Westbrook Earns Petit LeMans Pole In Wet

Westbrook in the rain
Westbrook in the rain
Richard Dole/LAT for IMSA

As you look at the Friday qualifying times for the Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda 10-hour endurance race on Saturday, don't expect to be immediately impressed by the speeds. Rain, shifting back and forth between "light" and "drizzle" never stopped long enough to establish any sort of dry line.

But looking at the water running across the Road Atlanta track in some places, and standing water in others, it's impressive that the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship drivers managed to log the times they did.

Example of the track conditions: Earl Bamber, driver of the No. 912 Porsche North America 911 RSR, qualified on the pole in GT Le Mans (GTLM) with a lap of 1 minute, 30.304 seconds. But the GTLM qualifying session was shortened by more than half due to a bad crash – by Bamber, who lost control of his car when he aquaplaned at turn 4 and crashed hard into a tire wall. It will be a very long night for his mechanics, as the damage appears fairly extensive, especially at the right rear.

Bamber's teammate Nick Tandy was a close second in GTLM, with Oliver Gavin third in the No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R. Worth noting is that Bamber's fastest lap was actually 1:30.074, but by causing the red flag, IMSA penalized Bamber his fastest lap, but his second-fastest lap of 1:30.304 was more than enough for the GTLM pole.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Well, so it appeared. The damage turned out to be so severe that the team had to make a chassis change, meaning the No. 912 – while still considered the pole winner – will start at the rear. But he won't be alone: Teammate Tandy's No. 911 failed post-qualifying inspection – the ride height was improper – moving that car to the back, too. Starting from the GTLM pole, then, is the third-place qualifier, the No. 4 Corvette C7.R. And moving up beside the Corvette is the No. 24 BMW Z4 GTE.

In Prototype, Richard Westbrook was by far the quickest in the No. 90 VisitFlorida.com Corvette DP, with a lap of 1:27.860, followed by the No. 5 Action Express Corvette at 1:28.920, and the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates No. 01 Ford Ecoboost Riley at 1:29.627.

In GT Daytona (GTD), part-timer Cameron Lawrence was the surprise top qualifier with a lap of 1:38.295 in the No. 93 Dodge Viper GT3-R, a team car to the No. 33 ViperExchange.com fielded by Ben Keating. The No. 93 is running only the four long endurance races – Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta – competing for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup honors, which the team presently leads.

Lawrence edged out home-towner Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 73 Park Place Porsche 911 GT America, who was about a half-second behind Lawrence. Lawrence said he went for it on his last lap, "Braking deeper than I had before, and I was lucky it worked out."

In Prototype Challenge, Tom Kimber-Smith put the PR1/Mathiasen No. 52 on the class pole with a lap of 132.378. They'll start sixth on the Prototype grid, just ahead of the No. 16 BAR1 car qualified by Johnny Mowlem.

Earl Bamber fastest in Porsche GTLM
Earl Bamber fastest in Porsche GTLM
Richard Dole/LAT for IMSA

Saturday's race will decide the championships in all four classes. Again, it's expected to be wet, similar to the six-hour race during the summer at Watkins Glen. Earl Bamber said that while Road Atlanta drains well, "It's just that they've had so much steady rain here that the ground can't absorb any more water." There's a 70 percent chance of rain Saturday, 80 percent for Saturday night.

One of the few drivers who seemed happy with the rain setup was Westbrook.

"The car was fantastic," he said. "But I was on the edge. There was talk of cancelling qualifying, and since we were the points leaders we'd be on the pole anyway, but we're all racers, and I'm glad we got the chance to put it there properly."

Both Bamber and Westbrook agreed that Saturday's race could be less treacherous if there are few yellow flags, as more than 30 cars on the track at once helps keep the line a bit drier. Caution periods, though, allow the water to drain back on the track. "I'm afraid cautions might cause more cautions if that happens," said Westbrook.

In all, 32 cars took at least one lap of qualifying, with five cars sitting it out.

Saturday begins with a 20-minute TUDOR Championship warm-up at 9 a.m. Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda, Round 12 of the TUDOR Championship, takes the green flag at 11:10 a.m. FOX Sports 2 coverage airs from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET, followed by IMSA.com from 12 to 2:30 p.m. ET.

