The GT Le Mans pole for the second year of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s return to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was decided after a frantic duel between Ford and Porsche around the 2.258-mile road course and ultimately went the way of Chip Ganassi Racing.
Laurens Vanthoor and Sebastien Bourdais engaged in a battle for the fastest lap during most of the 15-minute qualifying session, trading the penultimate pole each time they crossed the timing line.
Filling in for regular Ganassi driver Joey Hand in the No. 66 Ford GT like he did at Long Beach, four-time North American open-wheel racing champion Bourdais was last on track and hence had the last say in who could lap the classic circuit quicker.
After both drivers executed 11 rapid laps, Bourdais and his Ford were scored atop the running order by a margin of 0.275 seconds over Vanthoor and the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR.
Set to start his fourth WeatherTech Championship race of 2019 as traditionally one of Ganassi’s additional endurance pilots, Bourdais’ Saturday performance at Mid-Ohio earned him his first GT pole and second in the series following his 2014 qualifying triumph in a DP car at Sebring International Raceway.
The Porsche GT Team’s perfect qualifying record in 2019 has been broken but Vanthoor will share the front row with Bourdais to begin Sunday’s race. Jesse Krohn and Tommy Milner will share Row 2 after qualifying third and fourth in the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE and No. 4 Corvette C7.R, respectively.
Ryan Briscoe, Connor De Phillippi, Jan Magnussen and Patrick Pilet were the four other GTLM qualifiers and filled the fifth through eighth positions in the second cars from Ford, BMW, Corvette and Porsche.
Heistand Grabs GTD Pole for Lexus
AIM Vasser Sullivan had a successful qualifying outing at Mid-Ohio with Richard Heistand securing the GT Daytona pole and Frankie Montecalvo placing third in the team’s Lexus RC F GT3 duo.
At 1:24.281, Heistand’s pole lap put him 1.828 seconds clear of Ben Keating who split the Lexus cars in Riley Motorsports’ Mercedes-AMG GT3 by qualifying second. Montecalvo was 0.342 seconds further back.
Via Italia Racing and Meyer Shank Racing were the GTD pole sitters in the two previous races for the class in 2019, making Heistand’s effort the first pole for the new WeatherTech Championship entrant that aligns AIM Autosport with NTT IndyCar Series competitors Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan.
Will Hardeman put Moorespeed on the outside of the second GTD row with a fourth-place qualifying effort in the No. 19 Audi R8 LMS GT3. Marco Seefried competed the top five for Park Place Motorsports and, by adding a Porsche 911 GT3 R to the group, made it four manufacturers in the top five.
Following the 0.054-second gap from Seefried to Hardeman for fourth and fifth, the top 10 was split by 3.444 seconds while Christina Nielsen in the No. 57 Acura NSX GT3 was more than seven seconds off the pace as the slowest qualifier.
After a 20-minute warm-up outing Sunday morning, the GT classes will join LMP2 and DPi in racing for two hours and 40 minutes around Mid-Ohio beginning at 1:40 p.m. EDT. NBCSN’s live telecast will open 10 minutes earlier.