Jordan Taylor took his second IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship pole at Laguna Seca with a time of 1:16.181, as their title rivals all struggled in the Californian heat.
Wayne Taylor Racing have looked competitive all weekend and with the #10 pair of Taylor and Renger van der Zande now looking favourites to runaway from the pack on Sunday.
Taylor was the first driver to set a true competitive time and it proved to be a serious benchmark, being a hundredth of a second off the pole time from last year. On-form Colin Braun in the #54 Oreca 07 was quick to respond with the pair swapping best times at the top of the table, using their tyres early on.
The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi came out on top, with attention soon turning to Dane Cameron in the #6 Acura Team Penske.
Unfortunately for him, even Cameron could not do enough to usurp the #10, with Taylor securing his first pole since the 24 Hours of Daytona in January, almost four tenths ahead of Cameron and the rest of the field.
Helio Castroneves had been the only front-runner to continue to the flag, with Taylor having retired to the pits with four minutes to go. The #7 Acura was unable to claim pole, but would end up third ensuring the Cadillac would face serious behind him come race day. Meanwhile Pipo Derani would take fourth after his one-race sabbatical in the Tequila Patron ESM Nissan.
The third row was completed by Braun, whose tyres fell away and Johnathan Bomarito in the Mazda Team Joest. Behind them though, the top two teams in the championship; #31 Whelen Engineering Racing and the #5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac’s failed to qualify in the top eight.
“It was time for us to get a win and get a hold of the championship.” said Taylor. “I’m proud of the team and Cadillac for their work.”
Oliver Gavin was the first driver to beat the GTD’s times, setting a lap record in the process. A scrappy number of laps from Earl Bamber ruined the Porsche’s chances of challenging, though no-one could stop Gavin in the Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, taking pole with a 1:22.700, to the delight of the Corvette Racing crew.
It had looked to be a Chevrolet 1-2 with Jan Magnussen, but Dirk Mueller in the #66 Ford GT was not prepared to leave quietly, splitting the pair after using up every inch of his tyres, announcing defeat on his seventh lap. Magnussen would be third as Ryan Briscoe took fourth, just 0.150 seconds off the polesitter.
Alexander Sims had been the surprise early in the session, almost taking pole, though dropped back after using his tyres early on. The BMW Team RLL driver will line up ahead of Nick Tandy, with the Porsche’s having a disaster of a qualifying, only sixth and seventh after topping FP3. All GTLM’s were within a second of each other.
In GTD, it was a six-way manufacture fight for pole, providing one of the most open battles of the season between the top teams. Katherine Legge in the #86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX took the early lead, holding on to take her first pole in the series.
She pulled into the pits with four minutes still to run, but this proved to not be a qualm for the Brit as Madison Snow in the championship leading #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Hurican failed to improve during his final run, lining up second. Jeroen Bleekemolen meanwhile put in a solid lap to go third in the #33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsport car.
Top 5 were split by under half a second, with fourth and fifth going to Patrick Long and Patrick Lindsey in the Porsche 911. This also meant four manufacturers made up the front two rows.