Porsche sweeps both front rows in tight IMSA Laguna qualifying
Porsche teams controlled qualifying for the Motul Course de Monterey, the fourth round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, locking out both the front row in GTP and for the GT field as well. Matt Campbell became the fourth different polesitter of 2023 as he qualified the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports 963 with a 1m14.774s lap. That time was 0.7s quicker than he turned in the morning practice — a bit of a surprise as a lot of cars lost some pace in the warmest conditions experienced so far at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
“I think it’s even a small surprise to us,” said Campbell. “We’ve made really good steps and progress since Long Beach. We learned a lot from that race on, especially on the systems and so forth. You know, we had quite some issues during the race on car No. 7, and we were able to really dig deep and come up with some new stuff, so I think that’s been really key going into this weekend. And also a bit of a new base and philosophy behind our car and it’s working phenomenally so far. It’s been a fantastic weekend so far and better than expectations for sure – especially looking back at the last events. I think we can say we struggled a little bit for our performance, and it’s nice to have turned that around now.”
Campbell’s 124.38mph lap was 0.09s better than Mathieu Jaminet’s best in the No. 6 PPM 963. The drivers who will start alongside each other were victorious together for Pfaff Motorsports in GTD PRO at last year’s race here. Colin Braun was third-quick overall, posting a 1m14.979s lap in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-06. Pipo Derani will start on the outside of the second row in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac V-Series.R. Ricky Taylor, the three-time defending winner at Laguna Seca, qualified the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport Acura in fifth, with Sebastien Bourdais’s Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac alongside for the start.
LMP2 qualifying featured a substantial amount of drama for a 15-minute session. Ben Keating, after sliding off track early in the session, went quickest on the following lap. He lowered the pole mark a couple of more times, eventually getting into the 1m18s range. He would lose his quickest lap due to a track limits violation, though. Still, he looked secure for pole in the NO. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA until George Kurtz came under the checker flag with a time 0.061s better than the second-best lap Keating was allowed to keep.
Kurtz’s 1m19.262s lap in the No. 04 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA came on his 11th and lap, in large part due to having a clearer track.
“I knew the time to beat and we were off a bit until we got a clear lap,” explained Kurtz. “I had the reference point and really, I knew I had one lap left and just put my head down and the track cleared out. It was magic lap, so we’re excited to get it done. (It’s) a big achievement, so we’re really excited about that.”
Keating ended up second, 0.395s ahead of Steven Thomas int he No. 11 TDS Racing ORECA, with Francois Heriau fourth for TDS Racing in the No. 35.
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Campbell and Porsche quick again ahead of Laguna qualifying
It will be an all-Porsche GT front row, as Alec Udell put the No. 92 Kellymoss with Riley Porsche 911 GT3.R that he’ll share with Julien Andlauer alongside overall and GTD PRO polesitter Klaus Bachler in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports 911.
Bachler, in his first visit to Laguna Seca, posted a 1m24.529s lap in the No. 9 that he’ll be handing over to Patrick Pilet to claim overall GT pole at a speed of 95.31mph, only 0.01s better than Udell.
“It’s a great day for myself. It’s something special to be here in this championship and to get this first pole position,” said Bachler. “Honestly, the car was really good and in qualifying. But it was also the first time for me here in Laguna and the track is really nice. I love the layout, the elevation changes, the flow, but also the grip level is pretty low, and I had to get used to this also. So it was a lot of challenges. But I think it’s for everybody the same. It’s just a great day, and I’ll really enjoy it.”
The second GT row will be split between GTD and GTD PRO as well, and the same model as Heart of Racing teammates qualified third and fourth. Roman de Angelis put the No. 27 Aston Martin Vantage on the inside of the second row at 1m24.647s to beat GTD PRO teammate Alex Riberas in the No. 23 by 0.007s.
GTD Pro occupied the next three slots, led by Daniel Juncadella (No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG), with Jack Hawksworth (No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F) and Jordan Taylor (No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette) following. Seb Priaulx will start the No. 80 AO Racing Porsche 911 GT3R eight overall and third in the GTD with a 1m25.005s lap. Frankie Montecalvo (No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus) and Madison Snow completed the top five in GTD and top 10 in GT overall.
Up Next: a 20-minute warmup at 8 a.m. PT, ahead of the 12:10 p.m. race start for the 2h40m race.