Champions Elect on Petit Le Mans Pole

by James Broomhead
The points leaders will start the season finale at the front (Courtesy of IMSA)

The championship leading Action Express Racing crew will start the final race of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship from pole position following an incident filled qualifying session for the 17th running of Petit Le Mans.

Christian Fittipaldi took control of the #5 Chevrolet Corvette DP for the session, lapping the Road Atlanta circuit in 1:14.508. Fittipaldi and his regular co-driver Joao Barbosa are joined by Sebastien Bourdais for the 10 hour, 1,000 mile race. Just as in the Prototype points standings the Wayne Taylor Racing crew will line-up second, Ricky Taylor qualifying the Konica Minolta sponsored Corvette DP with a best lap of 1:14.797.

Taylor will share the the #10 with his younger brother Jordan and team co-owner Max Angelelli. The team of Richard Westbrook, Michael Valiante and Mike Rockenfeller will start third ahead of the Circuit of the Americas winning Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates crew, regular driver Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas sharing the Ford-Riley Daytona Prototype with Scott Dixon.

The DeltaWing, driven by Andy Meyrick, Katherine Legge and Gabby Chaves, was fifth fastest.

The LMP2 part of the premier class, already reduced by the absence of the Extreme Speed Motorsports team, endured more problems in qualifying, being part of the cause of both of the red flags during the session. The first was brought out by the OAK Racing Ligier grinding to halt without setting a lap, the second stoppage following separate incidents for the #07 Mazda and #9 Action Express entry that none the less ended with the two cars damaged after colliding in the run off area.

In a reverse of the line-up at COTA Jack Hawksworth claimed Prototype Challenge pole in the #08 RSR Racing entry ahead of Bruno Junqueira in the sister car. The young Brit completed a lap of the 2.54 mile in 1:16.201 aboard the car he shares with Chris Cumming and Rusty Mitchell. Junqueira was 0.261 seconds slower in the #09 co-driven by Duncan Ende and David Heinemeier-Hansson.

Already confirmed as drivers champions in the spec class CORE Autosport’s Jon Bennett and Colin Braun will start the race from fourth in class, the duo supplemented by James Gue for the longer race, which also brings the four race North American Endurance Cup to a close.

Nick Tandy completed a remarkable season of qualifying in the GT Le Mans class as he became the eleventh different driver to set a top time in as many races. A lap of 1:18.350 clinched the top spot for the Porsche North America team in the #911 entry which boasts a four man line-up with Tandy and stand-in co-driver Joerg Bergmeister sharing the driving with Michael Christensen, a regular driver in the sister #912, and Patrick Pilet. Pilet and Christensen are entered as drivers in both of the team’s 991 shape 911s, the #912 driver crew completed by regular driver Patrick Long and Earl Bamber.

The class points leaders – SRT Motorsports’ Jonathan Bomarito and Kuno Wittmer – have been split between the team’s two Dodge Vipers. Bomarito remaining in the #93 entry, starting fourth in class sharing with Rob Bell and Dominik Farnbacher who was moved from the #91 to make space for Wittmer alongside Marc Goossens and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

The pair’s only realistic opposition comes in the form of Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia in the #3 C7.R that will start sixth on class.

James Davison continued a fine end to the season for TRG-AMR, scoring his fourth consecutive pole position with a lap of 1:22.254. The team are, however, still searching for their first class win. Madison Snow was second fastest in the class’ qualifying session with the #73 Park Place Motorsports and #33 Riley Motorsports teams sharing the second row of the class.

The Turner Motorsports BMW Z4, fifth fastest in class, is the best placed car with a driver among the championship leaders. Dane Cameron who will share the car with Markus Palttala and Christoffer Nygaard leads the class by four points over the Weathertech/Alex Job Racing team of Leh Keen and Cooper MacNeil who qualified eighth fastest in class.

The long time class leaders Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell will start the race only 12th in class.

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