RPW Column: Acura, Corvette Have Six-Hour Front Row Lockout In IMSA DPi, GTLM Qualifying At Watkins Glen

Column By: MARTY CZEKALA / RPW – WATKINS GLEN, NY – Acura has been fast all weekend in advance of Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. While the Meyer Shank Racing #60 was the fastest in both practice session, it was the Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing #10 driven by Ricky Taylor to put it on DPi pole with a 1:30.022 by .019 seconds over Dane Cameron in the MSR Acura.

The pole is Ricky Taylor’s 22nd IMSA pole in his career, 2nd pole at The Glen, and enters this race as a previous winner back in 2011 driving for his father’s team.

“It feels really good,” Ricky Taylor said. “Even though six hours sounds long, but the way these races go and the way the track flows, track position is so important here. It helps you control the race. As far as strategy goes, it makes it a little difficult because you don’t want to be the first one to make decisions. As far as the car, I’m really proud of the guys.”

The team besides Taylor is made up of a two-time overall winner at Watkins Glen, Filipe Albuquerque, and a 2017 IndyCar winner at Watkins, Alexander Rossi.

“We made a late call to Alex to join us, as it’s such a physical weekend. With the physical demands on the drivers and the car, from the load and the heat. I’m glad we got three, I think the team has done a really great job of getting everybody through the car. Alex is up to speed, super-fast like usual.”

This was the same team that won this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.

On if Acura teams have worked together in setup advice/driving around, Taylor told RPW “From the HPD side, it’s very open. Obviously, the cars and engine development are identical. For the teams, we’re doing our work and trying to get the most out of it on our own. Each of the cars have been strong. This is such a good track for us, we’ll just see how the racing goes.”

LMP2: WIN Autosport shocks PR1 in final moments

Throughout qualifying, it looked as if Ben Keating was going to put PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports on pole in the #52 with a 1:35.322, but on his final lap Steven Thomas after the checkers flew clocked in with a 1:35.304 for his 2nd pole in IMSA competition.

“It was exciting because I came across start/finish and they told me ‘you need four tenths to be on pole’. I guess we just barely made it in,” I was trying to flow the speed in and get back to power. Thomas said.

Joining Thomas this weekend is Thomas Merrill and 2019 overall winner at The Glen Tristan Nunez.

Thomas may not have been able to get the pole, as Keating spun in turn 9 exiting the boot in front of Thomas during the final minute. No local yellow was thrown and Thomas continued on with his flying laps.

“I was just hoping there wouldn’t be a yellow. I was on a pretty good lap.”

His final lap, was almost costly as he made a mistake while shifting.

“I tried to hold 4th gear coming to start/finish because I thought it’d be faster and I actually hit the limiter right before start/finish which cost me a little bit. I jumped into 5th as fast as I could…That would’ve been an error I didn’t want to talk to Tom and Tristan about,” Thomas told RPW.

LMP3: United’s debut off to enormous start

In their first LMP3 event, United Autosport’s Austin McCusker took his first IMSA pole with a blistering 1:40.404, a half second faster than Jarett Andretti for the Andretti AutoSport camp.

“I’m really happy. It’s United Autosport’s first run in the States in LMP3,” McCusker said. “Car rolled off really good off the truck, we made some minor tweaks. Just trying to learn the track, haven’t been here in a while. Everyone has been working well. We’ve just been chipping away every time. It’s a tough field in LMP3. Traffic will be a big thing tomorrow so we’ll just have to remind ourselved to stay clean and be there at the end.”

Joining McCusker is Edouard Cauhaupe and Niklas Krutten.

This is a team that also competes in LMP2, this year, their more powerful car has only run the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Six Hours.

With a hot and slick racetrack expected for tomorrow, McCusker says this gives him a lot of motivation.

GTLM: Corvette front row lockout

Corvette is proving they’re the team to beat this weekend as Antonio Garcia and Tommy Milner took the front row in GT with a 1:40.944 and 1:41.318, respectively.

This is the 9th IMSA Pole for Garcia as he looks to return to victory lane since 2014.

