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Derani Hands ESM Watkins Glen Pole

Hand takes GTLM honours

It’s been an eventful week for Tequila Patrón ESM and driver Pipo Derani. The Brazilian, drafted in to race for the team at the last minute, scoring the Nissan DPi’s first Pole Position in Qualifying at Watkins Glen with a 1:34.405 in the #22 car.

His time, which also scored his first IMSA Pole, beat Olivier Pla in the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier LMP2 car by just 0.162 seconds.

“It’s special to give Ed (Brown) and the whole team a pole position after all the hard work at the beginning of the year,” Derani said. “Not just for us the drivers, but for all the mechanics here and at the shop back at home.

“I think as we’ve seen today, we’re not the only ones who were quick, and we were right up there with Olivier. Look at how close the DPis are to the P2s here. Each car has its strength and weaknesses. It might be in favor of one or another depending on where you are on the track so I think it’ll be a tough race for us.”

Pla will roll off from second on the class grid in the car he shares with Jose Gutierrez following a best qualifying lap of 1:34.567. The second row will include a pair of Cadillac DPis, with Christian Fittipaldi in the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R starting third at 1:35.306 and points leader Ricky Taylor qualifying fourth at 1:35.496 in the #10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R.

Ricky Taylor and his brother, Jordan, are going for their sixth consecutive victory in the WeatherTech Championship during tomorrow’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.

In GTLM the battle for Pole was a thriller, with BMW, Ford and Porsche swapping positions right to the end of the 15-minute session.

In the end, it was Joey Hand who came out on top, in the #66 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, ending the day with a fastest time of 1:42.507 seconds on the session’s final lap. The Pole-winning lap came just seconds after Alexander Sims put down what eventually became the second fastest lap of the session, 1:42.813, in the #25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6.

“I love qualifying here,” said Hand, who picked up his 10th career IMSA pole. “Especially since they paved it, it’s super fun to drive. You’ve got to throw down; hang on and throw down. I was able to get just a full lap to finish and got it by just a little bit of a chunk.

“I know it doesn’t totally matter to start on the pole for a six-hour race, but the race competition is always so strong. You want to stay away from the messy stuff in the first couple of hours so that you’re ready when the dog fight starts and you’ve got to go to the finish.”

Ford and BMW also will make up the second row for tomorrow’s race. Martin Tomczyk qualified third after a lap of 1:42.881 in BMW Team RLL’s #24 BMW M6, just 0.003 seconds ahead of Richard Westbrook in the No. 67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, 1:42.884.

Patrick Pilet, who led multiple times throughout the session, rounded out the top-five with a lap of 1:43.140 in Porsche GT Team’s #911 Porsche 911 RSR.

In GTD, it was Andy Lally who emerged quickest. Lally topped the times with a 1:46.051 seconds, putting the #93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 he co-drives with Katherine Legge to the top of the class charts just before a red flag shortened the 15-minute session.

It was Lally’s second career Pole at Watkins Glen, but his first in WeatherTech Championship competition.

“It’s been quite a nice momentum roll we’ve been on after a hard fought victory,” said Lally, who is coming off a win at Detroit alongside Legge, the first win for the Acura NSX GT3. “We had a great strategy call in Detroit, so to follow our first win for the NSX with a pole is really special. It shows how meticulous and nonstop the Michael Shank Racing guys are. We’re working on every single bolt and finding every single bit of performance we can get our hands on.”

Lawson Aschenbach qualified second in Stevenson Motorsports’ #57 Audi R8 LMS with a lap of 1:46.271, with Jack Hawksworth third in the #15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 after a hot lap with two minutes left in the session came to nothing after a spin at Turn 9. The Britain’s mistake came just before his teammate Sage Karam in the sister RCF GT3 had heavy contact with the barriers at the same corner, bringing the session to a halt.

Down in Prototype Challenge driver James French and the #38 Performance Tech Motorsports team earned their fourth Pole in five qualifying sessions this season. It was the eighth pole of French’s career and the eighth also for the team in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

French logged a best lap of 1:40.049 seconds to secure the top starting position. He’ll be joined in Sunday’s race by co-drivers Pato O’Ward and Kyle Masson as the team looks to continue its 2017 undefeated record in Sunday’s race.

The Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen can be seen live tomorrow beginning at 10 am local time.