Ferrari returns to IMSA and wins GTLM pole at Road Atlanta
All nine cars in the class break track record
The familiar No. 62 red Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT3 has returned to IMSA and the Motul Petit Le Mans for the final race of the year and marked that reappearance with a bang by winning the GT Le Mans (GTLM) pole.
James Calado piloted the car to a lap of one minute, 15.639 seconds (120.889 mph) Friday to earn his first WeatherTech Championship pole. The time broke the old mark of 1:17.006 set by BMW’s John Edwards last year.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Calado said. “It is so nice to come into the box and see the team’s spirit lifted and the emotion on everyone’s faces. So this is what’s important in going forward and winning races.”
While he easily set a record, Calado mentioned it wasn’t the best he could have done.
“The line wasn’t perfect,” he added. “I lost half a tenth (of a second) in the last corner but it was good enough for P1. It was extremely close and all manufacturers are pushing hard. It wasn’t easy out there. The track is difficult. We are confident the car is good and ready to go.”
To demonstrate how close the qualifying session was, all nine cars in the class broke the old mark set by Edwards last year. The top five cars were each from a different manufacturer and separated by just .217 seconds.
The No. 3 Corvette driven by Antonio Garcia initially qualified second with a time of 1:15.702 (120.789 mph) but was moved to the rear of the GTLM grid when its rear wing was found out of compliance during post-qualifying inspection.
Philipp Eng in the No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE held the fastest lap for a few minutes midway through the session, but finished second in the revised GTLM order with a time of 1:15.784 (120.658 mph). The class-leading No. 912 Porsche GT Team qualified third as Laurens Vanthoor recorded a lap of 1:15.842 (120.566 mph). Joey Hand was fourth in the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT at 1:15.856 (120.543 mph).
Vanthoor and co-driver Earl Bamber have a 12-point advantage in the GTLM driver and team standings over No. 911 teammates Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet going into Saturday’s race.
All that remains on the 2019 WeatherTech Championship schedule is a 20-minute warmup starting at 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday, followed by the race. NBC Sports has complete coverage, starting at noon ET Saturday on NBC network with the green flag expected at approximately 12:10 p.m. ET.
Coverage shifts to the NBC Sports App and NBCSports.com from 3-5:30 p.m. ET, before NBCSN picks up the broadcast at 5:30 p.m. ET until the race conclusion. IMSA Radio will have live coverage of the entire race on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio.