The DPi points deficit is only 14 compared to the No. 10 Acura; Thomas takes pole in LMP2, van Berlo in LMP3
BRAZELTON, Georgia – How important were five points to Tom Blomkvist? Enough to push his car to the very edge.
Blomkvist scored five points over the top championship contenders by winning the Motul Pole Award in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class at the 25th annual Motul Petit Le Mans race on Saturday.
His lap of 1 minute 8.555 seconds (133.381 mph) in No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with the Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-05 was two positions ahead of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 driven by Ricky Taylor pulling Blomkvist. and co-driver Oliver Jarvis within 14 points of Taylor and his co-driver Filipe Albuquerque heading into the 10-hour final.
35 points for pole – and a five-point lead over the No. 10 car – provided the impetus for Blomkvist to drive a knuckle-white lap.
“Basically, I knew that we needed to surpass them in order to make our lives a little less difficult tomorrow,” Blomkvist said. “We did it, but it’s 10 hours of racing. You know what it’s like here at IMSA. I predict quite a lot of yellows and such. It will be a real dogfight to the end.”
Essentially, the championship is reduced to a winner-take-all scenario: car number 60 has to finish just one position ahead of number 10 to win the championship, unless number 60 finishes fifth. If this happens, No. 10 must finish seventh for No. 60 to claim the title. 10th should only finish ahead of 60th in any scenario.
As soon as he started to put pressure on his Acura, Mikael realized that he had a chance for pole position and the precious points he would bring.
“When I entered turn 1 on my first lap, I knew we had a chance,” Blomkvist said. “It just gave me a little extra energy that I needed to give him absolutely everything.”
With 5 minutes 30 seconds left in the session, Taylor veered off course but continued. His best lap of 1:08.802 was good for third place in the seven-car DPi field. Earl Bamber, who clocked a lap of 1:08.788, starts front row in the #02 Cadillac Racing Cadillac DPi-VR he shares with Alex Lynn and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
In the final qualifying of the DPi class, which will be replaced next season by the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class, the seven cars were just over half a second apart on a 2.54-mile, 12-turn circuit.
“It’s a testament to the type of racing that IMSA creates and builds and how close this series can be,” said Blomkvist, who will be joined by Helio Castroneves as the team’s third rider along with Jarvis. “I hope we put on a great show tomorrow. I know that my team is very motivated. It’s nice when you can see something, right? It gives you a little more.”
A little more was enough.
Forty-three cars compete in five classes competing at Michelin Raceway. Live coverage of NBC races runs from noon to 3 pm ET on Saturday. The US Network will begin broadcasting at 7:00 pm via the checkered flag. Peacock and IMSA Radio broadcast flag-to-flag broadcasts starting at noon.
Thomas receives qualifying awards in LMP2
Stephen Thomas took his second consecutive Le Mans Prototype 2 pole and third this season in the 11th-place PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07. But it was by no means a cakewalk. Thomas’ first lap, 1:11.939 (127.107 mph), was just 0.082 seconds faster than Dennis Andersen in 20th High Class Racing ORECA.
Thomas smiled after receiving his sixth career Motul Pole award.
“We had a great car,” said the 55-year-old. “It’s a lot of fun when you at my age can drive so fast on such a track. The car just stuck to the road, so it was a lot of fun.
“We have two cars (teams) so we were able to use them over the weekend to try and find the best setup and it seems like we found it. Today it was a good car.”
In the LMP2 class, there are almost separate battles for team championships and driver’s championships. No. 11’s sister car, No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen ORECA, leads the team standings by 21 points over No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA. Ben Keating qualified in 52nd place third, one place ahead of John Farano in 8th place.
Farano added three points to his lead in the LMP2 drivers’ standings, extending it to 36 points over Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel after Merriman qualified sixth in the Era Motorsport ORECA at No. 18.
Van Berlo regroups to win LMP3 Pole award
Kei van Berlo put aside the disappointment from the previous day and won the Motul Pole Award in the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) qualifier. In doing so, the talented Dutch rider set the LMP3 record.
Van Berlo’s best lap of 1:15.517 (121.075 mph) came after the checkered flag with Malte Jacobsen only 0.108 seconds ahead of him. This put the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320, which van Berlo shares with Gar Robinson and Felipe Fraga, on LMP3 pole for Saturday’s race and, perhaps more importantly, reduces No. 74’s lead to 74 points behind 54th. CORE Motorsport Ligier.
Van Berlo was visibly distraught earlier on Friday when his chance to win the North American Porsche Carrera Cup ended in an early exit from that race. He knew he couldn’t get hung up on that when it came time to qualify for LMP3.
“This morning was really disappointing, but at the end of the day you have to move on,” van Berlo said. “You cannot change what happens in the past. While I’m still very disappointed with what happened this morning, it is what it is. After all, today we want to win the championship in LMP3, so I have to change my mind and move on, get the car on pole and score good points. And that’s what we did.”
The number 33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier, shared by Jacobsen with Joao Barbosa and Nico Pino, starts second. The No. 54 CORE Ligier, with co-drivers John Bennett, Colin Brown and George Kurtz, finished fifth in the eight-car class. No. 54 still took the LMP3 title with a fourth or better finish on Saturday, but van Berlo said the No. 74 team is not giving up.
“At the end of the day, you just want to win Petit and that’s how you get the most points,” he said. “For me, tomorrow is just being ahead of the pack in the final hour.”