after dropping to 1m23.77s at the checker. Robby Foley in the No. 96 Turner Motorsports BMW and Roman De Angelis in the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin make up the fourth row of the GT field. The top eight cars were all under the previous qualifying record.
Next Up: Warmup at 11 a.m. Eastern followed by the 2h40m Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship race starting at 3 p.m. Eastern and broadcast on NBC.