IMSA WeatherTech Championship

Firsts All Around in Prototype Classes

Campbell Nabs First Pole for Porsche 963, Kurtz Takes LMP2 Top Spot

May 13, 2023

By John Oreovicz

IMSA Wire Service

MONTEREY, Calif. – Porsche’s new 963 prototype didn’t start the season the way they wanted in the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. But Porsche Penske Motorsport has turned things around in a hurry.

Matt Campbell achieved the latest milestone for the German marque’s new contender at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, guiding the No. 7 Porsche 963 to the Motul Pole Award for the Motul Course de Monterey Powered by Hyundai N. Mathieu Jaminet completed a front row sweep for Porsche in the No. 6 entry that notched the new car’s first race win four weeks ago in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Campbell and co-driver Felipe Nasr set the pace in both practice sessions, and Campbell found another seven tenths of a second in qualifying to lap the 2.238-mile road course in 1 minute, 14.774 seconds (107.748 mph). That was just 0.090 seconds faster than Jaminet’s best effort of 1:14.864 (107.618 mph) in the No. 6 car he shares with Nick Tandy.

“Seven tenths (improvement) I didn’t expect, that’s for sure,” said Campbell, who earned his second WeatherTech Championship pole position, and first in prototypes. “We thought we maybe would have went a little bit slower, looking at the previous categories that went before us.

“It came from just digging a little deeper and fine tuning the car a little more,” added the 28-year-old Australian. “We made a few small changes just to try and smooth some things out, and it really worked better than expected, to be honest. It’s been a fantastic weekend, topping every session so far.”

Campbell expressed his appreciation for the effort that Porsche and Team Penske have put into turning the 963 into a pace setter and race winner. The 963 has garnered a reputation as the most complex of the four sophisticated new hybrid-powered prototypes that made their debut in the GTP class in 2023.

“I think it’s even a small surprise to us,” he said. “We’ve made really good steps and progress since Long Beach. We’ve learned a lot, from that race on especially, on systems and so forth. We’ve been able to really dig deep and come up with some new stuff and that’s been really key going into this weekend.

“There’s also a bit of a new base in philosophy behind our car, and that’s working phenomenally so far,” Campbell continued. “It’s been better than expectations, for sure, especially looking back at the last events. For sure I think we can say we struggled for performance and it’s nice to have turned that around now.”

Porsche used tire strategy as the key element in Jaminet and Tandy’s victory at Long Beach, a race in which Campbell and Nasr finished third.

“Tire degradation here is extremely tough, so management will be a huge part tomorrow, for sure,” Campbell remarked. “I think we’re less concerned than in previous events. We had some smaller long runs yesterday and it looked quite promising compared to everyone else, looking at times. So I think we’re also in a really good position for long runs.”

Kurtz Nabs Last Lap LMP2 Pole Position

The closing moments of Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) qualifying delivered drama. With 30 seconds remaining in the 15-minute qualifying session, Ben Keating (No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07) had his pole-sitting lap time invalidated due to a track limits infraction at Turn 5.

In the meantime, George Kurtz was on a last-lap flyer that turned out to be the Motul Pole Award winning lap in the No. 04 Crowdstrike Racing by APR ORECA LMP2 07, timed at 1:19.262 (101.647 mph). Keating’s invalidated lap was 1:18.891.

Kurtz, who co-drives with Ben Hanley, earned his first pole in IMSA competition.

“They (pit crew) told me what was going on and I knew the time to beat,” Kurtz said. “I had the reference point and knew I had one lap. So I just put my head down, the track cleared out, and it was a magic lap. Excited to get it done.”

Keating will roll of the grid second with a lap of 1:19.323 (101.569 mph) while Steven Thomas posted a lap of 1:19.718 (101.066 mph) in the No. 11 TDS Racing ORECA LMP2 07 to give him and co-driver Mikkel Jensen a starting spot of third.

Sunday’s two-hour, 40-minute race airs live at 3 p.m. ET on NBC. It’s also available on Peacock Premium in the United States.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s