In a qualifying session delayed by nearby lightning strikes and slightly affected by light showers on parts of the track, Sebastien Bourdais was absolutely unfazed, putting in a time a hair quicker than in this morning’s practice session to claim pole for Sunday’s fifth round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the 2h40m Lexus Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio. Bourdais surprised the field by putting his No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac in first with a 1m10.439s, 115.40mph lap at a track where Acura has historically dominated. It’s Bourdais’s third pole of the season.
“It was dry, but as we started the session it started drizzling pretty good,” said Bourdais. “It’s never a great feeling, because you’re sending it and you never know how much moisture actually has come down in that particular corner by the time you’ve come back around, so it’s always pretty high stress.
“We also had to contend with traffic, and it was just stressful because you’re catching the guy in front because you pushed really hard and you’re about to complete that lap. Should I stay in it and compromise the end of that lap and the next one, or should I back off and make a gap and go again? But maybe it’s going to rain again. So everything’s going off in your head and you’re never sure if you’re actually making the right call, But I just managed to pull a couple of laps together and it happened to be good enough.”
Filipe Albuquerque ended up second in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura in which he and Ricky Taylor won last year, 0.222s behind. The other Acura, the No. 60 of Meyer Shank Racing with Curb Agajanian car, will start on the inside of the second row after Oliver Jarvis turned a 1m10.791s lap, with the other Chip Ganasssi Racing Cadillac alongside courtesy of Alex Lynn. The No.31 Action Express Racing Cadillac and the No. 5 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac will make up the third row.
The qualifying session, which began with GTD, started nearly 30 minutes late due to lightning strikes in the area, but rain wasn’t a major factor. Light rain fell on part of the track during the 15 minutes allotted to DPi and LMP2, possibly vexing some of the drivers, but clearly not slowing the track down appreciably. Still, it was a challenge at the start of the session, as LMP2 fast qualifier Patrick Kelly discovered.
“I slid the car all over the track. I pitched that car in every corner. This track I think is a little bit like Monterey, where it’s about precision; but once it got wet, it was all bets are off for me, and I drove differently,” Kelly said after turning 1m14.340s lap in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA, nearly a second faster than any of the other LMP2 competitors. The team locked out the front row, with Steven Thomas starting the No. 11 outside. Henrik Hedman put the No. 81 DragonSpeed USA ORECA into third with a 1m15.332s lap, inside the No. 18 Era Motorsport car qualified by Dwight Merriman.
Jarett Andretti claimed the LMP3 pole in the first sprint race of the year for the class, which he dedicated to his sister Olivia, who is graduating from medical school today. Andretti’s 1m17.104s lap in the No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier was 0.337s quicker than Josh Sarchet in the No. 58 MLT Motorsports Ligier that will start alongside. Dan Goldburg was third in the Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier, followed by Gar Robinson in the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier.
On a track continually improving after a light shower, the GTD cars were the first out for qualifying, and it was a game of leapfrog with the times dropping quickly as the session progressed. Robby Foley in the No. 96 Turner Motorsports BMW M4 GT3, Madison Snow in the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW and Roman De Angelis in the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 all took multiple turns at the front of the field, but in the end it was Snow claiming the pole for the BMW he’ll hand over to Bryan Sellers in the race with a 1m20.525s lap, a 100.95mph average speed.
“Everything was getting better, the track got a little bit better,” said Snow, who reported that the Keyhole was still damp and sketchy for the first few laps. “But I think a lot of it was tires that were just getting heat in them. I think it was fairly cold and it took a long time to get heat in them.
Usually you can go out and just push a little bit, but kind of teeter around and get pressures up, but not use the tire, and then you can go for a flying lap. Here, you really had to be pushing the entire time and pushing hard to get the pressures up. But by the end they got up and they were good. And the track was better at the end — the Keyhole was where you noticed it because that was the worst to begin with.”
Stevan McAleer came under the checker with a flyer to claim second with a 1m20.725 in the Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG and will start outside the front row. De Angelis ended up third with a 1m20.822s lap and will start inside the second row with Foley, like most of the drivers improving on his final lap with a 1m21.012s , alongside. The top nine cars qualified within a second.
The 2h40m Lexus Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio starts at 3 p.m. ET tomorrow, broadcast on USA Network. With no GTD PRO class present for this race, the GTD field will line up directly behind the LMP3 cars for the start.
UP NEXT: A 20-minute warmup session beginning at 8:40 a.m. ET.