Mazda takes historic pole position at Laguna Seca

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Tristan Nunez gave Mazda its first pole position in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship as the Japanese manufacturer locked out the front row at Laguna Seca.

A frantic qualifying session saw Nunez set a 1:18.143s fastest lap to break the Prototype lap record at the team’s home circuit.

The result is a historic one for the Mazda organisation, which had previously been an outside competitor in the first two seasons of IMSA’s premier sportscar series. But, with a new petrol engine, the Mazdas were able to pace all three practice sessions and the qualifying shootout on Saturday in a significant return to form.

Nunez was able to edge out Tom Long in the sister SpeedSource-run Mazda Prototype by 0.391 seconds in a tense final three minutes.

Third on the grid will be the #31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP, which hovered in the top two places before Long and Nunez set their laps. Dane Cameron’s 1:19.072s effort was almost a second slower than the pole position time, but still enough to lead the Daytona Prototype contingent.

Fourth fastest in qualifying was the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP of Ricky Taylor, while the sister Action Express car driven by Christian Fittipaldi rounded out the top five.

In GT Le Mans, a thrilling session concluded with Daniel Serra taking a maiden GTLM pole position for the Ferrari 488 chassis. The Scuderia Corsa driver produced a 1:22.867s lap at the death to take pole honours away from the Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe.

Briscoe, driving the #67 car, will start on the outside row in Sunday’s race after edging out Dirk Muller in the sister Ford by 0.143 seconds.

Fourth in GTLM was Tommy Milner in the #4 Corvette, with initial pace-setter Toni Vilander settling for fifth in the Risi Competizione Ferrari.

Serra was on-point for Scuderia Corsa (Credit: IMSA)

Prototype Challenge produced another exciting conclusion, as the top three cars exchanged fastest laps in the closing minutes. Robert Alon had the final say for PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, guiding the #52 Oreca FLM09 to a 1:21.146s marker at the death.

Alon’s main challenges came courtesy of James French (Performance Tech Motorsports) and Alex Popow (Starworks Motorsport),with each having a brief period on top of the timesheets.

French’s 1:21.285s time late on was eventually ousted by Alon, while Popow slotted in a further three tenths of a second behind.

The first category to take to the track on Saturday was GT Daytona, featuring a large grid of 17 cars. However, only one would stake a realistic claim to the fourth pole award of the year as Alex Riberas dominated for Alex Job Racing. The Porsche 911 GT3-R driver set a 1:25.775 to smash the class lap record by just over a second.

Christina Nielsen gave her best-ever qualifying performance to finish second – 0.722 seconds adrift – in the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3, while Patrick Lindsey recovered from a spin to put the Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3-R third on the grid.

Despite claiming pole position, the GTD session raised some concerns for Alex Job Racing as the #22 Porsche of Cooper MacNeil failed to set a lap. MacNeil had two off-track moments as he contended with a braking issue that forced the team to surrender setting a competitive time.

Round four of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship will get underway today (May 1). Two races are scheduled this weekend: one for PC and GTD (14:15) and the other for P and GTLM (18:45) – both times local.

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