FOX Sports 2 resumes coverage from 2:30 to 7 p.m. before going back to IMSA.com from 7 to 8:30 p.m. ET. Live television coverage of the conclusion airs from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 2. IMSA.com and the IMSA mobile app will have live streaming, live timing and scoring, and IMSA Radio's play-by-play. Sunday, there will be a three-hour Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda highlights show beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

Results

Pos Class Driver Team Car Time Behind
1 P R.Westbrook, M.Valiante, M.Rockenfeller visitflorida.com Racing Corvette/Chevrolet 1m27.860s 0.000s
2 P J.Barbosa, C.Fittipaldi, S.Bourdais Action Express Racing Corvette/Chevrolet 1m28.920s 1.060s
3 P J.Hand, S.Pruett, S.Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Riley/Ford 1m29.627s 1.767s
4 GTLM J.Bergmeister, E.Bamber, F.Makowiecki Porsche North America Porsche 1m30.304s 2.444s
5 GTLM N.Tandy, P.Pilet, R.Lietz Porsche North America Porsche 1m30.398s 2.538s
6 P R.Taylor, J.Taylor, M.Angelelli Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette/Chevrolet 1m30.621s 2.761s
7 P E.Curran, D.Cameron, M.Papis Action Express Racing Corvette/Chevrolet 1m30.884s 3.024s
8 GTLM O.Gavin, T.Milner Corvette Racing Chevrolet 1m31.685s 3.825s
9 GTLM J.M.Edwards, L.Luhr, J.Klingmann BMW Team RLL BMW 1m31.763s 3.903s
10 PC M.Guasch, T.K.-Smith, A.Palmer PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA/Chevrolet 1m32.378s 4.518s
11 PC M.Drumwright, T.Drissi, D.Yount, J.Mowlem BAR1 Motorsports ORECA/Chevrolet 1m32.924s 5.064s
12 GTLM P.Kaffer, G.Fisichella, T.Vilander Risi Competizione Ferrari 1m32.989s 5.129s
13 GTLM B.Auberlen, D.Werner, A.Farfus BMW Team RLL BMW 1m33.680s 5.820s
14 GTLM J.Magnussen, A.Garcia, R.Briscoe Corvette Racing Chevrolet 1m33.773s 5.913s
15 PC A.Popow, S.Mayer, S.Rayhall, J.Falb Starworks Motorsport ORECA/Chevrolet 1m33.903s 6.043s
16 PC B.Junqueira, C.Cumming, G.Menezes, J.Hawksworth RSR Racing ORECA/Chevrolet 1m35.825s 7.965s
17 PC M.Goikhberg, C.Miller, R.Mitchell JDC/Miller Motorsports ORECA/Chevrolet 1m36.838s 8.978s
18 PC R.van der Zande, M.Hedlund, M.Schultis, A.Popow Starworks Motorsport ORECA/Chevrolet 1m38.120s 10.260s
19 GTD A.Carter, M.Goossens, C.Lawrence Riley Motorsports Dodge 1m38.295s 10.435s
20 GTD P.Lindsey, S.Pumpelly, M.Snow Park Place Motorsports Porsche 1m38.886s 11.026s
21 GTD C.MacNeil, L.Keen, A.Davis Alex Job Racing Porsche 1m38.899s 11.039s
22 P M.Rojas, K.Legge, A.Meyrick Claro / TracFone DeltaWing Racing DeltaWing/Elan 1m39.618s 11.758s
23 GTD G.Cosmo, R.Thorne, C.Thompson Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi 1m41.604s 13.744s
24 GTD B.Keating, S.Bleekemolen, J.Bleekemolen Riley Motorsports Dodge 1m41.698s 13.838s
25 GTD B.Sweedler, T.Bell, J.Segal Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 1m41.750s 13.890s
26 GTD J.Westphal, D.Serra, M.Cressoni Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 1m42.627s 14.767s
27 PC J.Bennett, C.Braun, A.Lazzaro CORE Autosport ORECA/Chevrolet 1m42.775s 14.915s
28 GTD C.Nielsen, K.Wittmer, B.Davis TRG-AMR Aston Martin 1m42.911s 15.051s
29 GTD C.Haase, D.von Moltke, B.Miller Paul Miller Racing Audi 1m43.620s 15.760s
30 GTD I.James, M.Farnbacher, A.Riberas Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche 1m44.320s 16.460s
31 GTD J.Potter, A.Lally, R.Renauer Magnus Racing Porsche 1m47.000s 19.140s
32 GTLM B.Sellers, W.Henzler, P.Long Team Falken Tire Porsche
33 P T.Long, J.Miller Speedsource Mazda
34 PC J.French, J.Mee, C.Daly Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA/Chevrolet
35 P J.Pew, O.Negri, M.McMurry Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Ligier/HPD
36 P T.Nunez, J.Bomarito, S.Tremblay Mazda Motorsports Mazda
37 GTD M.Marsal, M.Palttala, A.Priaulx, B.Johnson Turner Motorsport BMW

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