Laurens Vanthoor captured his first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship pole as both his No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR and the sister No. 911 qualified by Nick Tandy proved fastest around Lime Rock Park among the eight-car GT Le Mans field.
Just over two seconds slower on qualifying pace than the GTLM cars, Trent Hindman put Meyer Shank Racing’s No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 on the GT Daytona pole for the third time of the year, following his top qualifying efforts at Sebring and Watkins Glen — both being Michelin Endurance Cup rounds and the latter translating into the Acura’s only win of the year in the all-GT3 division.
Why it matters: Starting up front puts Porsche in the best possible position to continue its GTLM win streak that spans the six races since January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
- The 1.5-mile Lime Rock circuit features seven corners, very few of which are ripe for passing. Vanthoor and co-driver Earl Bamber won the previous race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park from fifth on the grid due to strategy, however, and could be beaten in the same way Saturday.
- Placing further importance on race strategy, the fastest and slowest cars in each class were separated by less than eight-tenths of a second in qualifying. Just 0.052 seconds was between Vanthoor and Tandy to decide the pole while the gap was precisely half that between Hindman and second-place qualifier Ben Keating in GTD.
- The GTD top five was split by a remarkable 0.119 seconds and the top 10 by just over half a second, setting the expectation for an ultra-competitive race, which will be unbothered by prototypes.
What’s happening: The current competition level in North America’s premier sports car racing championship is further proven by the installation of new lap records — sometimes a requirement to lead a qualifying session.
- Hindman — an Am pilot — went 0.035 seconds under the previous GTD circuit record, set a year ago by Gold-rated Patrick Long.
- The top six GTLM qualifiers, or 75% of the class, were under the division’s previous record, led by Vanthoor who lowered the mark by 0.621 seconds.
Their words: “Everyone is always laughing at me because I have the record for the most second places in qualifying,” said Vanthoor. “I always have to take on a lot of jokes. I do love qualifying a lot. For myself, I find it important personally. I’m so happy one finally worked out. I hope it’s the first of many.”
Results: 2019 Northeast Grand Prix Qualifying
Next on track: The two-hour, 40-minute race itself is all that remains of the first GT-only event of 2019. The green flag is scheduled for 3:10 p.m. EDT Saturday with live coverage to open on the NBC Sports app and NBCSports.com 10 minutes earlier. A delayed telecast will open at 9:30 p.m. on NBCSN.