Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Taylor leads Road America polesitters

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Ricky Taylor (Prototype), Dirk Mueller (GT Le Mans), Jeroen Mul (GT Daytona) and James French (Prototype Challenge) have scored the pole positions for Sunday’s Continental Tire Road Race Showcase, the two-hour, 40-minute next round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season from Road America. Quick qualifying reports are below.

PROTOTYPE

Ricky Taylor laid down the hammer early at 1:53.058 and was never headed in the rest of qualifying for Prototype, for both his own and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team’s fourth pole this season. Taylor shares the car with brother Jordan and the two enter this weekend with a 19-point lead in the championship.

They’ll be looking to snap a two-race rut after winning the opening five races; additionally they will be looking to stop the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing crew of Dane Cameron and Eric Curran from winning their third straight Road America race.

The battle in Prototype qualifying was for second place, with the remaining seven cars in class covered by just over half a second. From second to sixth, just 0.157 of a second covered the rest.

Jose Gutierrez was best of the rest, an impressive second in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson he shares with Olivier Pla, but still more than a second back at 1:54.075.

The No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi was third in the hands of Scott Sharp (he shares with Ryan Dalziel) while the new Ligier in the field from VISIT FLORIDA Racing, the No. 90 car driven by Marc Goossens and Renger van der Zande, rolls off from fourth.

The second Patron Nissan starts fifth ahead of the second, third and fourth place cars in points – the Nos. 31 and 5 Cadillacs and the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson, which led Friday’s practice but fell down a bit during the sunny session.

GT LE MANS

Coming into Road America, the pair of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs got a bit of help from the series organizers – a boost increase – and the EcoBoost twin-turbo V6s then promptly boosted their win chances as a result of qualifying in GT Le Mans.

Dirk Mueller and Ryan Briscoe slotted their Nos. 66 and 67 Fords into the top two spots in qualifying rather easily, with Mueller scoring his first and Ford’s fourth pole of the season. Ford has not won since the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona but both cars are still in realistic title contention.

Mueller’s 2:01.422 lap was better than Briscoe’s 2:02.203 by a substantial margin. In third place, Alexander Sims’ best time of 2:02.211 in the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM was the only other car within a second of pole.

Mueller shares his car with Joey Hand, Briscoe with Ryan Westbrook and Sims with Bill Auberlen.

The Nos. 912 and 911 Porsche 911 RSR cars were fourth and sixth, sandwiching the second BMW, with the pair of Corvette C7.Rs seventh and eighth. For the points-leading No. 3 car qualified by Jan Magnussen in the car he shares with Antonio Garcia, it will be a long road Sunday to move up the order.

GT DAYTONA

Change Racing scored its first pole of 2017 in what’s been a year dominated by bad luck, in the stacked GTD class.

Jeroen Mul impressed in the No. 16 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 to deliver a best time of 2:06.649, which was 0.174 of a second clear of fellow Road America first-timer Jesse Krohn, driving the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3.

Mul shares his car with Corey Lewis and Krohn with Jens Klingmann. Neither Lamborghini nor BMW has won this year in GTD.

Patrick Lindsey took the Lime Rock-winning No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R to third ahead of Scott Pruett, in his first qualifying in the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 and Andrew Davis, in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS.

First and second in points, the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 and No. 33 Riley Motorsports-Team AMG Mercedes AMG-GT3, roll off from eighth and ninth. Ben Keating, in the Mercedes-AMG, did outqualify the second car under the Riley umbrella, the now WeatherTech Porsche qualified by Cooper MacNeil, in 11th.

Neither the No. 80 Lone Star Racing Mercedes (mechanical) nor the No. 93 Acura (accident damage) was able to qualify.

PROTOTYPE CHALLENGE

It was another track, and another pole, for James French in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09 in PC. It’s his third straight at his home track.

French’s best lap on this occasion was 1:59.149, nearly three seconds clear of second-placed Don Yount in the No. 20 BAR1 entry.

French recorded his sixth pole in seven attempts this year, and fifth in a row. This was meant to be Pato O’Ward’s turn to qualify but a last-minute change saw the Sheboygan native back in the car to qualify. The pairing looks to extend their perfect win streak to seven this weekend.

RESULTS: Qualifying

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.