MONTEREY, Calif. – With an IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype class title in sight, Ricky Taylor and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. team put its closest championship competitors on notice in qualifying Saturday for the America’s Tire 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Ricky Taylor – who enters the weekend with a sizeable, 26-point lead alongside brother and co-driver Jordan Taylor – scored his fifth TOTAL Pole Award of the season, lapping the 2.238-mile Mazda Raceway circuit in one minute, 16.853 seconds (104.833 mph). That lap was .829 of a second ahead the team’s closest championship competitor and second-place qualifier, the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R. of Christian Fittipaldi.
“Tomorrow is going to be really important for the points, we need to keep our noses clean and get through safely,” said Ricky Taylor. “We want to win more than anything. We want to go to Petit [Le Mans] with another win under our belt and go for the win there.
“We’ve had a lot of fast cars here at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and I think this Cadillac is really strong this weekend. That’s what I love about our Konica Minolta guys. They keep looking for more speed and they keep finding it. It makes my brother, Jordan, and my job easier to go out there and execute. It takes a lot of the pressure off.”
The No. 10 team also topped the charts in two of the weekend’s three practice sessions. Their closest competition Sunday, however, may come from their championship rivals.
While Fittipaldi’s lap of 1:17.682 (103.175 mph) fell short of the pole, he and co-driver Joao Barbosa have one win and four podium finishes on the season. The duo enters Mazda Raceway trailing 258-232 in the Prototype standings and needs a top-five finish to remain championship eligible if the points-leading Taylors were to win the race.
The No. 31 Whelen Cadillac DPi-V.R. of Dane Cameron and Eric Curran also enters the weekend mathematically in contention for the championship, 31 points back, and will roll off the grid fourth.
Rounding out the top three was Marc Goossens in the No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Ligier LM P2, with a lap of 1:17.730 (103.651 mph). It was a season-best qualifying effort for the Daytona Beach-based team that recently suffered damage to its race shop during Hurricane Irma. Goossens will be joined Sunday by co-driver Renger van der Zande.
In GT Le Mans, it has been a long time coming for Risi Competizione, but Finnish hotshoe Toni Vilander returned the team and its trademark No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE to the pole position.
After topping the time charts at the end of Friday’s opening practice day, Vilander backed it up Saturday afternoon in the 15-minute qualifying session. Vilander posted a best lap of 1 minute, 21.914 (98.356 mph) to score his first career WeatherTech Championship pole and fourth in IMSA competition. He previously earned three American Le Mans Series poles.
The most recent pole for the Risi team prior to Saturday came courtesy of Pierre Kaffer at Virginia Int’l Raceway in 2014, a race the team went on to win the following day. Vilander and co-driver Giancarlo Fisichella – who also was part of the 2014 VIR driver lineup – will look to duplicate that performance in Sunday’s two-hour, 40-minute race.
“The GTLM field is so tough nowadays that you need to have everything in the right place,” Vilander said. “You need to have the right tires, you need to be exactly spot on with the setup of the car. We’ve been doing a good job the whole year. We’ve been performing well. We had some unfortunate races and unfortunate situations during the season, but it shows again the potential of the team and the car. Today, it was just a pleasure to drive the car.”