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Grid set for the 19th Petit Le Mans

Olivier Pla will lead the field to the green flag for today’s running of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale, the 19th Petit Le Mans. The Michael Shank Racing driver broke the track record with a time of 1:13.061 in his No. 60 Ligier, nearly a half second faster than the next qualifier in the Prototype class. Track records fell in every class, but LMPC. Robert Alon, Richard Westbrook, and Jeroen Bleekemolen all captured class poles in Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans, and GT Daytona, respectively.

So far this weekend, the LMP2-based machinery has proven the pacesetter. Before qualifying, the MSR Ligier topped all four practice sessions with the Mazda Prototype entries consistently putting in second fastest times through the weekend. Mazda Motorsports’ Tristan Nunez will start the race second in his No. 55 Mazda Prototype. Action Express Racing has been the class of the Daytona Prototype field and will start third with Dane Cameron behind the wheel.

In a strong sign of progress for the WeatherTech Championship, the top eight Prototype positions surpassed the previous track record set by Christian Fittipaldi in 2014.

img_6207-1Second fastest in the session for the PC category went to Alex Popow in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsports entry, just ahead of Johnny Mowlem in the No. 20 Bar1 Motorsports machine. Mowlem was unhappy with his qualifying session and expected to be able to score a pole position for his final race as a professional driver. With the PC field always showing close competition, it should be no surprise to see the top five entries all within a half second of one another.

Westbrook’s record-setting time scored the fifth pole for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and his third of the season. Starting beside the Ford GT will be Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R. Tony Vilander will start third in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE.

So far through the weekend, the turbo-powered Ford GT and Ferrari 488 have been the cars to beat. Though a Corvette paced the opening practice of the weekend, Scuderia Corsa paced Practice 2 and 4 with Practice 3 being topped by the blue oval. Last year’s overall winners, Porsche North America, will start last in class after having issues finding speed with their Porsche 911.

Bleekemolen’s pace gave the Riley Motorsports No. 33 Dodge Viper it’s last pole in the WeatherTech Championship, as the team has announced to move away from the platform next year. Starting second, Matt McMurry scored a time just 0.460 second back from the Viper in his No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3. Another Porsche was scored third as Mario Farnbacher will start third in the No. 23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing machine. Championship leaders, Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan, will start fourth in their Ferrari 488 with endurance addition, Jeff Segal.

The green flag for today’s event is scheduled for 11:10 AM Eastern. IMSA Radio will be streaming live audio throughout the even here. Live television coverage of Petit Le Mans will start at 11:00 on Fox Sports 1 and will continue till noon. Fox Sports 2 will pick up the race from 2:30 to 6:00 PM. The race can be streamed in its entirety on the Fox Sports Go app with a cable subscription.