Meyer Shank Acura inches closer to IMSA championship with Petit pole

Meyer Shank Acura inches closer to IMSA championship with Petit pole

Tom Blomqvist did he everything he needed to do and more to make sure he, Oliver Jarvis and Meyer Shank Racing have a solid shot at the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi title in Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans by taking pole in the No. 60 Acura. Qualifying ahead of the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura assured that the MSR squad will only need to finish a single position ahead of the No. 10 in the 10-hour race to claim the championship.

“I’ve just gotta say a huge thanks to the team because my car was phenomenal today,” said Blomqvist. “We had a good car, we had a chance yesterday and, in practice, everything went pretty well. I have to say the car was working really well and I was pretty confident going into qualy that if we could replicate that, there was a chance. I knew basically when I turned into Turn 1 my first push lap that, yeah, we’ve got a chance here and it just gave me the extra little bit of energy I needed to just give it absolutely everything.”

Blomqvist’s 1m08.555s lap was 0.233s quicker than Earl Bamber in the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac. Bamber had topped the time sheets in two of yesterday’s three sessions and was looking likely for the pole position. Third, another 0.014s back, was Ricky Taylor, who spun the No. 10 Acura across a gravel trap in Turn 5 midway through the session, ending further hope of a pole run. The spin also likely damaged the tires that Taylor will have to start on for tomorrow’s race if the team wants to retain their starting position, stuffing gravel between the bead and the wheel and possibly flatspotting the tires.

Tristan Vautier will start outside the second row with a 1m08.853s lap in the No. 5 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac, with Sebastien Bourdais rounding out the top five in the No. 01 CGR Cadillac. The two Action Express Racing Cadillacs brought up the rear.

The pole for Blomqvist, which sealed the manufacturers championship for Acura, was a slight shock, because the No. 60 hadn’t exhibited pole pace in any previous session, and both Acuras were at the bottom of the time sheet in the final night practice on Thursday. Both cars, however, had the speed when it counted. Much of that came down to pre-event homework.

“We had a good test, so we knew our car was good,” Blomqvist explained. “We were pretty confident even in practice, and we never actually went flat out. We know everyone tends to do qualy simulation at the end of when there are less cars on track, but we kept a bit back and we saw that we were still quick, so that gave us the confidence that we could fight for pole position. Once we put it all out there the car was just great so I managed to get the job done.”

The No. 60 squad, bolstered by Helio Castroneves as the third driver, need to finish fourth or better and ahead of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in the No. 10 to take the title. If MSR finish fifth, then WTR can be no better than seventh. WTR takes the title if they finish ahead of MSR in any position.

The LMP2 title contenders were both a bit back in the field. Championship leader John Farano qualified the No. 8 Tower Motorsports ORECA in fourth, and Dwight Merriman sixth in the No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA as Merriman and Ryan Dalziel try to overtake Farano in the championship. At the head of the field will be Steven Thomas, who put the No. 11 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA on pole with a 1m11.939s lap.

Dennis Andersen was second for High Class Racing with a 1m12.021 and Ben Keating third in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports car another 0.307s back. Keating has to start the race to clinch the Michelin Endurance Cup for he, Mikkel Jensen and Scott Huffaker.

Kay van Berlo and Malthe Jakobsen pushed each other to times nearly 1.5s ahead of any other LMP3 competitors, with van Berlo eventually claiming pole for Riley Motorsports in the No. 74 Ligier at 1m15.517s time, 0.108s quicker than Jakobsen in the No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsports Ligier and a new LMP3 qualifying record. Jakobsen had the fast lap when a red flag briefly halted the session, but when it resumed, both drivers kept dropping time

“We got a red flag in the middle, and at that point I wasn’t really able to put a good lap together,” explained van Berlo, who had to put aside the frustration of losing the Porsche Carrera Cup championship earlier in the day to pilot his first WeatherTech Championship qualifying. “So once we go back to green I knew it was going be a really short amount of time to put a good lap time. In the last two laps, I was able to put almost similar laps, I think like 0.02s apart, but it was enough for pole. So credit to the guys from Riley motorsports for giving me a good car and we’re looking good for tomorrow.”

Jarett Andretti was third for Andretti Autosport in the No. 36 Ligier. Orey Fidani (No. 13 AWA Duquiene) and Jon Bennett (No. 54 CORE Autosport Ligier) rounded out the top five. CORE and Riley Motorsports are the protagonists in the LMP3 title fight, so Riley getting the pole cut into the lead, but the position gap will have to grow by one in the race for Gar Robinson to take the title from Bennett and Colin Braun.

Another pole, another win for Jack Hawksworth and Ben Barnicoat? It just might work out based on Hawksworth’s record-breaking speed in qualifying. Gavin Baker/Motorsport Images

Jack Hawksworth continued to demonstrate the speed he showed in practice in GTD PRO, putting the No. 14 VasserSullivan Lexus RC F GT3 at the front of the GT field. At 1m18.835, he was the only GT driver under 1m19s and was quicker than the GTD qualifying record. It was Hawksworth’s second pole of the season.

“Last time we had pole this year, we won, so it’s important to get off to a good start score those extra points,” said Hawksworth, whose teammate, Ben Barnicoat, is chasing Corvette’s Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor for second in the championship. “We really want to get second in the championship and also have a go at winning this race tomorrow, so we’ve got to have a really good weekend. The Vasser Sullivan team, they’ve been strong since we rolled off, so hopefully we can continue that into tomorrow. I’m expecting some carnage, but so happy the weather held off. It feels like we can have a proper race this weekend now.”

Madison Snow outqualified most of the GTD PRO field in putting the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3 on the GTD pole, third among the GTs, and will start on the inside of the second row.

Alex Riberas will start the No. 23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage on the outside of the front row, the second of the GTD PRO qualifiers, with a 1m19.043s lap. James Calado put the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari third in GTD PRO and will start on the outside of the second GT row after a 1m19.266s lap. It’s all GTD PRO competitors in row three with Jesse Krohn on the inside in the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M4 GT3 with Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia alongside in the No. 3. Serra and Davide Rigon are chasing the Corvette duo of Garcia and Jordan Taylor for the Michelin Endurance Cup championship in the class.

Robert Megennis was second in GTD in the No. 39 CarBahn with Peregrine Racing Lamborghini Huracán with 1m19.506s to start on the inside of the fourth GT row. He’ll have another Lamborghini alongside, Jaden Conwright falling 0.062s short in the No. 42 NTE/SSR machine. Roman De Angelis qualified the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage ahead of his GTD title rivals in fourth to pad his margin, followed by Richard Heistand in the No. 12 VasserSullivan Lexus.

For the other GTD title contenders, Stevan McAleer in the No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG was sixth, and Zacharie Robichon qualified the No. 16 Wright Motorsports for teammates Ryan Hardwick and Jan Heylen in ninth.

Up Next: A 20-minute warmup session at 9:15 a.m. Eastern before a 12:10 p.m. race start.