IMSA: Mazda Sweeps Front Line To Claim First Ever TOTAL Pole Award

Photo Credit: IMSA/Mazda Motorsports

The most improved Prototype division team in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has reached the pinnacle, at least in terms of over a single lap. While breaking through for their first ever TOTAL Pole Award on Saturday at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca is a major achievement, the focus now for SpeedSource Mazda Motorsports is now to turn this triumph into a bigger one in Sunday’s Continental Tire Monterrey Grand Prix.

After posting the top times in practice on Friday, Tristan Nunez more than backed up his pace over the 2.268 mile circuit known for its infamous “Corkscrew” curve, by clocking in at one minute, 18.143 seconds good enough to claim the number one position on the starting grid. While the No. 55 Lola-Mazda coupe is on the point, the sister No. 70 entry of Tom Long completed a front row sweep after coming within a quarter of a second of claiming the TOTAL Pole Award for himself. After showing strong pace two weeks ago in practice at Long Beach, the SpeedSource squad was unable to back up the effort, placing its best car third on the grid. Today, the pair of I4-powered machines were the only cars to find the 1:18 bracket in the all-important session.

Despite dominating race action at Long Beach, the Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototypes will have their work cut out for them on Sunday. Action Express Racing, still seeking their first win of the 2016 campaign, will lead the charge as Dane Cameron put the No. 31 Whelen-backed entry on the inside of the second row, where he will be flanked by Bubba Burger Grand Prix winners Wayne Taylor Racing thanks to the efforts of Ricky Taylor. The second Action Express entry, qualified by Christian Fittipaldi will start fifith, while the odd-looking Elan-powered DeltaWing coupe will start sixth on Sunday, via a solid effort Saturday by Sean Rayhall.

The Prototypes will be joined by the GT Le Mans cars for the first of two events on Sunday. In the upper grand touring division, the semi-home team Scuderia Corsa repeated its quick times from Friday as Daniel Serra placed the No. 68 Ferrari 488 on the pole in GTLM for the first time in the new vehicle’s history. It is also the first GTLM pole for Scuderia Corsa, who also features an entry in the lower GT Daytona class. Serra’s run of one minute, 22.867 seconds, was just enough to hold back an equally strong performance from Chip Ganassi Racing’s pair of all-new Ford EcoBoost GTs. Ryan Briscoe put the team’s No. 67 machine in the number two starting spot, just missing the TOTAL Pole Award by less than a tenth of a second. The sister CGR entry of Dirk Muller qualified third in class, with the first of the Corvette Racing C7.Rs of Tommy Milner filling out the second row. Also impressive among the Prancing Horses camp was Toni Vilander of Risi Competizione who will start fifth on Sunday.

While Ford and Ferrari are leading the proceedings so far at Laguna Seca, the race winners and pole winners at Long Beach from Porsche North America and BMW Team Rahal respectively have struggled for pace so far this weekend. Amazingly, the combined four entries were the slowest in GTLM qualifying and will have work to do to make up ground in Sunday’s two-hour event.

While the professional classes will be paired up in the opening race on Sunday, the second event will feature the Pro-Am runners from Prototype Challenge and GT Daytona.

PR1-Mathiasen Motorsports has the coveted number one position on the grid in PC as Robert Alon took the TOTAL Pole Award by almost a half second on the remainder of the grid. Alon’s one minute, 21.146 second pass was enough to share the front row for race number two with Starworks Motorsport’s lead entry, qualified by Alex Popow. While two of the hard luck teams in PC will lead the field to the green, the division’s two rabbits are mired back in row three. CORE autosport’s Jon Bennett narrowly edged out Misha Goikhberg of JDC-Miller Motorsports on Saturday and the two entries will start fifth and sixth respectively.

Finally in GT Daytona, Team Seattle’s Heart of Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R will start from the pole position as Alex Riberas cruised to his first TOTAL Pole Award of 2016, topping his challengers by over seven tenths of a second. Riberas fired off a lap at one minute, 25.775 seconds, enough to deny Scuderia Corsa from sweeping the pole positions in both GT divisions on Saturday. Christina Nielsen, who won alongside Alessandro Balzan at Sebring last month completed the front row of the GTD starting lineup.

Stay tuned to OnPitRoad.com for continued coverage of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.