STEAM CORNERS, Ohio — Sebastien Bourdais has little use for predictable storylines.
Bourdais lapped Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in the No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac DPi in 1 minute, 10.439 seconds (115.401 mph) in Saturday’s 15-minute qualifying session to earn the Motul Pole Award for Sunday’s Lexus Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio, round five of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The 43-year-old Frenchman earned his fifth career WeatherTech Championship pole (and third of the 2022 season) at a track where Cadillac’s Daytona Prototype international (DPi) competition from Acura have dominated, taking four consecutive Mid-Ohio wins.
Although they won earlier this year on the streets of Long Beach, Bourdais, co-driver Renger van der Zande, and the No. 01 Cadillac Racing team have been frustrated by niggling technical issues, the occasional driver error, and a solid dose of bad luck to start the campaign.
That allowed championship points co-leaders Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque (No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura DPi) and Oliver Jarvis and Tom Blomqvist (No. 60 Meyer-Shank Racing with Curb Agajanian Acura DPi) to build a 121-point cushion to the No. 01 Cadillac duo, who rank sixth in the standings. Bourdais’ pole-winning effort Saturday shaved a few points off that margin.
It hasn’t been a trouble-free weekend for the 01 – the drivers lost key practice time on Friday when the car suffered an electrical glitch that affected shifting. But Bourdais is hopeful for a clean race.
“I think it’s the first time this year we had a problem in practice instead of a race,” said Bourdais, who also claimed the pole position at Mid-Ohio in 2019 in the GT Le Mans class. “The car has been really, really quick all year long, we execute and work well together as a team, and then on race day things just go haywire.
“I hope we’ve been through enough bad things and now we can get ourselves on a roll and drag ourselves back into the championship.”
Prototype qualifying took place in a light mist, creating slippery conditions that ensured the Mid-Ohio IMSA lap record of 1:10.027 (116.080 mph) established by Harry Tincknell in a Mazda DPi in 2021 was unchallenged.
Albuquerque qualified the No. 10 Acura on the outside of the front row with a 1:10.661 (115.039 mph) lap, while Jarvis incrementally improved his speed three times in the closing minutes of the session but will line up third with a time of 1:10.791 (114.827 mph).
Bourdais said that the Cadillac Racing team have been consistently improving the car, but he was still somewhat at a loss to explain how Cadillac qualified fastest at a track where Acura has generally set the pace.
“We really didn’t have much hope of taking the fight to those guys, and I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the race,” he said. “One thing about the Cadillac side is we’re never holding back. We have three different teams going at it, so the series always sees the very, very best of that car.”
Patrick Kelly displayed again why he is a Le Mans Prototype 2 qualifying expert, collecting the Motul Pole Award by nearly a full second in mixed track conditions – even after he flat-spotted a tire on the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07 on his first full lap. It is the seventh LMP2 pole position for Kelly since he joined the series in 2019.
Despite wounding the right front tire early, Kelly was never seriously threatened in qualifying. His best lap of 1:14.340 (109.345 mph) came on his ninth trip around the 2.258-mile circuit and was an eye-popping 0.936 seconds up on teammate Steven Thomas in the No. 11 PR1 Mathiasen ORECA.
“It was raining and I was driving like an idiot,” Kelly said of the initial gaffe on the track that was wet on the front half and dry on the back half. “… The track got better. Halfway through the session, it came back to conditions we had early.
“I slid the car all over the track,” added Kelly, who’s paired with teenager Josh Pierson in the No. 52 for the LMP2 sprint races. “I pitched that car into every corner. This track I think of as a little like (WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca). It’s about precision. But once it got wet, it was all bets are off for me and I drove differently.”
Thomas will line up on the LMP2 front row alongside Kelly for the race start, with Jonathan Bomarito the second driver in the No. 11.