By Jeff Olson
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Felipe Nasr recorded his fastest lap Saturday at the perfect time – right before his car spun in the rain.
Nasr won the Motul Pole Award for Sunday’s IMSA SportsCar Weekend at Road America with a lap of 2 minutes, 7.919 seconds (113.921 mph). On the ensuing lap, with rain increasing in intensity, Nasr’s No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R spun in Turn 5.
Nasr kept the car fired and moving after the spin, preventing his fast lap from being disallowed for bringing out a red-flag stoppage of the session. As a result, Nasr and co-driver Pipo Derani will benefit from the No. 1 starting position in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class and overall in the 35-car field when the 2-hour, 40-minute race begins at 2:40 p.m. ET Sunday
The qualifying session quickly turned treacherous as the rain increased. Five drivers slid off course, including Ben Keating, who won the pole position in Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2).
The trick, Nasr said, was finding grip while avoiding the lack of it.
“If you put a wheel in the wrong place, you just feel there is no grip there,” Nasr said. “That’s why at the beginning I was kind of feeling for the grip that was available. The window of that grip was pretty narrow. … I found the limit. I spun and got going again.”
Like Nasr, Keating posted his best lap (2:18.511, 105.210 mph) before spinning. The No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07 he shares with Mikkel Jensen will start first in LMP2 and seventh overall.
Sensing the session might end earlier than planned, Keating put down his best number early.
“There was a lot more rain on the back half (of the circuit) then there was on the front straight,” Keating said. “I anticipated that we would probably have a red flag – that we probably would not be able to finish qualifying. I wanted to get a really good lap in early.”
Nasr’s effort was timely for the No. 31 team, which is attempting to chase down DPi points co-leaders Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque, whose No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 will start second after Taylor’s qualifying lap of 2:08.677 (113.250 mph).
Nasr and Derani combined to win the most recent IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race for the DPi class July 2 at Watkins Glen International, closing to within 114 points of Taylor and Albuquerque.
“It’s always great to keep that momentum rolling,” Nasr said. “It was great to have our first win of the season at Watkins – in pretty tricky conditions as well. I guess that was good practice for here.”
Oliver Jarvis was third fastest in DPi with a lap of 2:08.716 (113.216 mph) in the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports Mazda DPi he co-drives with Harry Tincknell.
In LMP2, Steven Thomas secured the second starting position with a lap of 2:19.941 (104.135 mph) in the No. 11 WIN Autosport ORECA he co-drives with Tristan Vautier. John Farano and Gabriel Aubry secured the third starting position behind Farano’s lap of 2:24.176 (101.076 mph) in the No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA.
In the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) class, Dan Goldburg bumped Gar Robinson from the top spot with a final lap of 2:19.106 (104.760 mph) to win the pole position. The No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier JS P320 Goldburg co-drives with Rasmus Lindh will start first in class and 11th overall in Sunday’s race.
“It was all about feeling for the grip and exploring and seeing where you can find that grip and get the power down,” Goldburg said after notching his first career WeatherTech Championship pole. “The conditions were changing on parts of the track every lap. One lap you could get more out of one corner, and the next lap it was a different corner that you could get more out of. It was quite challenging and ever-changing.”
Robinson, who leads the LMP3 driver standings, had one final lap to regain the top spot. He improved his time to 2:19.419 but failed to knock Goldburg from the No. 1 position. Instead, the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier that Robinson co-drives with Felipe Fraga will start second in class, just ahead of the No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier shared by Jarett Andretti and Oliver Askew.
Sunday’s race airs live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and IMSA Radio, with the NBCSN telecast at 8 p.m.