Pipo Derani Nabs 2018 Petit Le Mans Pole for Tequila Patron ESM

BMW Team RLL and Scuderia Corsa also grabbed P1 in their respective classes for Saturday's race start.

Friday’s Petit Le Mans qualifying session at Road Atlanta capitalized on the stellar action displayed throughout practice with Tequila Patron ESM’s No. 22 Nissan Onroak DPi taking overall pole for the weekend’s race.

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Pipo Derani took charge of the running when he managed a 1:10.437 lap around the 12-turn course, besting the second place No. 77 Mazda Team Joest entry by more than a tenth of a second. The two prototypes will start on the front row of the endurance race while also being followed by their teammates, the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P taking P3 and ESM’s No. 2 car reaching P4.

“It’s been awfully close, obviously, so anybody could get the pole, but Pipo did what Pipo does,” exclaimed ESM team co-owner and driver Scott Sharp.

Team Penske failed to repeat its pole-winning performance from last year but will begin from P5 with Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor, and Graham Rahal in the No. 7 Acura ARX-05. Filipe Albuquerque drove his No. 5 Mustang Sampling machine to sixth place, completing qualifying as the best of the Cadillacs.

Meanwhile, IMSA WeatherTech Championship contender CORE Autosport will start from P10 as Colin Braun couldn’t follow up on his pace-setting performance from Practice 2 earlier in the day. Title rivals in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac leapfrogged the CORE crew and will start beside them in ninth place. 

BMW Team RLL Quickest in GTLM

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John Edwards hustled BMW Team RLL’s No. 24 M8 GTE to pole in GT Le Mans, rounding Road Atlanta in just 1:17.006. The class championship leading No. 3 Corvette Racing C7.R was second fastest, .024 behind the Bimmer-running squad. 

“The cars are getting quicker and quicker every year. It wasn’t long ago there was a big difference between the GT cars and the Prototypes, but now we’re faster than the older Prototypes,” explained Edwards. “We knew it would be really close; the important thing is that we are in the window—it didn’t really matter if we qualified first, fourth or fifth. The important thing tomorrow will be who executes the best.”

Porsche’s No. 912 RSR was pushed to fourth-quickest by Earl Bamber, nudging out the No. 67 Ford GT which is the only car that has a mathematical shot at trumping Corvette Racing for the title this weekend. 

Risi Competizione, returning to IMSA competition for the first time since March’s 12 Hours of Sebring, was slowest in the field of nine cars but still has hope given the 10-hour endurance race’s turbulent nature.

Scuderia Corsa Takes P1 in GTD

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Lastly, Scuderia Corsa was fastest in GT Daytona thanks to a 1:19.695 job performed by Daniel Serra. That trumped the efforts of qualifying specialist Jack Hawksworth in the No. 15 Lexus RC F GT3, though the two distanced themselves a whole row from title contenders Paul Miller Racing and Meyer Shank’s No. 86 Acura. 

“Hopefully we did a good job preparing the car so there is not too much tire degradation during the stint,” said Alvaro Parente, qualifying driver for Shank’s No. 86 entry who will work alongside championship hopeful Katherine Legge on Saturday. “It’s a long race where anything can happen so we just need to be smart. My goal is to have a clean start and hand over a good car to Katherine (Legge) and Trent (Hindman) so we are in the best spot possible for the championship. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow!”

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The category’s pair of Porsches dropped to last in GTD with the Park Place team only defeating Wright Motorsports’ 911 GT3 R which will be driven by past champions Patrick Long and Christina Nielsen this weekend.

Saturday’s race, which will be broadcasted on FS1 and FS2, starts at 10:30 a.m. EST and will carry on into the dark as the 10-hour time limit ticks on.