Michael Shank Racing’s Olivier Pla captured the pole for the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship Petit Le Mans season finale with a lap of 1:13.061 at 125.1 mph in the team’s Honda-powered.#60 Ligier JS P2 Friday afternoon, Sept. 30.
Pla edged out Mazda driver Tristan Nunez by a healthy 0.459 of a second. Nunez managed a lap of 1:13.520 at 124.3 mph in the #55 Mazda Motorsports Prototype.
Dane Cameron in the #31 Action Express Coyote-Corvette qualified third ahead of Tom Long in the second Mazda prototype. Only these three were able to lap the ten-turn, 2.54-mile Road Atlanta course within a second of Pla’s time.
This is not to say that the rest of the field was slow. Of the nine prototypes entered, the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Dallara-Corvette driven by Ricky Taylor was slowest, only 1.47 seconds off Pla’s pace.
Pla told IMSA.com, “From the beginning the team has done a great job. They gave me a very competitive car and we kept improving each time. I was expecting that more or less. The other things will come tomorrow.
“It will be a real possibility for the win. We have nothing to lose, we want to put on a good show for the fans and want to do a good job for John and for Michael [car owner and driver John Pew and team own Michael Shank] so we will go for it.”
Petit Le Mans is a ten-hour race, sole pole is more about bragging rights for the driver and crew than any advantage in the actual contest. Shank Racing has had several years of bitter misfortune, punctuated by a lucky win the 2012 Rolex 24, and will be retiring the #60 Ligier after Petit, so the team truly has nothing to lose—and if allthey win are those bragging rights, still they must seem exceptionally sweet.