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Castroneves takes pole on Penske’s return to Petit Le Mans

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The returning Team Penske secured pole position for the Motul Petit Le Mans after Helio Castroneves set a stunning lap to grab pole.

The main focus of Team Penske’s participation in the the Petit Le Mans is to gain experience of the IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Championship in preparation for next year’s season where they will campaign with a pair of Acura DPi prototypes.

As such the team has kept expectations low but Castroneves, who has been confirmed as one of the team’s four drivers for 2018, put in a stunning lap of 1 min 11.3 seconds in the team’s ORECA LMP2 prototype.

He was 0.16 seconds faster than second placed than  the #22 ESM Nissan DPi of Pipo Derani, who himself was only just ahead of team-mate Brendan Hartley.

The fast and flowing Road Atlanta circuit proved to be perfect LMP2 prototype country with the best of the dominant Cadillac DPi cars qualifying 7th, the championship leading #10 Wayne Taylor Racing entry.

However the #10 car, was is piloted by Ricky and Jordan Taylor and Ryan Hunter-Reay, only needs to take the green flag in order to become champions, so there was no pressure.

Two-time PLM winner Toni Vilander took pole for the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488, the team which won the very first PLM back in 1998.

The popular Houston based team has had a difficult year but after a four race hiatus, the red Ferrari and its drivers of Vilander, Giancarlo Fisichella and Alessandro Pier Guidi hope to round of the year by taking GTLM honours.

The championship leading #3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller lined up second, promoted after the #67 Ford GT failed a ride height test.

Like the #10 Cadillac, the #3 car only has to take the green flag to clinch the championship, but the team has put itself in a perfect position to win the race as well.

In GTD, Matteo Cressoni gave the championship leading #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari pole position in an epic qualifying battle with the #93 Acura of Andy Lally.

Cressoni took pole by just 0.071 seconds with three minutes left to go in the session against the vetern and qualifying hot-shot Lally.

The Ferrari, who he shares with champions to be Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan, only needs to rack the minimum drive time to score points in order to win the GTD title for the second year running.

In the final PC qualifying session, James French secured pole for Performance Tech Motorsports.

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