LEXINGTON, Ohio – Porsche’s three-race qualifying streak in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans class came to an end Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, but it certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort.
Sebastian Bourdais – subbing for Joey Hand in the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT – alternated fast laps with the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR of Laurens Vanthoor throughout the session’s final two minutes, with Bourdais ultimately nipping Vanthoor by .275 of a second at the checkered flag.
Vanthoor held the top spot briefly with a lap of one minute, 19.399 seconds (102.378 mph) on his final lap, but was bested by Bourdais just seconds later with a lap of 1:19.124 (102.734 mph).
It was Bourdais’ second WeatherTech Championship pole, with his first coming at Sebring in 2014 for Action Express Racing. He will lead the eight-car GTLM field to the green flag for Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge, which takes the green flag at 1:30 p.m. ET.
“The guys did a really good job,” said Bourdais, who is subbing for Hand for the second consecutive race as Hand is focusing on recovery efforts from a recent bout with the flu to ensure he’s prepared for Le Mans. “It’s really tricky conditions. We really didn’t get good reads this morning, and it was wet again to start with but to begin the weekend out on top, I’m really proud of all the guys. Ford gave us a great car. I couldn’t be any happier.”
Porsche had previously won the pole for all three WeatherTech Championship races to-date this season, with Nick Tandy scoring the pole at Daytona and Long Beach and his No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR co-driver Patrick Pilet leading the way at Sebring.
It was a back-and-forth qualifying session, with the pole position swapping hands nine times over the final five minutes of the 15-minute session and five different drivers leading at one point. In fact, the four different manufacturers that make up the GTLM class took the top four spots on the grid with the No. 24 BMW Team RLL M8 of Jesse Krohn and the No. 4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R of Tommy Milner making up the second row.
Ford is the only manufacturer with two cars in the top-five with Ryan Briscoe qualifying fifth in the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT entry.
In GT Daytona, Lexus is making a case for being the one to catch at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Richard Heistand won his first Motul Pole Award in the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3, topping the GTD class with a time of 1:24.281 (96. 448 mph).
It was an unpredictable qualifying session for GTD teams, as the track was transitioning from wet to dry following heavy mist earlier in the day. Adding to the challenge was that this weekend is Heistand’s first trip to Mid-Ohio.
Heistand’s pole marks the second consecutive season that a Lexus RC F GT3 has led the GTD field to green at the 2.238-mile road course. Heistand’s co-driver Jack Hawksworth scored the pole position in the No. 15 Lexus last year, while its sister car – and current pole-sitting car – the No. 14, went on to win the race. It was the first WeatherTech Championship victory for the manufacturer.
“I think it’s a great car,” said Heistand. “I’m happy with the lap. To be honest, I think the car suits the conditions. It turns the tires around pretty quick. With the track drying, I just had to put together a clean lap. It’s funny when everything is going right, you don’t feel like anything was that hard. And then on days it’s not working, you’re trying really hard and don’t get anywhere.”
Heistand’s time turned out to be almost two seconds quicker than that of second-place Ben Keating in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, who posted a time of 1:26.109 (94.401 mph). Despite the large margin between front row cars, the morning weather conditions prevented cars from reaching Hawksworth’s 2018 track record of 1:19.317 (102.484 mph).
Adding to Lexus’ qualifying success was Frankie Montecalvo, who placed both AIM Vasser Sullivan machines in the top three for Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge.