Calado Puts Risi Ferrari on Pole for IMSA Return

James Calado qualifying Risi Ferrari 488 GTE at Petit Le Mans
James Calado ensured the only Ferrari 488 GTE in the field will start first in GTLM at the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans. | Photo: Kenneth Midgett / Spacesuit Media

Risi Competizione will start first in GT Le Mans in its first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race since the Rolex 24 at Daytona after a chart-topping qualifying performance by James Calado in the field’s lone Ferrari 488 GTE.

At more than 1.3 seconds under the former GTLM lap record at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, Calado’s fifth out of six laps during the 15-minute saw the Ferrari narrowly edge out of the No. 3 Corvette C7.R qualified by Antonio Garcia to capture the final pole in the flagship GT class of the year.

Garcia’s effort in that Corvette Racing entry was for naught, however, as the rear wing of the No. 3 was found to be out of compliance during post-qualifying technical inspection, sending it to the back of the starting grid.

Philip Eng is the first beneficiary of Corvette’s penalty as he and the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE qualified third but will start second Saturday, joining Calado and the Ferrari on the front row. Laurens Vanthoor and Joey Hand added the two other GTLM manufacturers on hand for the finale to the top four, placing third and fourth in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR and No. 66 Ford GT.

Vanthoor and his co-driver Earl Bamber lead the GTLM points by 12 points over Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet of the sister No. 911 Porsche, which will start sixth with Tandy at the wheel.

All nine GTLM cars dipped under John Edwards’ 2018 lap record, down to Colton Herta in the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE which itself was 0.679 seconds quicker than last year’s pole time.

Lewis Gifted GTD Pole After Penalty for Land

Corey Lewis made Paul Miller Racing’s Lamborghini Huracan GT3 the second-fastest GT Daytona car during the class’ final 15-minute qualifying outing of 2019 but was awarded his second consecutive pole when the fastest car’s laps were deleted.

Part-time WeatherTech Championship team Montaplast by Land-Motorsport watched its Audi R8 LMS GT3 execute the fastest lap but had touched the car during a red-flag period, prompting IMSA to invalidate all of the car’s qualifying laps, including the 1:19.185 that would’ve put the car on the class pole and become the new lap record.

Instead, Lewis’ run to second on the qualifying results with a 1:19.530 became good enough for first and gave the GTD pole to the reigning class championship-winning Paul Miller team.

An all-Lamborghini front row would have been a result of Land’s penalty had Precision Performance Motorsports not made the same mistake and caused Shinya Michimi’s eight qualifying laps to be erased. Instead, the PPM Lamborghini will join the Land Audi at the back of the field for the race start while Ben Keating joins Lewis on the front row for the GT3 category in his Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3.

After the penalties, Jeff Westphal and Justin Marks earned spots on the second row in the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 and the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 that will secure the GTD title by taking the start Saturday. Christina Nielsen qualified seventh in the other Meyer Shank Racing Acura but will start fifth.

Turner Motorsport’s BMW M6 GT3 was a favorite for the GTD pole after showing speed in practice but a brake failure sent the car into the Turn 10 gravel trap with Robby Foley at the wheel, initiating a long red-flag period and placing the car last on the grid behind the two penalized entries.

A 20-minute warm-up session beginning at 9:30 a.m. EDT Saturday will kick off IMSA’s final race day of 2019 and mark the last on-track activity before the 10-hour race begins at 12:05 p.m. with live television coverage initially on NBC.