Richard Westbrook may be leading the 2015 prototype points battle but today the Brit scored his first pole of the year for VisitFlorida.com Racing – suitably conquering conditions which were more akin to a swim at a Florida beach.
Steady rain has left the Road Atlanta track damp for most of the day and the prototype teams actually struggled for much of their session to beat the time of GTLM pole sitter Earl Bamber.
Westbrook leads the championship with teammate Michael Valiante. This weekend they will again be joined by Audi DTM ace Mike Rockenfeller.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t nice to get a pole, but with a 10 hour race it’s not as important, and with the rain it’s going to be nice to be out in front,” Westbrook said.
“We’ve got our eye on the forecast tomorrow but things are looking good. There was talk of qualifying getting cancelled and we would have had the pole because we’re leading in the championship, but we’re all racers, so we’d rather it be determined with a session.
“I was pushing for sure, I was on the limit. The tires did take a long time to come in. No complaints, they were good going through the rivers, but it took a while to come in. There was a lot of moisture out there. Everyone was getting faster each lap so it was very important to keep going right until the end.”
Westbrook and Valiante hold a six point lead over the Action Express Racing teammates Dane Cameron/Eric Curran and Christian Fittipaldi/Joao Barbosa. If Westbrook and Valiante can much finish third or better, they will clinch the championship regardless of where the Action Express two cars finish.
The “outliers” in the battle will be the Ford of Hand/Scott Pruett/Scott Dixon and the Corvette of Rick and Jordan Taylor with Max Angelelli. They lie nine and 16 points off the lead but both are capable of victory this weekend. Hand and Pruett won the last round at Circuit of The Americas and the Wayne Taylor Racing squad won at Petit Le Mans last year.
The PC qualifying battle Tom Kimber-Smith clinched the pole with a final lap dash to oust fellow Brit Johnny Mowlem. In the PC class points CORE autosport’s Jon Bennett and Colin Braun hold a handy 12 point lead as they charge towards the team’s fifth consecutive team’s championship.