ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – For all its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship success, the Porsche GT Team hasn’t encountered much recently in GT Le Mans qualifying at historic Road America.
Laurens Vanthoor put an end to that drought Saturday, taking the class pole position with an on-the-edge lap of 2 minutes, 0.590 seconds (120.845 mph) in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR-19. It’s the first time a Porsche has qualified atop the chart in hotly contested GTLM in five years. That came compliments of Vanthoor’s teammate, Earl Bamber, in 2015.
“I think qualifying here is always joyful for the drivers,” said Vanthoor, who racked up his third career IMSA pole. “Everyone knows the track and it’s always challenging.
“We weren’t really happy with how things were going with FP2 and the qualifying sims, so we did a little bit of brainstorming after that. Obviously, it shows our engineering did the right decisions. The car was good. We were struggling a little bit in the first couple of laps with the brake bias that I had to adjust with the track conditions. Luckily, I was able to get it sorted and managed to pull a good lap, and was able to get on pole.”
The GTLM field is tightly packed again, with the six entries separated by just over seven-tenths of a second. Corvette Racing’s C8.Rs qualified second and third, with Jordan Taylor in the No. 3 (2:00.854, 120.581 mph) a tick of the watch quicker than Oliver Gavin in the No. 4 (2:00.904, 120.531 mph).
The BMW Team RLL duo came next. Bruno Spengler qualified fourth in the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE at 2:01.155 (120.281 mph) and Jesse Krohn was fifth in the No. 24 BMW at 2:01.202 (120.235 mph). Fred Makowiecki put the No. 911 Porsche in sixth with a best lap of 2:01.305 (120.133 mph).
GTLM polesitter Vanthoor now turns his sights to ending another five-year drought for Porsche at Road America – getting to victory lane. With the new Porsche 911 RSR-19 under them, Vanthoor believes he and Bamber can make it happen.
“This car is a new car compared to the old one,” Vanthoor said. “It asks as well for a slightly different driving style. Earl and myself thought it would suit this track; apparently it does. We know that Road America is hard on the tires, so that will be another crucial part that, honestly, I think we’ll be good (at managing).
“The race seems to be a lot more in the ballpark than we have in the last couple of years.”
Aaron Telitz, a native of Rice Lake, Wis., came back to his home track in style, qualifying fastest in GT Daytona on Saturday to collect his first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship pole position.
Driving the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3, Telitz toured the Road America circuit in two minutes, 6.251 seconds (115.426 mph) and lead a 1-2 qualifying effort for the team. Frankie Montecalvo was second in class in the No. 12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus with a lap of 2:07.038 (114.711 mph).
“It feels great to be home, guys,” the 28-year-old Telitz said. “It’s my home track, my home state. All my home fans are here cheering me on. I can feel that energy, it’s just awesome. I love Road America, everything about it. I’m glad to get this pole, first pole position for me and another pole for Lexus and AVS.”
Telitz and Jack Hawksworth have won the last two GTD events, the IMSA WeatherTech At Daytona 240 on July 4 and the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring on July 18, since they were first paired in the No. 14 Lexus last month. They’ll look to keep the momentum rolling in Sunday’s two-hour, 40-minute event, but as Telitz said, “Everybody knows that qualifying and a race are two different animals.
“It’s going to be pretty interesting tomorrow,” he added. “Looking at the weather, there is a possibility of thunderstorms rolling in near the end of the race. We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, we’re just going to take it one lap at a time like we’ve been doing it this entire season and it’s seemed to work out for us well so far.”
Corey Fergus qualified third in GTD with a lap of 2:07.265 (114.507 mph) in the No. 76 Compass Racing McLaren 720S GT3. Robby Foley recovered from a crash in morning practice due to a severed brake line, and Turner Motorsport performed a stellar repair job to the No. 96 BMW M6 GT3 that allowed Foley to qualify fourth at 2:07.361 (114.420 mph).
Hawksworth is the GTD points leader heading into the race, with a three-point advantage over Telitz and No. 44 GRT Magnus Lamborghini Huracan GT3 drivers Andy Lally and John Potter.