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VIR IMSA: Ford’s Westbrook grabs pole in wet and wild qualifying

Richard Westbrook will start Sunday’s GT-only IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Virginia International Raceway from pole position after topping a fascinating qualifying session on Saturday.

VIR IMSA: Ford’s Westbrook grabs pole in wet and wild qualifying
#67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, GTLM - Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook,
#911 Porsche Team North America Porsche 911 RSR, GTLM - Patrick Pilet, #67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, GTLM - Richard Westbrook
#911 Porsche Team North America Porsche 911 RSR, GTLM - Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy
#67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, GTLM - Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook
#3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, GTLM - Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen
#911 Porsche Team North America Porsche 911 RSR, GTLM - Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy
#24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTLM - John Edwards, Jesse Krohn
#14 3GT Racing Lexus RCF GT3, GTD - Dominik Baumann, Kyle Marcelli, #24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTLM - John Edwards, Jesse Krohn
#15 3GT Racing Lexus RCF GT3, GTD - Jack Hawksworth, David Heinemeier Hansson
#33 Riley Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT3, GTD - Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating
#24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTLM - John Edwards, Jesse Krohn

Rain during the previous GTD qualifying session meant all GTLM cars started the session on wet tyres, but the majority of the circuit was completely dry – such was the localised nature of the shower that completely soaked the start/finish straight and opening corners.

BMW’s Connor de Phillippi set the benchmark time at 2m00.150s before a quick off at Turn 3, as the drivers balanced pushing in the wet sector while trying not to ruin their wet tires on the longer dry section.

Porsche’s Patrick Pilet took top spot with four minutes remaining with a lap of 1m57.045s, before John Edwards (BMW #24) – who’d been off early on at Turn 4 and nudged the tirewall – grabbed P1 with 1m56.812s.

Westbrook then went a second faster, as the track dried out quickly towards the closing moments of the session, lapping in 1m55.580s in the #67 Ford GT. Nobody could beat his time.

“It was great fun,” said Westbrook. “We sat there for a bit, I wanted to go [for] slicks, and I think it did dry out so much in the end, but because we hadn’t been pounding around, our wets were still in good shape at the end.”

The points leader added: “I’m gonna say this is an important pole at this stage of the season.”

Edwards improved to 1m56.185s, but was pipped for second by Patrick Pilet on the final lap in the #911 Porsche.

Edwards will start third, ahead of Antonio Garcia in the leading Chevrolet Corvette. De Phillippi dropped to fifth, from Joey Hand’s Ford, Tom Milner’s Corvette and Earl Bamber’s Porsche. Bamber went off in the #912 at Turn 3 early on, and then spun at the final corner on his last lap.

In GT Daytona, pole position went to Jack Hawksworth in the #15 Lexus RC F with a lap of 1m44.107s, bouncing back after a disastrous time in the previous round at Road America. He was 0.216s faster than Jeroen Bleekemolen’s Riley-run Mercedes, in a session that was effectively decided early as the rain fell midway through.

“Road America was a cruel weekend all around, so to come back from that with pole is great,” said Hawksworth. “So far this weekend the car’s been working well. It started to sprinkle at the start of the session, so I pushed early, and then it started raining properly halfway around my next lap.”

Bill Auberlen was third fastest in the Turner Motorsports BMW M6, ahead of the second Lexus of Kyle Marcelli. Madison Snow was fifth quickest in the points-leading Lamborghini Huracan, which has already undergone an engine change this weekend.

Patrick Long set some rapid sector times in the Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 that won last time out, but a spin proved costly, as rain began to fall and sent everyone scurrying to the pits before the end of the session.

Although the GTD times were over 10s quicker than the GTLM cars, they will start behind them as per the series rules.

Order below is by overall times, not starting positions.

Pos Num Driver Class Chassis Laps Time Gap
1 15 Denmark David Heinemeier Hansson
United Kingdom Jack Hawksworth
GTD Lexus RC F GT3 5 1'44.107  
2 33 Netherlands Jeroen Bleekemolen
United States Ben Keating
GTD Mercedes-AMG GT3 6 1'44.323 0.216
3 96 United States Bill Auberlen
United States Robby Foley
GTD BMW M6 GT3 5 1'44.360 0.253
4 14 Canada Kyle Marcelli
Austria Dominik Baumann
GTD Lexus RC F GT3 4 1'44.516 0.409
5 48 United States Bryan Sellers
United States Madison Snow
GTD Lamborghini Huracan GT3 6 1'44.626 0.519
6 58 United States Patrick Long
Denmark Christina Nielsen
GTD Porsche 911 GT3 R 5 1'44.758 0.651
7 93 United States Justin Marks
United States Lawson Aschenbach
GTD Acura NSX GT3 5 1'44.797 0.690
8 86 United Kingdom Katherine Legge
Germany Mario Farnbacher
GTD Acura NSX GT3 5 1'44.954 0.847
9 63 United States Cooper MacNeil
United States Gunnar Jeannette
GTD Ferrari 488 GT3 4 1'45.506 1.399
10 44 United States Andy Lally
United States John Potter
GTD Audi R8 LMS GT3 5 1'45.918 1.811
11 67 Australia Ryan Briscoe
United Kingdom Richard Westbrook
GTLM Ford GT 3 1'55.580 11.473
12 911 United Kingdom Nick Tandy
France Patrick Pilet
GTLM Porsche 911 RSR 8 1'56.170 12.063
13 24 United States John Edwards
Finland Jesse Krohn
GTLM BMW M8 GTE 6 1'56.185 12.078
14 3 Denmark Jan Magnussen
Spain Antonio Garcia
GTLM Corvette C7.R 5 1'56.760 12.653
15 25 United States Connor de Phillippi
United Kingdom Alexander Sims
GTLM BMW M8 GTE 7 1'57.148 13.041
16 66 United States Joey Hand
Germany Dirk Muller
GTLM Ford GT 6 1'57.202 13.095
17 4 United Kingdom Oliver Gavin
United States Tommy Milner
GTLM Corvette C7.R 4 1'57.492 13.385
18 912 New Zealand Earl Bamber
Belgium Laurens Vanthoor
GTLM Porsche 911 RSR 6 1'57.874 13.767
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