IMSA: CORE Autosport scores upset pole as Ford, Lexus lead the GT fields at Watkins Glen

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In a season that has been dominated by DPi-spec machinery, it was global LMP2 machinery that went to the fore in qualifying for Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.

CORE autosport took its first pole in the Prototype class, with Colin Braun laying down a quick lap of 1:32.350 in their No. 54 Oreca 07 Gibson. It was just barely quicker than Paul Di Resta, who qualified the No. 32 United Autosports Ligier JS P217 Gibson at 1:32.356.

All told, five thousandths of a second separated the two, and it marks the first time an LMP2-spec platform has scored a pole in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship since the current-era Prototype regulations were introduced.

Acura Team Penske swept the second row, with Ricky Taylor and Dane Cameron qualifying third and fourth in their Nos. 7 and 6 Acura ARX-05 DPi entries. Simon Trummer put the JDC-Miller Motosports No. 85 Oreca in fifth.

In GT Le Mans, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing swept the front row, with Richard Westbrook taking the the pole in the No 67 Ford GT with a time of 1:41.948 – teammate Joey Hand was right behind him in the sister No. 66 entry.

Corvette Racing then swept the second row, with Tommy Milner and Antonio Garcia qualifying third and fourth in their Nos. 4 and 3 Corvette C7.Rs.

Porsche GT Team put the Nos. 912 and 911 Porsche 911 RSRs in fifth and sixth, with BMW Team RLL in seventh and eight with their Nos. 24 and 25 BMW M8 GTEs.

In GT Daytona, Jack Hawksworth took his second pole in three races, putting the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RCF GT3 at the top of the board with a lap of 1:44.499.

Hawkworth beat out Christopher Mies, in the No. 29 Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3, by just over one tenth of a second – Mies turned in a 1:44.611.

Kyle Marcelli put the sister No. 14 Lexus in third, giving Lexus two of the top three on the grid, followed by the Nos. 86 (Alvaro Parente) and 93 (Lawson Aschenbach) Acura NSX GT3 for Meyer Shank Racing.

Qualifying results can be found here. Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen kicks off at 9:30 a.m. ET.

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Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.