The cloud cover was slightly thicker as the early evening sunshine gave a gorgeous light to go with the warm conditions, reaching 29c (84f) in qualifying for the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut, for the first of two GT only race in the 2017 IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship. And Gianmaria Bruni in the #912 Porsche seized the opportunity to take his first pole as a Porsche driver.
In GT Daytona, it was Madison Snow in the #48 Lamborghini Huracan who swept to pole position, taking their second pole of the year after Long Beach, and continuing their good form from Free Practice 2. They finished just a tenth ahead of the #54 Core Autosport Porsche, in the hands of Colin Braun. Patrick Long, returning to the class, qualified third, three-and-a-half tenths off pole in the #28 Alegra Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3R.
Championship leaders in the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari of Alessandro Balzan, and qualifying driver Christina Nielsen lineup ninth in class, after a strong second practice session. Their best time was over half a second off the leading Lamborghini. Nielsen was pipped by Katherine Legge in the #93 Michael Shank Acura NSX as the chequered flag came out at the end of the session, beating the Ferrari by just .049 of a second.
In GTLM, Jan Magnussen in the #3 Corvette was the first to leave the pit lane, as the other 7 GTLM cars waited on the pit apron, with their engines off. Using the clear track, Magnussen needed four laps of the mile and a half circuit to bring his tyres into their optimum condition, with a fastest time of 50.730. However as the chasing pack started their runs, Magnussen time couldn’t manage better than sixth. The team who won their 100th race here one year ago will need a strong race pace tomorrow to overcome the other challengers.
Gimmi Bruni however in the #912 Porsche 911 RSR, in only his third race as a Porsche factory driver was flying, taking his first pole for the German marque. His lap time of a 50.404 was a qualifying record, and despite the best efforts of the #67 Ford GT in the hands of Richard Westbrook, the best the blue oval could achieve was second with a 50.540.
Bruni’s teammate Dirk Wener in the #911 which set pole in the last race, lines up third with a 50.606, ahead of the first BMW M6 of John Edwards in the #24 car. The sister BMW of Bill Auberlen, which has won the last two races at Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, with co-driver Alexander Sims, had a tough session, and lines up 8th, for the two and a half hour race tomorrow.
Dirk Muller in the #66 Ford, which led at the end of the first free practice, will start just one place ahead of Auberlen in seventh, however with the strong pace showed by Westbrook in the #67 sister car, this could well be one to climb the field in the race.
Afterwards, Bruni who will lead the field to the green flag said “We tried our best, and worked hard with Laurent Vanthoor and my engineer, and it works, I am very happy to set my first pole position with Porsche”. With both GTLM and GTD qualifying records obliterated, and warm and dry conditions forecast, this will be a race you cannot miss!