IMSA: Pla Continues Shank Team’s Dominance; Takes Petit Le Mans Pole

RaceChaser Staff Featured, Road Racing, WeatherTech 0 Comments

Olivier Pla poses with the TOTAL Pole Award after topping qualifying for the 10-hour Petit Le Mans on Friday at Road Atlanta. (IMSA photo)

Olivier Pla poses with the TOTAL Pole Award after topping qualifying for the 10-hour Petit Le Mans on Friday at Road Atlanta. (IMSA photo)

BRASELTON, Ga. – Olivier Pla followed up Michael Shank Racing’s dominance of practice at Road Atlanta by capturing the TOTAL Pole Award for Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

Pla ran a lap of 1:13.061 (125.1 mph) on the 2.54-mile circuit in the No. 60 Curb Records/AERO Honda Ligier JS P2 co-driven by Ozz Negri and John Pew.

The team led all four of the weekend’s practice sessions prior to Friday’s 15-minute qualifying session.

“From the beginning, the team has done a great job,” said Pla, who won the pole for the team earlier this season for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida. “They gave me a very competitive car and we kept improving each time. I was expecting that more or less. The other things will come tomorrow. It will be a real possibility for the win. We have nothing to lose, we want to put on a good show for the fans, so we will go for it.”

Tristan Nunez will join Pla on the outside of the front row after running a best lap of 1:13.520 (124.3 mph) in the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports Castrol/ModSpace Mazda Prototype co-driven by Jonathan Bomarito and Spencer Pigot.

Dan Cameron qualified third with a lap of 1:13.903 (123.7 mph) in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Whelen Engineering Corvette Daytona Prototype co-driven by Eric Curran and 2016 IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud. Cameron and Curran enter the finale with a one-point lead over Action Express Racing teammates Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa, 285-284. Fittipaldi qualified fifth.

Robert Alon won his fourth TOTAL Pole Award of the season in the Prototype Challenge class, running a lap of 1:16.411 (119.6 mph) in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Prisma/Professional Security Consultants/ Westfield ORECA FLM09 co-driven by Tom Kimber-Smith and Jose Gutierrez.

“Honestly I think we had a really good car,” said Alon, a two-time winner in 2016 PC competition. “All I had to do was put my head down and do what I had to do – and the car did the rest. It definitely started getting greasy out there about halfway through the run. I think the fast lap was somewhere in the middle of my session, so that’s probably why it was so fast.”

Alon survived a late charge by Alex Popow, who ran 1:16.470 (119.5 mph), missing the pole by 0.059 seconds. Popow enters the finale sharing the PC points lead with Renger van der Zande in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport ORECA. David Heinemeier Hansson will co-drive this weekend. They lead Alon and Kimber-Smith by 10 points, 329-319.

“It was great qualifying – it’s a shame,” Popow said. “I’ve never felt so sad for second place. The last lap was going to be our lap, but I made a mistake in turn five. That took us out of contention for pole.”

Continued on the next page…

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