MONTEREY, Calif. – Jordan Taylor has become a qualifying machine.
For the fourth consecutive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race, Taylor has put the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R on the GT Le Mans pole position.
Taylor stretched his pole-winning streak to four on Saturday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, breaking the GTLM track record he set last year in the process with a lap of 1 minute, 21.151 seconds (99.281 mph). He will start first in class in Sunday’s Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship and he and co-driver Antonio Garcia have now taken the GTLM pole in every points-paying race this season except the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.
It was far from a simple effort for Taylor on Saturday, however. He traded the top spot with teammate Tommy Milner in the No. 4 Corvette more than once in the 15-minute qualifying session. Milner finished just 0.116 seconds off Taylor’s pace and will start second. Cooper MacNeil qualified the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 third, 0.780 seconds off the pole pace.
“We were a little bit behind the (No.) 4 car all weekend,” Taylor said. “They seemed to be a little bit stronger throughout practice, so we made some big changes in Practice 2 and qualifying just to kind of make a qualifying car. We found some things for pure lap time, but I don’t think they’re going to work for race setup. It’s obviously nice to get the pole to get those points, and we have an idea of what we can do for the race as well from a setup point.”
The pole is the 20th of Taylor’s IMSA career and fourth at WeatherTech Raceway. However, Corvette hasn’t won at the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course since 2014, so Taylor said he and Garcia are banking on their experience here last year in the Corvette C8.R’s first run at the track.
“Having that under our belt and understanding more about tire degradation, what tire compound to be on and strategy with when to pit when we’re catching GTD cars, things like that, we learned a lot here last year,” Taylor said. “So, I think we’re in good shape. But at the same time, you never know in these races with the yellows and the different strategies.”
Trent Hindman earned his first Motul Pole Award in two years on Saturday, laying down the fastest lap in GT Daytona (GTD) in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R in the grid qualifying session to lead the 13-car field in the class. It was a welcome relief for Hindman and co-driver Patrick Long, as the No. 16 team has started second three times already this year.
“I told the guys before we went out to qualify that if we’re second for the fourth time this year, I think some heads are going to roll,” Hindman said after posting a lap of 1:24.505 (95.340 mph). “There was a lot of motivation to make sure that didn’t happen again. Tons of work from the Wright Motorsports guys from Practice 1 to Practice 2 and going into qualifying, so the least we can do is repay them for all their time and effort.”
Starting at the head of the class, Hindman added, is the best remedy on the tight, low-grip WeatherTech Raceway circuit.
“You come to a relatively tight racetrack like this – low grip, lots of slow to medium-speed corners – it’s super hard to get close enough to execute a pass,” he explained. “Sometimes it happens but more often than not the track position is made up in qualifying or through strategy. That’s why there’s so much focus throughout Practice 1, Practice 2 to get the balance right and get what we need to get that one big lap in.”
In the ensuing GTD session for championship points, Ross Gunn led the way with a lap of 1:23.805 (96.137 mph) in the No. 23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3. However, Gunn was subsequently penalized for getting out of his car before the checkered flag was displayed in the session, moving him from first to last.
As a result of the penalty, Gunn and co-driver Roman De Angelis now trail GTD leaders Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley by 32 points, 1,962-1,930. Foley qualified the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 second in the grid session, with Auberlen also taking second in the points-paying segment.