Whatever pace the CORE autosport guided Porsche North America factory squad found in the most recent TUDOR United SportsCar Championship round at Road America in Wisconsin, has certainly transferred over well to the equally long confines of the Virginia International Raceway. If that is not a completely true scenario, at least their drivers Nick Tandy and Jorg Bergmeister made it look that way as the best of the IMSA’s grand touring contenders prepare for Sunday’s two hour, forty minute running of the Oak Tree Grand Prix.
On Saturday afternoon in the Commonwealth, the TOTAL Pole Award in the GT Le Mans division went to the Englishmen Tandy, who has been equally effective in both GT and prototype sports cars in 2015. In addition to winning the last two TUSCC races at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Canada and at Road America in GTLM, Tandy also teamed with Nico Hulkenberg and Earl Bamber to take the overall win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Tandy’s 1:42.535 hot lap of the 3.27 mile layout was less than a tenth of a second ahead of teammate Bergmeister, but almost a half second clear of the remainder of the professional class field who like at Road America seem to have no answer to keep pace with the 911 RSRs.
The effort in qualifying by Tandy is extremely good news for co-driver Patrick Pilet, who could claim the GTLM Drivers’ points lead after the checkered flag flies on Sunday. The Frenchman enters the action at VIR only five points behind the Corvette Racing duo of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, who only qualified their No. 3 C7.R in the number six position, over a full second off the pole winning time. Also struggling for pace in the points fight is the Rahal Letterman Lanigan BMW Z4 of Bill Auburlen and Dirk Werner, who will start fifth. The American-German pairing are only four points behind Corvette on the current table.
For now, it appears that only the Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 of Pierre Kaffer and Giancarlo Fisichella may be able to stay with the factory Porsches. Kaffer placed the car third on the starting grid, but possibly could have gone faster after complaining during the session that the Ferrari was quote “Undriveable.”
In the lower GT Daytona class, Paul Miller Racing’s Dion Von Moltke and Christopher Haase are seeking to regain the championship lead on Sunday. Von Moltke got the team’s Audi R8 LMS moving in the right direction during qualifying, taking the TOTAL Pole Award with a 1:49.255 lap. The fast lap was just enough to deny the top honor from going to Patrick Lindsey in the Park Place Motorsports’ Porsche GT America, who missed taking P1 by one hundredth of a second.
The effort gives Von Moltke and Haase a little bit of a cushion on their championship rivals, but it is limited. Championship leader Christina Nielsen suffered an off course excursion during the session, but still managed to secure fifth place on the grid for the No. 007 TRG Aston Martin V12 Vantage she will share with Kuno Wittmer. Nielsen enters Sunday only two points ahead of the Paul Miller teammates. Faring a little better on Saturday was Scuderia Corsa’s Bill Sweedler, who enjoyed the best qualifying run of his sports car racing career to put the No. 63 Ferrari he will drive alongside Townsend Bell in the number three starting spot. Only nine points out of first, the 2013 Rolex GT Team champions could claim the top spot with a good run or win likewise.