Snow Puts No. 1 Lamborghini on Pole in GTD; Machavern Claims Michelin Pilot Challenge Pole
By Mark Robinson
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – As they’ve done most of the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, the Corvette Racing entries battled tooth and nail Thursday evening at Watkins Glen International.
On this occasion, it was Jordan Taylor in the No. 3 Corvette C8.R getting the better – barely – of teammate Nick Tandy in the No. 4, in GT Le Mans (GTLM) qualifying for Friday’s IMSA WeatherTech 240 at The Glen. Taylor nipped Tandy by 0.220 seconds on a last-lap dash by both drivers to win the class pole position. It is the 17th career pole position for Taylor and first since WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca last October.
“It was a good lap, obviously,” Taylor said after being clocked at 1 minute, 43.821 seconds (117.895 mph). “This session was a bit different and stressful with different conditions leading into it. We didn’t know whether to go slick or wet (-condition tires). Thankfully, the guys made the right call with slicks, and then it was all about building temperatures in the tires and nailing it at the end.”
The Corvettes swapped the top spot at least four times in the last five minutes of the 15-minute session on Watkins Glen’s historic 11-turn, 3.4-mile road course. On their final lap as the checkered flag waved, Taylor crossed the stripe just ahead of Tandy, who couldn’t gain enough advantage of any draft effect to claim the pole.
“When you’re head-to-head with a guy like Nick Tandy, you really need to make the most of it,” Taylor said. “He’s a guy that I’ve grown up watching and respected, so I knew I had to be nailing everything and on my ‘A’ game. I’m glad it worked out.”
Cooper MacNeil qualified a cautious third in the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 that underwent significant repairs after catching fire Sunday in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. MacNeil and co-driver Matt Campbell used Thursday’s lone practice session and qualifying to work out issues in the car and focus on race performance.
Snow Storms to Motul Pole Award in GT Daytona
It didn’t matter to Madison Snow that conditions were at their most treacherous for GT Daytona (GTD) grid position qualifying on Thursday. He was in charge of the entire 15-minute segment when the track was its wettest from earlier rain to win the Motul Pole Award.
Snow’s final lap in the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3, 1:59.380 (102.529 mph) was nearly a half-second clear of the GTD field and earned Snow the fourth pole position of his IMSA career and first since 2017. Using wet-condition Michelin tires, he topped the speed chart nearly throughout and punctuated it with his last lap. Afterward, he applauded the team’s move for the grooved wet tires, while some in the 12-car class struggled on dry-condition slicks.
“I went out the first couple laps, got quite a bit of heat in (the tires) and did a decent time,” Snow said. “Then I took two laps to cool off the tires because I had too much to keep pushing. So that last lap I was able to build more heat back in them because they heated up real quick with almost dry conditions out there.
“For me, it was kind of feeling what the tire had and just making sure you didn’t kill it, so that at the end of the session you still had something left.”
Frankie Montecalvo was second in the grid position qualifying session with a lap of 1:59.820 (102.153 mph) in the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3. He and Snow were the only drivers to turn a lap in under two minutes.
In the ensuing 15-minute session to decide qualifying points under much drier conditions, Jack Hawksworth survived the frantic final minutes to set the fastest lap (1:46.988, 114.405 mph) and rake in 35 points toward the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup standings. The lead changed five times in the final minute and after the checkered flag waved, as drivers pushed to the limit. Bill Auberlen, Zach Veach and Mario Farnbacher each took turns at the top until Hawksworth launched in with his best lap in the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3.
Ross Gunn qualified the No. 23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 fifth in the points session. It gives Gunn and co-driver Roman De Angelis an unofficial 47-point lead over Montecalvo in the Sprint Cup standings, with Friday’s GTD race counting only toward the Sprint Cup and not the overall WeatherTech Championship.
Machavern, Gottsacker Pace Michelin Pilot Challenge Qualifying
Dillon Machavern collected the first IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge pole of his career in qualifying for the Sahlen’s 120 at The Glen. The 2017 Grand Sport (GS) champion and driver of the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 posted the fastest lap among the 20 GS entries, at 1:54.897 (106.530 mph), putting him and co-driver Bill Auberlen at the head of the field for Friday’s two-hour race.
Ryan Hardwick qualified second in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport, at 1:55.058 (106.381 mph).
Harry Gottsacker led a Hyundai swarm at the top of Touring Car (TCR) class qualifying. Driving the No. 33 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR, Gottsacker sped around Watkins Glen in 1:57.444 (104.219 mph) to secure his first Motul Pole Award of the season.
Brian Henderson, in the No. 84 Atlanta Speedwerks Honda Civic FK7 TCR, was second quick (1:57.605, 104.077 mph) and the only non-Hyundai in the top five. The two-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge race takes the green flag at 2:35 p.m. ET Friday. Live coverage is available on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and IMSA Radio.