Laurens Vanthoor’s speed carried the Porsche GT Team to the GT Le Mans pole in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship qualifying at Virginia International Raceway but the possibility of a front-row lockout for the German marque was dashed when Nick Tandy made an uncharacteristic error.
The 1:40.630 laid down by Vanthoor on his penultimate trip around the 3.27-mile, 17-turn circuit proved to be the pole-winning time with Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen coming just 0.078 seconds short of the overall pole for Sunday’s GT-only event.
The first-place starting position for the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR marks its first since the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach in April. Vanthoor and co-driver Earl Bamber will aim to translate the pole position into their fourth win of 2019 on Sunday.
Both Magnussen and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ryan Briscoe had the opportunity to beat Vanthoor’s time on their final laps but fell short. Briscoe’s Ford GT ended the 15-minute session third fastest. Joey Hand and Oliver Gavin added sister cars for the two American brands competing in GTLM to the top five.
Qualifying the No. 911 Porsche, Tandy misjudged a braking point which sent him into a tire barrier, causing damage to the left side of the No. 911 Porsche that prevented him from challenging Vanthoor for the pole. He ended the session in sixth.
BMW Team RLL placed seventh and eighth in the eight-car class, both more than a second slower than Vanthoor’s time.
The 13 GT Daytona competitors hit the track when the transition from wet to dry wasn’t as complete as it was for GTLM, prompting some cars to go out on wet tires and others on slicks.
Despite some offs early in the brief session due to treadless tires causing difficulty on the still-wet surface, racing slicks eventually proved to be the right choice with the pair of Lexus RC F GT3s fielded by AIM Vasser Sullivan plus Zacharie Robichon and Trent Hindman trading fast laps over the final minutes after their teams went with slicks over wet-weather rubber.
It was Robichon who claimed the top spot, finalizing his run to the pole on his final trip across the finish line. His 1:45.826 lap put the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R 0.324 seconds clear of Montecalvo’s top time in the No. 14 Lexus and a massive 10.332 seconds quicker than Patrick Lindsey who was the class’ slowest driver.
Robichon will start first in the all-GT3 class for his second time after he inherited the pole at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park when the original pole-sitting team was sent to the rear of the field for a post-qualifying technical infraction. The Canadian driver spent that weekend in Detroit with Park Place Motorsports to earn WeatherTech Sprint Cup points, making the VIR triumph effectively his first and also the first for Pfaff.
Montecalvo’s AIM Vasser Sullivan stablemate Richard Heistand will line up third on Sunday’s starting grid alongside the championship-leading No. 86 Acura NSX GT3, driven in qualifying by Hindman. Alice Powell earned a fifth-place starting position for the other Meyer Shank Racing Acura in her first WeatherTech Championship qualifying attempt.
With three manufacturers in the top five, Robby Foley and Ben Keating added BMW and Mercedes-AMG to the top seven in their Turner Motorsport and Riley Motorsports entries.
A 20-minute morning warm-up outing Sunday will kick off the third-to-last WeatherTech Championship race day of the year a few hours before NBCSN’s live telecast of the two-hour, 40-minute race opens at 1:30 p.m. EDT. The green flag will wave five minutes later.