Two GT Le Mans (GTLM) poles in 2016 just weren’t enough, so Richard Westbrook made it three during Friday’s qualifying for the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
The Brit secured his trifecta thanks to a record-setting lap of 1:18.131 (117.0 mph) around the 2.54-mile, 12-turn circuit in the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT during the 15-minute qualifying session.
The third pole for Westbrook was the fifth of the year for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, with co-driver Ryan Briscoe taking the pole at Circuit of The Americas and Dirk Mueller putting the team’s Le Mans-winning No. 66 entry on the pole at Road America earlier in the year.
Westbrook and Briscoe, joined by four-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, head into the finale trailing GTLM points leaders Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner by 11 points, 314-303, with only 10 hours of racing remaining. Milner, who will also be joined by Marcel Fassler, struggled in qualifying, taking seventh on the GTLM grid in the No. 4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.
“It’s a show of intention, how we’re going to attack the race, and we’re just going to try to keep it at the front,” Westbrook said. “It’s all we can do. At Petit Le Mans, you can have a good car during the day but all that matters is what you have at night.
“(The championship) is a longshot, but it’s our intention to keep our car at the front and give us the best chance of winning. But honestly, whoever wins the championship, they thoroughly deserved it. It’s been a great fight with the #4 car all year and we’re going to try to take it to the end.”
Starting second in GTLM will be the #3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R in the hands of Antonio Garcia. The Spaniard posted a time of 118.283 (116.8 mph). He and co-drivers Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller enter the race looking for a second victory of the season for the #3 car.
Toni Vilander qualified third in GTLM with a best lap of 118.294 (116.7 mph) in the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE. He and co-driver Giancarlo Fisichella, also joined by James Calado, are looking for their first victory of the season.