“That felt really good. We’re back on pole because the last time we were here, we were on pole too. It’s always fun to qualify here. That’s when you really get to experience Watkins Glen. You can really go for it and be really close to the walls. It was fun. Unfortunately I had one lap deleted (for track limits infraction), which didn’t help but I was able to almost do it again. The C8.R was great again. It’s always good to get on pole and get one for Corvette Racing.”

That one lap Garcia explained was invalidated. Garcia explained to RPW what was told in the drivers briefing.

“You need to keep two wheels on the curbs in turn one and turn eight. Those are the two places where you can be really close to that. The one that got invalidated, it probably wasn’t the best laptime, but I’m sure they reviewed that. And that’s the thing. I would rather have the banner they have on turn eight so that gives everybody a heads up. We always try to find the limit and probably overshoot there.”

That one lap, actually could’ve been a new track record for GTLM, which he also currently owns. The time was originally a 1:40.588, over two tenths faster than a lap he set in 2019.

Jordan Taylor joins Garcia this weekend, the team also won in the Rolex 24 this season.

GTD: Lexus earns pole; gains valuable points in qualifying

This was a day of qualifying that Lexus really needed, as their #14 of Kyle Kirkwood recorded his first IMSA pole with a time of 1:45.539.

With a new qualifying format in IMSA for GTD only, it is split into two 15 minute sessions. The first 15 minutes with Kirkwood behind the wheel was for starting positions. The second session was towards the championship standings. Jack Hawksworth took the #14 to the top of charts. It marks the first time a car has swept the pole and the points in this new format.

“It’s definitely crucial for the race. It seems pretty hard to pass. I just gotta give it off to the team, Vasser Sullivan and Lexus RC-F GT3 has been on rails this weekend. It’s also my first time ever qualifying as well. Quite happy with that. Great way to start it. It’s going to help us,” Kirkwood said.

The sister car in points qualifying, the #12 driven by Zach Veach, was 2nd quickest. This is critical for the Lexus teams as the #12 and #14 teams came into the points 6th and 10th, respectively.

“It’s a lot for us right now,” Kirkwood said to RPW. “The #14 car definitely needs a result. Hopefully this weekend, the trend continues. To have those extra points help with the championship of course, gives us some confidence and momentum”

Joining Kirkwood and Hawksworth this weekend is IMSA regular Aaron Telitz.

The green flies Sunday morning at 10:40am and can be seen live on NBC Sports Gold Trackpass.

10 Acura Ricky Taylor, 2. 60 Acura Dane Cameron, 3. 01 Cadillac Renger van der Zende, 4. 48 Cadillac Kamui Kobayashi, 5. 31 Cadillac Pipo Derani, 6. 55 Mazda Oliver Jarvis, 7. 5 Cadillac Tristan Vautier

11 WIN Steven Thomas, 2. 52 PR1 Ben Keating, 3. 18 Era Dwight Merriman, 4. 8 Oreca John Farano, 5. 22 Oreca James McGuire

2 United Austin McCusker, 2. 36 Andretti Jarett Andretti, 3. Core 54 George Kurtz, 4. 38 Performance Tech Dan Goldburg, 5. D3+ Transformers Theodor Olsen, 6. Riley 74 Gar Robinson

3 Corvette Antonio Garcia, 2. 4 Corvette Tommy Milner, 3. 25 BMW Connor De Phillippi, 4. 24 BMW John Edwards, 5. 79 Porsche Cooper MacNeil

14 Lexus Kyle Kirkwood, 2. 16 Porsche Trent Hindman, 3. 42 Audi Jaden Conwright, 4. 28 Mercedes-AMG Daniel Morad, 5. 96 BMW Robby Foley, 6. 12 Lexus Frankie Montecalvo, 7. 39 Audi Tyler McQuarrie, 8. 1 Lamborghini Corey Lewis, 9. 9 Porsche Zacharie Robichon, 10. 19 Lamborghini Misha Goikhberg, 11. 75 Mercedes-AMB Mikael Grenier, 12. 23 Aston Martin Ian James, 13. 88 Porsche Rob Ferriol, 14. 44 Acura John Potter

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