Sato tops final session as RLL sweeps testing at ISM Raceway

Photo: IndyCar
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For the third time during the weekend of testing at ISM Raceway, Takuma Sato led the way in his No. 15 Mijack Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Given that teammate Graham Rahal was fastest during Friday night practice as well, it means that the RLL duo swept the weekend for the Bobby Rahal led team, with one of their drivers going fastest in each session.

Sato’s best lap came in at 189.855 mph, eclipsing his speed from afternoon practice to set the fastest lap of the weekend. He also completed the most laps – 158 – of all 22 drivers who took to the track on Saturday night.

“Wrap up today’s open test, very successful I would say,” Sato asserted in a video posted on RLL’s twitter page. “Lots of things to learn and lots of things that we tried, and I think over the course of two days we learned a lot. A great car, definitely more exercise for the driver, definitely busier (with) low downforce. But, we (completed) qualifying sims, race traffic runs. I think the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team is really strong.”

Behind Sato was Team Penske’s Will Power, who mirrored his performance from Saturday afternoon practice to put his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet in second.

Tony Kanaan put his No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet for A.J. Foyt Racing in third, with defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden putting his No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet in fourth for Team Penske. Fifth went to Marco Andretti in the No. 98 U.S. Concrete Honda for Andretti Herta Autosport.

The Saturday night session saw four incidents that brought out caution periods, ending a string of remarkably clean running across the two days of testing. One incident was for Scott Dixon, who drifted high exiting Turn 2 in the final 30 minutes of running. His No. 9 PNC Bank Honda eventually made contact with the wall, enough to damage the car and force Dixon to stop on the track. He climbed from the car unhurt, though he was finished for the session.

The other three incidents were for A.J. Foyt Racing driver Matheus Leist, who drifted high first in Turns 1 and 2 and then two more times in Turns 3 and 4. On all three occasions, Leist made light contact with the wall, but did not incur significant, if any damage, during any of the incidents.

Results for the Saturday night session, the final one of the weekend at ISM Raceway, can be found here.

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Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III