As the heat continued to rise from the Circuit of the Americas, the track became slicker and lap times began to suffer as the Tudor United SportCar championship took to the track for the qualifying session of the Lone Star Le Mans. The heat and humidity was evident not only through the slower times on the greasy track, but also through the beating the drivers took. Not a firesuite was dry after even short qualifying sessions lasting only 15 minutes.
Continuing the strong form we’ve seen all weekend, Chip Ganassi Racing topped the charts with driver Scott Pruett muscling his EcoBoost Riley DP to the pole position with a time of 1:58.441, some 0.632s off the qualifying pace set last year by Gustavo Yacaman and Alex Brundle. Michael Shank Racing’s Ozz Negri Jr. proved the nimble speed of his No. 60 Honda powered Ligier JS P2 machine, earning a time of 1:58.512. This was an interesting strategy played by the MSR team. Because Negri Jr typically completes the race as the driver, it is expected to see two different driver changes for the car during tomorrow’s race. Christian Fittipaldi piloted his No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP to third on the grid with a time of 1:59.008. Jordan Taylor’s No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP seemed up to the challenge after finding pace in practice 2. They will start the race in the fourth position. The sister Action Express Racing entry, the No. 31, completed the top five.
The category had a close session with the pole going to Chris Cumming and his No. 11 RSR Racing entry. He earned the position with a 2:02.222, but not without controversy. His team radioed back as he crossed the finish line reporting that James French had outpaced Cumming. Due to the history between these two drivers, it was a real kick in the gut to Cumming. Of course, he was fine when he found out the team was simply playing a prank. Back 0.495 was Matt McMurry in the JDC/Miller Motorsports No. 85 entry. James French drove his No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports LMPC machine to third place with a time of 2:03.586. Rounding out the top five was Mike Hedlund in the No. 8 Starworks machine. despite having a couple of eventful practice sessions.
Porsches filled three of the top five spots in GTLM qualifying. Patrick Pilet won the pole by a mere .004s over Dirk Werner’s BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE machine. The top time of the day was 2:04.396. Earl Bamber brought the sister Porsche North America home in the third spot with a time of 2:04.625. Fourth and fifth place were fought over by Antonio Garcia in the NO. 3 Corvette C7.R and Wolf Henzler in the Falken liveried No 22 Porsche 911 RSR. The drivers earned a 2:04.651 and 2:04.813 respectively. The entire top five were only spread by 0.418s.
Dion von Moltke drove to his fourth pole of the season, fifth of the year for Paule Miller Racing. The No. 48 Audi R8 LMS managed a tie of 2:11.097. Ben Keeting beat out Bill Sweedler to third place with a time of 2:11.658.Christina Nielsen earned fourth place in her Aston Martin V12 Vantage. The final spot in the top 5 belonged to Patrick Linsdey in the Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 RSR.
Tomorrow’s Tudor Championship race starts at 12:35 PM ET. If the last practice and qualifying were any hint, the heat will affect driver performance as well as the grip from the tires. There were many cars seen bobbling about on the racing surface today. We’re all but guaranteed for a great tomorrow as the men are separated from the boys on the slippery hot surface of the Circuit of the Americas.