Cameron Lawrence Wins Petit Le Mans GTD Pole in First IMSA TUDOR Championship Qualifying Attempt in No. 93 Viper GT3-R
ViperExchange.com /TI Automotive Team Moves Tequila Patrón NAEC Title Bid Off To Fast Start; Ben Keating Qualifies Fifth In No. 33 Viper GT3-R
BRASELTON, Georgia (October 2, 2015) –Cameron Lawrence made the most of his first-ever chance to qualify for an IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race on Friday by winning the GT Daytona (GTD) pole for tomorrow's Petit Le Mans in the No. 93 ViperExchange.com/TI Automotive/Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R.
The season-ending race of the 2015 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Challenge season, the 10-hour Petit Le Mans race can be seen live on FOX Sports 2 this Saturday, October 3, in three different segments. The opening hour of coverage begins at 11 a.m. EDT and picks up again at 2:30 p.m. EDT straight through 7 p.m. EDT. The race finish will be a highlight of the final hour of coverage at 8:30 p.m. EDT. The entire race will also be streamed live on IMSA.com.
Lawrence, co-driver Al Carter and the No. 93 team head into the 10-hour Petit Le Mans race leading the point standings in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup. The team’s pre-race strategy calls for Lawrence to start the race, which meant the two-time and reigning Trans Am TA2 Champion had to qualify the No. 93 for the first time. He didn’t disappoint.
Despite heavy rain showers that have plagued the greater Atlanta area and much of the Eastern Seaboard the last two days, Lawrence scored another triumph in a season of firsts that has also seen the young Floridian co-drive to victory in his debuts at the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
“The car has been really good,” Lawrence said. “We've been working hard on the balance and I think, not doing the whole season, it's been tough, but after The Glen race in the rain there, it really helped with the experience of this car in wet weather. So, we kind of knew what we had going into a wet qualifying session.”
With just seconds left in the session, Lawrence stole the pole on his final qualifying lap with a top time of 1:38.295 (93.026 mph).
“It was just tough just pushing harder and harder every lap,” Lawrence said. “It almost felt like the track was getting worse but I went just a little bit deeper on the last lap and we came away with a little bit quicker lap.”
Ben Keating made it two Vipers in the top five of the GTD starting field after a solid fifth-place qualifying run in the No. 33 ViperExchange.com/TI Automotive/Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R. He is looking for a career-best result in tomorrow’s race, co-driving the No. 33 with regular teammate Jeroen Bleekemolen and his brother Sebastiaan Bleekemolen.
“The key to being successful in a 10 hour race is staying out of trouble,” Keating said. “Two out of my three Petit Le Mans races have been ruined because I was hit by a Prototype. They get extremely aggressive at Road Atlanta. If we can keep our car clean, we will have a good shot at a podium.”
The Bleekemolens co-drove to an ALMS GTC class victory in the 2011 Petit Le Mans.
“Petit feels almost like a tradition,” Sebastiaan Bleekemolen said. “It’s a big race with a lot of fans, always great to end the season with these kind of races at a track like Road Atlanta. The last corner is by far the most challenging corner of the track. It starts blind and it’s almost flat. Every lap is a new adventure, particularly in the rain.”
Carter is making his first Petit Le Mans race start in the No. 93.
"The cool thing about the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup is that we'll have three races within the race on Saturday," Carter said. "The NAEC points must be scored at the 4-hour mark, 8-hour mark and at the finish. All season long, we have focused on the next scoring loop as our objective, so look for us to be charging hard early to score those points. The No. 63 Ferrari has been running strong of late, and they have been spot-on in their strategy to also score NAEC points all season. Basically, they are going to need to lead the whole race to best our points, so it'll be a battle."
With a seven-point lead, Lawrence, Carter and the No. 93 team - which includes winning Viper driver Marc Goossens in the lineup - are in a good position in the NAEC standings but know anything can happen.
“Riley Motorsports is a great and very professional team and they give us a great car most of the time,” Goossens said. “They are also very strong in strategy, and that is what we will need for this year's race. With the perfect strategy, clinching the NAEC title becomes quite a bit easier. A 10-hour race around this track is pretty demanding. It is old school and not very forgiving but I really love the track and it’s always fun racing at Road Atlanta, a great place to finish the season.”
Race-day Saturday begins with a 25-minute warm-up at 9 a.m. EDT before the start of Petit Le Mans at 11:15 a.m. EDT.
Petit Le Mans will be rebroadcast as part of a three-hour highlight package at 1:30 p.m. EDT this Sunday on FOX Sports 1. Live timing and scoring during all on-track sessions is available at IMSA.com and the IMSA smartphone app.
- Even as a first-time qualifier, the ViperExchange.com/TI Automotive/Riley Motorsports team let Lawrence follow his racer’s instincts in the tricky qualifying session. “The guys were pretty laid back,” Lawrence said. “They said ‘do whatever I felt comfortable with.’ It’s a big deal to keep it safe and clean, especially for a 10-hour race, we don't need to push anything right off the bat, but we were quick in the wet in practice and quick at Watkins Glen in the rain, so I felt good. It was a little sketchy in places, the track started to get damper and damper with a few puddles and rivers running across, but we gained confidence with every lap. The car and tires seemed to get more grip and more heat, I didn’t give it that much more on the last lap, but it seemed like I was just able to put it together. Everything worked pretty well, the car held together really well, the balance was great. I was just really thrilled and surprised really, but it just goes to show what power we have.”
- In addition to Lawrence, Carter and the No. 93 team leading the NAEC by seven points heading into tomorrow's finale, the ViperExchange.com /TI Automotive team comes to Road Atlanta as the only two-car GTD team to have won races with both of its cars this year. Both team Vipers have a pair of race wins and victory by either the No. 33 or No. 93 tomorrow would make whatever Viper finished first the year’s only three-time race winner in the GTD class. A win would also give the ViperExchange.com / TI Automotive/Riley Motorsports team victories in half of this season's 10 GTD races.
- Starting from the pole is typically considered not that important in an endurance race but it is this weekend for the No. 93 team. “Starting on pole definitely helps us get to the lead for that first segment and hopefully seal the deal as quickly as we can so we can go for the win at the end of the 10 hours,” Lawrence said.
- Carter has been living the dream this season. "It's been nothing less than a dream season for me,” Carter said. “For an older guy out of Delaware, only a few years out of the Skip Barber series, I couldn't be more proud of moving up through the Continental Tire SportsCar Series, and not only to be a Rolex 24 winner, but also have a chance to be crowned a Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup winner."
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