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Tom Blomqvist captured his third career DPi pole position at Road Atlanta. (Dallas Breeze photo)

Blomqvist Captures Petit Le Mans Pole

BRASELTON, Ga. — Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) made a leap forward in its IMSA WeatherTech DPi Championship fight with Tom Blomqvist capturing his third career DPi pole position at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on Friday. 

MSR has been deep in the title fight after starting the season off with a big Rolex 24 victory. A consistent season saw the team collect five consecutive runner up finishes, regaining the championship lead on four separate occasions.

Now, MSR sits just 14 points behind the championship lead, with 10 hours of day-to-night racing in store for Saturday. 

Blomqvist will be joined by full-season teammate Oliver Jarvis and MSR IndyCar and IMSA endurance driver Helio Castroneves competing onboard the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 DPi. The 10-hour classic will be the final race for the DPi era as the 2023 season will start with the all-new GTP class featuring the Acura ARX-06 LMDh. 

The team paced through three practice sessions ahead of Friday afternoon qualifying, with MSR putting their focus on qualifying simulations through the second afternoon practice session. 

The No. 60 MSR Acura translated its strong practice pace into qualifying on Friday.

The team held Blomqvist in pit lane for the initial moments of qualifying to get an open track. Blomqvist immediately got up to speed as he paced the 2.54-mile circuit. Blomqvist quickly rose to the top of the time sheets on lap four and then bested that lap further on lap six by posting a 1:08.555-second lap time. 

The lap time held through the remainder of the session as Blomqvist officially claimed his third pole position this season — his previous poles at Watkins Glen and CTMP. 

“We went into qualifying to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “The guys gave me such a great car and I felt pretty confident going into the session. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and in qualy it really came to life. It makes life a little less stressful tomorrow, but it’s still going to be a proper dog fight.”

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The No. 11 entry Mathiasen Motorsports entry took pole in the LMP2 class. (Dallas Breeze photo)

Thomas Takes Qualifying Honors in LMP2

Steven Thomas won his second straight Le Mans Prototype 2 pole and third this season in the No. 11 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07, but it was by no means a cakewalk. Thomas’ top lap — 1:11.939 (127.107 mph) — was just 0.082 seconds quicker than Dennis Andersen in the No. 20 High Class Racing ORECA.

Thomas was all smiles after earning his sixth career Motul Pole Award.

“We had a great car,” the 55-year-old said. “It’s a lot of fun when you’re my age to be able to drive a car that fast around a track like this. The car was just stuck to the road so it was a lot of fun. We have two (team) cars so we were able to use those over the weekend to try to find the best setup and it seems like we found it. It was a good car today.”

The LMP2 class features nearly separate battles for the team and driver championships.

The No. 11’s sister car, the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen ORECA, leads the team standings by 21 points over the No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA. Ben Keating qualified the No. 52 in third, one spot ahead of John Farano in the No. 8.

Farano added three points to his LMP2 driver standings lead, expanding it to 36 points over Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel after Merriman qualified sixth in the No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA.

Van Berlo Regroups to Capture LMP3 Pole Award

Kay van Berlo cast aside frustration from earlier in the day to win the Motul Pole Award in Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) qualifying. The talented Dutch driver set an LMP3 track record in the process.

Van Berlo’s top lap of 1:15.517 (121.075 mph) came after the checkered flag and edged Malthe Jakobsen by a scant 0.108 seconds. It put the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 that van Berlo shares with Gar Robinson and Felipe Fraga on the LMP3 pole for Saturday’s race and trims the No. 74’s deficit to 74 points in arrears of the No. 54 CORE autosport Ligier.

Van Berlo was visibly distraught earlier Friday when his chance to win the Porsche Carrera Cup North America championship ended with an early exit in that race.

He knew that dwelling on that would do no good when it was time to qualify in LMP3.

“This morning was really disappointing, but at the end of the day you’ve got to move on,” van Berlo said. “You can’t really change what happens in the past. Even though I’m still really disappointed about what happened this morning, it is what it is. At the end today, we want to win the championship in LMP3 so I’ve got to change my mind and move on and get the car on pole and score good points. And that’s what we did.”

The No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier that Jakobsen shares with Joao Barbosa and Nico Pino will start second.

The No. 54 CORE Ligier, with co-drivers Jon Bennett, Colin Braun and George Kurtz earned the fifth starting spot in the eight-car class. The No. 54 still clinches the LMP3 title by finishing fourth or better on Saturday, but van Berlo said the No. 74 team isn’t giving up.

“At the end of the day, you just want to win Petit and that’s how you get the most points,” he said. “For me, tomorrow is just about being at the front of the pack in the final hour.”

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