Friday, January 18, 2019

Fords Sweep Watkins Glen Front Row


Richard Westbrook, who led all three practice sessions at Watkins Glen International leading up to Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen qualifying, stormed to the GT Le Mans pole with a string of fast laps in the 15-minute session that set the grid.

Over the final eight minutes of qualifying, Westbrook’s name was the one atop timing and scoring although the driver wasn’t sitting still as he turned four more laps that each improved upon his previous time.

Corvette Racing car in American livery at Watkins Glen
The two American manufacturers in GTLM locked out the front two rows at Watkins Glen, where July 4-themed cars are common. | Photo: Jake Galstad / IMSA

On his final flyer, Westbrook’s No. 67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT sped around the 3.4-mile circuit with a 1:41.948. The achievement secured Westbrook’s fifth GTLM pole and sixth total.

Joey Hand was only 0.111 seconds slower in the sister No. 66 Ford. The effort of both drivers locked out the GTLM front row for Ganassi.

Up until the final laps of the session, the pair of Porsche 911 RSRs piloted by Earl Bamber and Patrick Pilet looked to have a hold on Row 2 but quick times by Tommy Milner and Antonio Garcia in their respective Corvette C7.Rs saw Corvette Racing rise to the row directly behind their American rivals.

Having been bumped, the Porsches landed on the third row with Bamber and Pilet qualifying fifth and sixth, respectively.

The BMW M8 GTE duo, which has struggled for pace throughout the weekend, was qualified to the rear of the eight-car grid by Tom Blomqvist and Connor De Phillippi.

Hawksworth Ahead of Own Record With GTD Pole

Twelve minutes into the 15-minute GT Daytona qualifying session, Jack Hawksworth turned a 1:44.499 in the No. 15 Lexus RC F GT3 from 3GT Racing to earn his second pole of 2018 and the third of his IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship career.

The time was 0.287 seconds clear of Hawksworth’s own class record at Watkins Glen, set last year. The remainder of the top five qualifiers were also under the standing track record.

Christopher Mies, co-driver to Sheldon van der Linde who put Montaplast by Land-Motorsport’s Audi R8 LMS GT3 atop the all-GT3 class in Practice 2, qualified second with a lap 0.112 seconds shy of Hawksworth’s pole-winning pace.

Jack Hawksworth around Watkins Glen bus stop chicane in Lexus GT3 car
Jack Hawksworth translated 3GT Racing’s speed in practice into the GTD pole at Watkins Glen. | Photo: Michael L. Levitt / IMSA

Kyle Marcelli added a second Lexus to the front of the GTD starting grid with the third-fastest lap at a further one-tenth of second behind Mies.

Alvaro Parente and Lawson Aschenbach placed Meyer Shank Racing’s pair of Acura NSX GT3s fourth and fifth on the grid, respectively, with lap times just 0.036 seconds apart.

Representative of the manufacturer variety in the 17-car class, the top 10 qualifiers were completed by Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche and two Mercedes-AMGs.

The Ferrari 488 GT3 of Squadra Corse Garage Italia qualified 16th in its series debut while the No. 36 Acura of CJ Wilson Racing, qualified by Till Bechtolsheimer, will start from last in the class.

After a brief 20-minute warm-up session at 8 a.m. EDT Sunday, the two GT classes will join the Prototype class for the six-hour race, set to go green at 9:45 a.m. with live coverage on FS1.

Ben Hinc
Ben Hinc
Ben Hinc, managing The Apex as executive editor, has frequented media centers at racetracks across North America since 2014. Hinc's multi-decade passion for technology has resulted in a broad skillset that keeps The Apex running fast and without error.


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