Fittipaldi smashes track record in TUDOR Championship Detroit qualifying

Corvette DPs take top three spots in seven-car Prototype field.

DETROIT, Michigan -- Christian Fittpaldi left nothing on the table with a banzai run around the Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit to take the pole position for Saturday’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic presented by the Detroit Metro Chevy Dealers. Fittipaldi’s lap of 1 minute, 24.746 seconds, a new track record for the Action Express Mustang Sampling No. 5.

Given the sponsorship, perhaps it’s appropriate that the fastest three cars in the TUDOR SportsCar Championship were Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototypes. Fittipaldi was winded after the 15-minute session, during which all the drivers are on the ragged edge on a rough, very fast course.

“I’m very happy and thankful for Action Express and Chevrolet,” Fittipaldi said. “We are coming out of two difficult races, and we think we have figured it out and we’re looking forward to the race tomorrow.”

In second – a very close second – was Ricky Taylor in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette. His best lap was 1:24.796, 50 thousandths of a second behind Fittipaldi. “I said on the radio that I haven’t pushed that hard and been that close to the wall in a long time,” Taylor said. “It’s going to be a tough fight tomorrow.”

Third fastest was the No, 90 VisitFlorida.com Corvette of Michael Valiente with a best lap of 1:25.156. He was followed by Scott Pruett in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford EcoBoost Riley, then Eric Curran in the No. 31 Action Express Corvette, a team car to the polesitter. Sixth was John Pew in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Honda Ligier.

Heavy rain drenched the track earlier in the day, but it was sunny and dry for qualifying. The forecast for Saturday does hold a possibility of rain at race time, and that concerns Fittipaldi. He made a lap in the rain, “and the car was all over the place, very difficult to control. For some reason, the track wasn’t draining like it should.”

Audi tops GTD

In GT-Daytona, that rain nearly had disastrous consequences for Dion von Molte, who crashed the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Castrol Audi R8 LMS on a wet track in practice Friday morning. But the team not only got the car repaired in time for qualifying, but von Molte put the Audi solidly on the pole with a lap of 1 minute, 33.546 seconds, the only car to qualify under 1 minute, 34 seconds.

Ben Keating was second in his No. 33 Riley ViperExchange.com Dodge Viper SRT with a lap of 1:34.261, followed by Christina Nielsen in the No. 007 TRG-AMR Auston Martin V12 Vantage with a lap of 1:34.388.

“The guys did an amazing job,” von Molte said. When the car came in from the track, he said he wasn’t even sure they could make Saturday’s race, much less qualifying. “Hats off to everyone at Paul Miller Racing.”

The qualifying session was shortened by about three minutes when Michael Marsal slapped a tire wall in his No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4. He was able to drive away, but the tire barrier required some work. Ten GTD cars qualified.

French takes Prototype Challenge pole

In Prototype Challenge, this was the first trip here for the class under the TUDOR United SportsCar Challenge banner, as they weren’t part of the field last year. They adapted quickly – Chris Cumming was fastest during the entire session in the Paul Gentilozzi-owned No. 11 RSR AutoMaxUSA Oreca FLM09, but James French turned a hail-Mary last lap of 1 minute 29.317 seconds, four thousandths of a second under Cumming’s 1:29.321. French drives the Performance Tech Ric-Man Detroit No. 38.

In third was Mirco Schultis at 1:30.687 in the No. 8 Starworks Martini car. All six of the Prototype Challenge cars that qualified use the same Oreca chassis, with Chevrolet V8 power.

The GT-Le Mans cars, as usual, have the weekend off as some of the competitors prepare for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The TUDOR Challenge race Saturday will be followed by the first of two IndyCar races this weekend.

The Chevrolet Sports Car Classic presented by Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers takes the green flag for 100 minutes of racing at 12:05 p.m. Follow all the action live on FOX Sports 2 beginning at noon ET, or worldwide on IMSA.com. The race will also be televised on FOX Sports 1 from 2-4 p.m.

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About this article
Series IMSA
Event Detroit
Track The Raceway on Belle Isle
Drivers Christian Fittipaldi , Dion von Moltke , James French
Article type Qualifying report
Tags audi, chevrolet, corvette, ford, honda, ligier