Keating’s ‘Heroic’ Run Takes LMP2 Honors, Llarena Tops in LMP3
By Jeff Olson
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – During a press conference Thursday before his qualifying session at Watkins Glen International, Ricky Taylor called Turn 9 “the most frustrating corner in the world.”
A few hours later, the corner was far less frustrating and Taylor was far more gratified.
Taylor managed the blind, uphill left-hander with aplomb Thursday evening, recording a fast lap of 1 minute, 30.058 seconds (135.912 mph) around WGI’s 11-turn, 3.4-mile circuit to win the pole position for the IMSA WeatherTech 240 at The Glen.
It wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Part of what makes Turn 9 so tricky is the difficulty it places on tires. As drivers try to time their fastest laps when their tires are optimal, Turn 9 doesn’t want to play that game.
“Normally the pace improves everywhere else around the track,” Taylor said. “That’s why Turn 9 always bites you at the end because the rears start to drop. That corner is always rear-limited. You get it around there and it’s like, ‘I hope I can hold it.’”
Taylor and his No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 DPi were 0.346 seconds faster than runner-up Olivier Pla in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura he shares with Dane Cameron.
Taylor’s lap put the No. 10 car and teammate Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 1 starting position for Friday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race as they continue to lead the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) standings at the season’s halfway point. The Motul Pole Award effort also came less than a week after Taylor won the pole for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
Taylor’s best lap came Thursday immediately after a bad one.
“The lap before I completely messed it up, but in that (pole-winning) lap, I happened to survive a little bit better,” Taylor said. “It generally does. Once I survived on that last lap, you just kind of bring it home. The last two corners are pretty straightforward.”
Kevin Magnussen had the third-fastest lap, bringing the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi V.R he co-drives with Renger van der Zande home in 1:30.545.
Faster than Ever, Keating Takes LMP2 Pole
As Taylor won the DPi pole, Ben Keating used the final lap to slip past Steven Thomas for the pole position in Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2). Keating’s effort of 1:34.969 (128.884 mph) was just enough to top Thomas’ best of 1:35.392, which he’d used to top Keating on the previous lap.
“Is there a time limit on how long I can talk?” Keating asked before embarking on a lengthy explanation during the post-qualifying press conference.
Keating and teammate Mikkel Jensen will start first in class and seventh overall in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07. Thomas and co-driver Tristan Nunez will start second in LMP2 and eighth overall in the No. 11 WIN Autosport. Thomas, Nunez and Thomas Merrill teamed to win the Sahlen’s Six Hours on Sunday.
“I feel like I pulled off heroic sectors for the last two sectors,” Keating said. “I threw it into the Bus Stop faster than I’ve ever driven through there. I went flat around the Carousel. I went flat through the last two turns. … I could not believe that I pulled it off.”
Llarena Claims First IMSA Pole in LMP3
Mateo Llarena claimed the pole for Performance Tech Motorsports in Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3), putting the No. 38 Ligier JS P320 for him and teammate Rasmus Lindh at the head of the class with a lap of 1:42.633 (119.259 mph).
“It was quite good,” Llarena said. “We didn’t expect to get it because we were struggling … with the changing conditions. So, we really didn’t know like where we would start. I pushed all the way. The car was great and I managed to get a very good lap.”
Jon Bennett and Colin Braun will start second in LMP3 with the No. 54 CORE autosport Ligier.
NBCSN’s live coverage of the IMSA WeatherTech 240 begins at 6 p.m. ET Friday. The race also can be viewed on NBC Sports Gold’s TrackPass. IMSA Radio also has complete coverage.
Kranz Edges Sarchet for IMSA Prototype Challenge Pole
The top two in the IMSA Prototype Challenge point standings finished 1-2 in qualifying for Friday’s race at Watkins Glen. Championship leader Moritz Kranz edged Josh Sarchet by 0.379 seconds and will lead the field to the green flag in the one-hour, 45-minute race.
Kranz’s fast lap in the No. 21 Muehlner Motorsports America Duqueine D08 was 1:41.228 (120.915 mph) and made him a perfect 4-for-4 in Motul Pole Award qualifying this season. The German has won two of the first three Prototype Challenge races this season.
Sarchet, who shares the No. 54 MLT Motorsports Ligier JS P320 with Dakota Dickerson, was timed at 1:41.607 (120.464 mph) to earn the outside front row starting position. Sarchet and Dickerson, who have finished on the podium in all three 2021 races but have yet to win, trail Kranz by 40 points leading into the race.
Friday’s race starts at 11:45 a.m. ET and airs live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and IMSA Radio.