BRASELTON, Ga. – official release — Ted Rossino Jr. photo — Action Express Racing came to Road Atlanta with a long “to do” list for Saturday’s season-ending Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda, including capturing team and driver championships for both the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.
Winning the TOTAL Pole Award was on that list, and Christian Fittipaldi went out and accomplished that fete in Friday’s Prototype qualifying session. The Brazilian ran a lap of 1:14.508 (122.725 mph) on the 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course in the No. 5 Action Express Corvette DP co-driven by Joao Barbosa and Sebastien Bourdais, taking his first pole of the year. It was the team’s second of the season, the first coming when Bourdais led qualifying for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida in March.
The session was red flagged twice, once as Alex Brundle stopped on course in the No. 42 OAK Racing Ligier JS P2/Honda, and then for a two-car incident when Brian Frisselle in the No. 9 Action Express Corvette DP tagged the stopped No. 07 Mazda Prototype of Tristan Nunez.
“After I saw the second red, I knew we would have only a few minutes,” Fittipaldi said. “I knew I had to nail it on two laps maximum. After that, it went to the checker and it was all over.
“We have a couple of goals for tomorrow,” Fittipaldi added. “First, the car has to start. If we roll down after the pace car we get the team championship. Then priority number two is to get Joao and myself 45 minutes to clinch the driver championship. After that, we’ll start looking at the Patrón Endurance Cup and the race win. We’re definitely looking at the big picture. It’s by no means finished yet, and I’ve seen many crazy things happen in racing.”
Ricky Taylor qualified second in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP co-driven by his brother Jordan and Max Angelelli with a lap of 1:14.797 (122.251 mph). Sharing the second row will be the No. 90 VisitFlorida.com Corvette DP, qualified by Richard Westbrook at 1:14.920 (122.050 mph), and the No. 01 Telcel Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford EcoBoost/Riley, qualified by Scott Pruett at 1:15.224 (121.557 mph).
Brundle was looking to give the new Ligier chassis its second consecutive pole, with co-driver Gustavo Yacaman running fastest in Thursday night practice. However, Brundle lost the clutch very early in the session, relegating the new car to the back of the 51-car grid.
The TUDOR Championship’s GT Le Mans (GTLM) class proved once again to be one of the most competitive sports car classes in the world with Nick Tandy becoming the 11th different pole winner in 11 races this season in the No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR.
Tandy set the pace with a best lap time of 1:18.350 (116.707 mph) 0.337 seconds over ex-Formula One driver Giancarlo Fisichella in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia.
“We really went aggressive on the set up knowing that we only had about 2 laps in which to hit the peak of the rear tires,” said Tandy. “This is the best the car has been in qualifying trim all season long. I guess this makes 11 different pole winners this year in this class. I’m proud to be part of that – it shows how good this class is.”
Bryan Sellers was third in the No. 17 Falken Tire Porsche 911 RSR, only a scant .020 seconds back of the Ferrari driver.
In GT Daytona (GTD), James Davison came out on top once again in the TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage, picking up his fourth consecutive TOTAL Pole Award. He progressively lowered his times throughout the session, finally pitting after setting the class’ best time of 1:22.254 (111.168 mph).
“This track has always been good to me, but the way the track was washed off made it very easy top overdrive. Hopefully we can get a good race result tomorrow to end the season well,” Davison said.
IndyCar veteran Jack Hawksworth topped the Prototype Challenge (PC) class charts with a lap 1:16.210 (119.984 mph) in RSR Racing’s No. 08 entry, beating teammate Bruno Junqueira by 0.261 seconds.
Tom Kimber-Smith rounded out the top three in the No. 25 8Star Motorsports entry.