Nunez Places Mazda on Pole at CTMP

Tristan Nunez in the No. 55 Mazda LMP2 car at CTMP
Photo: Mazda Motorsports

The grid has been set for Sunday’s Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix, with Tristan Nunez earning the overall pole for Mazda Motorsports and Antonio Garcia granting Corvette Racing its first GT Le Mans class pole of the year.

Prototype

With the first third of the 15-minute Prototype qualifying session in the books, a battle for the pole broke out between Tristan Nunez in the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports entry and Ricky Taylor of the No. 10 Corvette DP of Wayne Taylor Racing, which won this event last year.

The pair of LMP2-style Mazdas ran in the top three, with Tom Long joining Nunez and Taylor in turning laps within the 1:10 bracket. Fittipaldi, having also turned a 1:10 lap, sat in the fourth position.

Nunez would improve his time to 1:10.126 to easily earn Mazda the pole.

“It’s a little saying we have at Mazda and that’s ‘Never Stop Challenging,'” said Nunez after his pole run. “It’s been in our hearts since the start of the Prototype program, and now that’s really showing off.

“All of us drivers have been training to be physically fit because this is a very physical track. All of the pieces are in line and we just have to go get it tomorrow.”

Ricky Taylor kept the Wayne Taylor Racing entry in second and will join the green and orange tribute-liveried Mazda on the front row to begin Sunday’s race.

Tom Long qualified the No. 70 Mazda to the third position, making it the second-best qualifying effort from Mazda Motorsports after the team swept the front row at the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix three rounds ago.

Action Express Racing’s pair of Corvette DPs, qualified by Christian Fittipaldi and Eric Curran, rounded out the top five in the Nos. 5 and 31 cars respectively.

After crashing late in Saturday morning’s Practice 3, John Pew placed the Honda-powered No. 60 Ligier JS P2 of Michael Shank Racing seventh on the grid.

Prototype Challenge

An early lap of 1:12.241 from Colin Braun kept CORE autosport’s No. 54 Oreca FLM09 glued to the top spot as the Prototype Challenge qualifying session entered its closing minutes.

The No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports entry, qualified by James French, was in the second position at more than one-tenth off the leading pace. Braun then lowered the mark to 1:11.946 inside the final four minutes.

Braun’s lap would remain the only 1:11 turned during the session, setting a new Prototype Challenge lap record at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and earning CORE autosport its second pole position start of the 2016 season.

French held onto second in the Performance Tech entry to secure the car’s spot on the front row for Sunday’s race, with Stephen Simpson rounding out the top three in JDC-Miller Motorsports’ No. 85 machine.

The No. 8 car of Starworks Motorsport, seeking its third consecutive class win after taking the top honors in the Prototype Challenge division at Detroit and Watkins Glen, will start from the sixth position.

GT Le Mans

A spirited duel between the pair of Corvette Racing entries was interrupted by a 1:15.614 from Dirk Mueller in the No. 66 Ford GT with five minutes in the books in GT Le Mans qualifying.

Ten minutes later, Antonio Garcia had returned the No. 3 Corvette C7.R to the top of the chart with a 1:15.198. Lucas Luhr split the pair of Chip Ganassi Racing-run Ford GTs, situated in second and fourth, as he placed his No. 100 BMW M6 GTLM in the third position.

Garcia’s lap went unchallenged to secure the class pole for he and Jan Magnussen, marking the first pole for Corvette Racing since the 2015 running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the first pole for himself since Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2014.

“It’s always important to be up front and luckily to be competitive again,” said Garcia after qualifying. “The car felt pretty decent all year long, but at some points we were lacking some speed.

“We seem to like this track a lot. It suits Corvette Racing.”

Mueller and co-driver Joey Hand of the No. 66 Ford GT will join the No. 3 Corvette in starting on the front row on Sunday. The second Ford GT, the No. 67 of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook, will begin its chase for its third consecutive win from the second row alongside the No. 100 BMW.

Bill Auberlen rounded out the top five in the No. 25 BMW Team RLL entry while the pair of Porsche 911 RSRs from Porsche North America finished eighth and ninth among the nine GTLM competitors to earn the final spots on the class grid for the race.

The top seven GTLM qualifiers were covered by less than one second.

GT Daytona

Alex Riberas turned a 1:18.245 early in the 15-minute qualifying session for the GT Daytona class to place the No. 23 Porsche 911 GT3 R atop the running order.

That time would keep the Alex Job Racing entry at the top through to the end of the brief outing to earn Riberas and co-driver Mario Farnbacher the pole.

“We were not actually expecting to be in first place,” Riberas admitted. “We were struggling with the car this weekend. It was really tough considering we didn’t get a lot of track time under dry conditions. We got our heads around the car during Practice 3.

“Hopefully, we can still get a good car for tomorrow for the long distance and take care of the tires.”

Andrew Davis ended the session in the second position in Stevenson Motorsports’ No. 6 Audi R8 LMS GT3, which will join the No. 23 Porsche on the front row for Sunday’s race.

Change Racing’s No. 16 Lamborghini Huracán GT3, driven in qualifying by Spencer Pumpelly, ended up third, with Bret Curtis and Patrick Lindsey rounding out the top five in the No. 96 BMW and No. 73 Porsche, respectively.

The points-leading No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3 of Scuderia Corsa, driven by Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan, will begin the race from 10th on the class grid.

Interestingly, the second Alex Job Racing Porsche, driven by Cooper MacNeil in qualifying, ended the session last among the 13 competitors at over 2.2 seconds off Riberas’ leading pace.

Following a 20-minute morning warm-up session at 8 a.m., the green flag to begin the two-hour, 40-minute race will fly at 11:05 a.m. EDT, with television coverage beginning at 11 a.m. on FOX Sports 1.

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