Speeds have steadily been climbing all weekend at Road Atlanta, but they peaked Friday afternoon (Oct. 12) during Motul Petit Le Mans pole qualifying. Tequila Patron ESM’s Pipo Derani won the pole for Saturday’s 10-hour race with a new track record lap of 129.818 mph.
“What a way to start this weekend,” Derani said after the session. ““This place is such a difficult place to pass that it’s really important [to start up front]. Any race to start in front, it makes your life easier. I’ve said this before at Detroit, and here is the same. When you have the chance to start up front, it makes the entire team’s life easier. For my teammates, and for myself. Last year, we started on the first row, P2. We managed to lead at the end of the first lap, which was an amazing feeling. But today, [we were] one place better. Hopefully we can capitalize on everything like we did today in qualifying and have a clean race. It’s not going to be easy, as we know. Petit is an amazing, tough race, but very rewarding one if you go through it clean and have a nice race. Hopefully, that’s our case tomorrow.”
Ultimately, the session ended up being a back-and-forth battle late between Derani and Mazda Team Joest’s Oliver Jarvis. The two drivers traded fast laps until Derani put the bar high enough that Jarvis could not reach.
Derani’s track record lap was one-eighth of a second faster than Jarvis and one-sixth of a second faster than Jonathan Bomarito in the second Mazda. That was despite Bomarito actually stopping on course during the session with what appeared to be an electrical issue. Bomarito actually had to coast his No. 55 Mazda RT24-P back down the hill at the exit of Turn 5 to a cut-off, then recycle the engine to get restarted.
Norman Nato will start in fourth in his series debut, while Acura Team Penske’s Ricky Taylor was fifth. Less than two-thirds’ of a second separated the top 10 qualifiers and the top 11 broke Helio Castroneves‘ previous track record from last year.
In GT Le Mans, the times continued to tumble. While Risi Competizione was on top early, it was ultimately BMW Team RLL’s John Edwards who claimed the class pole with a lap at 118.744 mph, a new track record for the class.
Edwards’ lap was a mere two-hundredths of a second faster than Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia. Porsche GT Team’s Earl Bamber will start third in class, followed by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing IMSA’s Richard Westbrook. Patrick Pilet will start fifth in class in the second Porsche. The entire class was separated by a little over three-quarters of a second.
Scuderia Corsa’s Daniel Serra won the GT Daytona pole in his Ferrari with a lap at 114.737 mph, which is not the fastest lap of the weekend, but still faster than last year’s pole time. Serra’s lap was four-hundredths of a second faster than 3GT Racing’s Jack Hawksworth. Montaplast by Land-Motorsport’s Sheldon van der Linde will start third in class, followed by Meyer Shank Racing’s Mario Farnbacher. Paul Miller Racing’s Bryan Sellers will start his Lamborghini fifth in class.
The Motul Petit Le Mans is scheduled to go green at 11:05 a.m. Saturday morning. Coverage starts at 10:30 a.m. on FOX Sports 1 and runs there until Noon. The remainder of the race will air live on FOX Sports 2.