Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Cadillac, Porsche, Lexus, Performance Tech all nab CTMP poles

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Qualifying is in the books for Sunday’s two-hour, 40-minute Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix from Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, a standard length race for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in its lone trip to Canada this year in Bowmanville, Ontario.

With his third pole of the season and fifth for the Cadillac DPi-V.R, Ricky Taylor topped the overall timesheets for the overall and Prototype pole.

Both GT classes saw first-time 2017 polesitters at Porsche and Lexus, while PC as usual saw James French on top for Performance Tech.

PROTOTYPE

Ricky Taylor scored his third pole and the fifth for the Cadillac DPi-V.R in seven Prototype class races this season in qualifying for the Prototype class with a best time of 1:08.459.

Taylor shares the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac with brother Jordan and will look to resume on top after a rare off weekend at Watkins Glen, with suspension damage costing the team several laps in the opening minute of the race. After five straight wins to open 2017, the Taylors ended the sixth race in sixth place.

After barely missing the win at Watkins Glen last week, the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson was again an impressive second with Misha Goikhberg qualifying very well at a 1:08.587 in the “banana boat” car he shares with Stephen Simpson. That was first of the three LMP2-spec cars, and only 0.128 off the pole pace.

Tequila Patron ESM’s two Nissan Onroak DPis were third and fourth, with the No. 2 car qualified by Scott Sharp at 1:08.886. Sharp shares his car with Ryan Dalziel while Pipo Derani moves over to the No. 22 car this week, sharing it with Johannes van Overbeek, and JVO having done well to qualify fourth.

The first of two Mazda RT24-Ps made it all three DPi manufacturers in the top five positions, Jonathan Bomarito doing the business in the No. 55 Mazda at 1:08.959. He shares his Soul Red car with Tristan Nunez.

Impressively, all 10 cars in class were covered by only 1.5 seconds. Of note, the latest lineup in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson saw Nick Boulle do an excellent job of posting a lap of 1:09.958, one one thousandth of a second clear of Tom Long’s No. 70 Mazda. Boulle and David Ostella share the PR1/Mathiasen entry this week, both young drivers and PC class veterans in their Prototype class debuts.

GT LE MANS

Dirk Werner has returned to the Porsche family as a factory driver this year, and the experienced German has delivered the first pole for the new mid-engined Porsche 911 RSR in its first season of global competition.

Werner’s best lap of 1:14.085 in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR edged his old manufacturer, BMW, with Bill Auberlen clocking in a 1:14.103 in his No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM. Werner co-drives with Patrick Pilet, Auberlen with Alexander Sims, and the latter pair looks for its second straight win after winning at Watkins Glen last week.

The second Porsche (No. 912) and second BMW (No. 24) cars were next up, with the two Ford GTs ahead of the two Corvettes.

GT DAYTONA

Acura got its first pole with the new NSX GT3 last race in the hands of Andy Lally a week ago at Watkins Glen. The second new Japanese manufacturer got its first pole with its new car in the hands of another American driver today at Bowmanville, Ontario.

Sage Karam pulled off the feat for the 3GT Racing team today with the sole qualifying Lexus RC F GT3, the No. 14 Lexus he shares with Scott Pruett, following a storming lap of 1:16.563.

Teammate – and roommate – Jack Hawksworth was unable to qualify the sister No. 15 car following a heavy accident at Turn 3 in practice before qualifying. The Englishman was OK but the car has sustained heavy damage and is questionable to start the race.

With Karam on pole it makes seven drivers, from seven different manufacturers (Alessandro Pier Guidi, Ferrari, Tristan Vautier, Mercedes-AMG, Bryan Sellers, Lamborghini, Mathieu Jaminet, Porsche, Lawson Aschenbach, Audi, Andy Lally, Acura) who have been on the pole in GTD this season.

PROTOTYPE CHALLENGE

James French and Garett Grist figured to battle for the PC class pole, but unsurprisingly it was French taking the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports to his fifth pole this season and fourth consecutive. His best time was 1:11.471, 1.722 seconds clear of Grist.

French and teammate Pato O’Ward look for their sixth win in as many PC races this season for the Brent O’Neill-led team.

Grist, who along with fellow Canadian James Vance make their PC class returns after various starts in the past with Starworks Motorsport (Grist at Sebring this year) and Performance Tech (Vance, twice in 2015), are the latest pairing in the revolving door of the No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports car.

Meanwhile Don Yount qualified the No. 20 BAR1 car third. He’ll share that one with Ryan Lewis, the Indianapolis-based Englishman deputizing for Buddy Rice this weekend as Rice oversees Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s GRC Lites program at Indianapolis.

Usain Bolt, Bill Clinton among headline guests for USGP at COTA

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The Circuit of The Americas paddock ahead of the United States Grand Prix may have been busy with teams and drivers preparing for lights out, but much of the attention lay with a number of headline guests including former presidents and Olympic champions.

As part of its plans to up the excitement levels ahead of Sunday’s grand prix and mirror other sporting events, F1’s new owner, Liberty Media, announced plans a couple of weeks ago to link up with iconic boxing announcer Michael Buffer and eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt for the pre-race festivities.

Ahead of today’s race in Austin, Buffer will introduce the drivers in a number of groups before offering the call for drivers to start their engines, similar to the pre-race procedure for the Indianapolis 500.

Honorary race starter Bolt, who competed in his last athletic world championship event in London earlier this year, will appear on the start line to complete his signature victory pose before waving the green flags to launch the formation lap.

Bolt was also treated to a hot lap around COTA by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton before the start of the formal pre-race build up program in Austin.

Liberty issued a list of celebrities and other public figures who are confirmed to be attending today’s race, including Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden and actor Owen Wilson among others.

One name that wasn’t on the list? 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, who quickly became a focus for the paddock upon arrival three hours before lights out.

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET today.