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Petit Le Mans Qualifying

Penske starts on pole. [Photo by Jack Webster]

Penske starts on pole. [Photo by Jack Webster]

by Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

Penske Racing didn’t waste any time making their presence known at Petit Le Mans on Friday during qualifying, as Helio Castroneves put the Penske Oreca on pole for the 20th Anniversary running of the Motul Petit Le Mans, the last race in the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Helio bested Pipo Derani’s Nissan DPi by just .185 seconds in a very exciting qualifying session, which saw the top 7 cars separated by less than one second. Following Derani was Brendon Hartley in the second Nissan DPi, and then it was Mathias Beche in the Rebellion Oreca, followed by Renger Van Der Zande in the Ligier and Olivier Pla, also in a Ligier. Ricky Taylor was the best of the Cadillac DPi cars, qualifying 7th.

Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans is going to be a very competitive event if qualifying was any indication.

In GTLM, Toni Vilander put the Ferrari 488 GTE on point, followed by Richard Westbrook in the Ford GT, Antonio Garcia in the Corvette C7.R, Joey Hand in the second Ford GT, Bill Auberlen in the BMW M6 GTLM and Tommy Milner in the second factory Corvette. All of these cars were separated by only .163 second!

In LMPC it was again James French, putting his mark on an outstanding season.

In the GTD Class Ferrari also took pole position, with Matteo Cressoni putting his Ferrari 488 GT3 on the top of the charts, leading Andy Lally in the Acura, Jack Hacksworth in the Lexus, Sheldon van der Linde in the Audi and Jesse Krohn in the BMW. Once again, this class was very competitive, with the top 5 cars only .243 seconds apart.

The weather was fantastic on Friday, but there is a decent chance of rain for the race, so it could be anybody’s race. With qualifying so close, in every class, one would be hard pressed to predict the outcome.

By Saturday night we will know if Penske can finish the weekend as successfully as they started it – with their first victory in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

It’s going to be one hell of a race.

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Jack Webster has been shooting motorsports since the early 1970’s, covering Formula One, CanAm, F5000, TransAm, GrandAm and American Le Mans races, among others. In addition to his photography, he has also worked on racing teams, both in IMSA and IndyCar, so has a complete knowledge of the inner workings of motorsport. Both his photography and writing can be seen here on racingnation.com. Eddie LePine has been involved in motorsports for over 30 years as photographer, columnist, and driver. Eddie also is now a retired racer (well, retired unless a good ride pops up). You can usually find Eddie in the paddock area, deep in conversation with a driver.