ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Three of the four polesitters for Sunday’s Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America captured their first IMSA (or American Le Mans Series) pole positions, since, ironically, past poles at Road America several years ago.
Jonathan Bomarito (Prototype), Dirk Mueller (GT Le Mans) and James French (Prototype Challenge) all secured their first pole positions of the season. The fourth class polesitter, Alex Riberas (GT Daytona) has a pole in his Road America debut.
Bomarito’s is the third for the No. 55 Mazda Prototype, now back in its standard Soul Red color after two races in a throwback 1991 livery, but his first. Teammate Tristan Nunez has the other two at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Mueller, in the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, has that team’s third this year (Richard Westbrook in the No. 67 Ford at Watkins Glen International and Lime Rock Park). He also scored the overall pole for the FIA World Endurance Championship race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GTE-Pro class, in the No. 68 car. Mueller shares with Joey Hand.
French, in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09 he’ll share with Kyle Marcelli, hustled his car around for his first pole since this race last year.
Bomarito took his last pole in 2013 here with the SRT Viper, and inherited the pole in 2014 at Circuit of The Americas after polesitter Patrick Pilet was disqualified following a post-qualifying technical infraction. Mueller’s last U.S. pole was in ALMS in 2011, here, with a BMW M3 for BMW Team RLL and Dunlop tires.
Bomarito promptly stomped the field in Prototype qualifying, on pole by more than one second at 1.152 seconds clear of Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP (1:54.507 to 1:55.659).
The No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP and second Mazda, the No. 70 car, completed the top four on the grid. The No. 31 Whelen Engineering-backed Action Express Corvette DP, which won this race last year with Dane Cameron and Eric Curran, complete the top five on the grid.
French has scored a hometown pole in Prototype Challenge. The Sheboygan, Wis. native – he grew up less than a half hour away from the Road America track – has his fourth pole in his IMSA career and first this season for the Performance Tech Motorsports team, and he shares the No. 38 Oreca FLM09 with Kyle Marcelli.
French edged fellow open-wheel veteran Jose Gutierrez in the No. 7 Starworks Motorsport by just 0.075 of a second; a 1:59.133 lap was just ahead of Gutierrez’s 1:59.208.
Both drivers were here in June, French having made his Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series debut with Belardi Auto Racing to add that car to the tens of thousands of miles he’s logged here in vintage F1 machinery and other types of cars. Meanwhile Gutierrez tested another open-wheel car to gain additional track experience, and it paid dividends.
Misha Goikhberg (JDC/Miller Motorsports), Matt McMurry (BAR1 Motorsports) and Robert Alon (PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports) completed the top five on the grid. All five drivers have either or possibly both of Mazda Road to Indy and Mazda Road to 24 experience.
Dirk Mueller has taken the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT to the GT Le Mans class pole position for Sunday’s Continental Tire Road Race Showcase, which is his first pole since the American Le Mans Series/GRAND-AM Rolex Series merge and his first pole in North America in five years.
Mueller scored the pole at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in the renumbered No. 68 Ford – a car that ultimately won the GTE-Pro race with co-drivers Joey Hand and Sebastien Bourdais – but this is his first pole back on U.S. soil.
His last pole on U.S. soil was at this same track, then in a Dunlop-shod No. 56 BMW M3 he also co-drove with Hand, in 2011 in the American Le Mans Series. That car also started on pole before the 2012 Long Beach street race via points, a qualifying session which was canceled owing to heavy rain.
With a best time of 2:02.451, Mueller banked a 0.461 of a second gap on defending class champion Patrick Pilet in the No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR in second, with the second Ford, the No. 67 qualified by Ryan Briscoe, in third.
Mueller shares his car with Hand, Pilet with Nick Tandy and Briscoe with Richard Westbrook. The points leading No. 4 Corvette C7.R of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner will roll off from seventh in class.
Riberas took his third pole of the season in GT Daytona in the No. 23 The Heart of Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R, this time adding the Road America road course to other poles at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Coupled with Mario Farnbacher’s pole at Watkins Glen International, the No. 23 car has four poles in eight races.
Riberas had a full 0.239 of a second on the first of two Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS entries in a row. The No. 6 car of Andrew Davis (he’ll share with Robin Liddell) edged the No. 9 car of Matt Bell (Lawson Aschenbach to co-drive).
The top Dodge and Ferrari were fourth and fifth, the No. 33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R (Ben Keating/Jeroen Bleekemolen) and No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 (Christina Nielsen/Alessandro Balzan). All told the top nine in the 15-car class were separated by only 0.984 of a second, a very small margin at the 4-plus mile road course.