Race Weekend Central

Joey Hand Wins Pole for Michelin GT Challenge at VIR

On Saturday afternoon, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams brought out their Saturday best in qualifying for Sunday’s Michelin GT Challenge at VIR.  When the dust cleared, it was Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Joey Hand who walked away with the overall pole.

The session was a close one as the times whittled away.  Risi Competizione’s Giancarlo Fisichella was fast early on in his Ferrari.  Then, BMW Team RLL’s Alexander Sims put his BMW M6 GTLM on top.  With just a couple of minutes to spare, Hand put down a lap of 100.211 seconds (117.472 mph) that held up.

Afterwards, Hand was pumped.

“I told [the crew] coming down the hill on the last lap, if this doesn’t do it I don’t know what will,” Hand said.  “I got everything I could out of it. Its just one of those things, its such a pleasure coming to the track with this group of people, they do such great homework. They have such great preparation, we rolled out of the trailer again, just like Road America, we rolled out of the trailer so good here. We haven’t touched a lot. We did a few laps and Dirk [Müller] and I said lets put it away, we’ll take it like that, just put some new tires on it and some fuel and just go. Were really excited, Dirk’s done such a great job setting it up, he was on the Pole at Road America and its a great way to start. I told him at RA I’m super comfy, I told him here I’m super comfy. I think good things can happen here.”

Hand’s lap was two-tenths of a second faster than Sims in second.  Teammate John Edwards was third, followed by Fisichella.  Corvette Racing’s Tommy Milner will start fifth.

Once again, the Oak Tree Corner claimed a couple of victims during the session.  Porsche GT Team’s Dirk Werner came into the complex a little hot and spun.  Werner’s No. 911 Porsche spun and tapped the tires before resuming.  No real damage was done to the Porsche 911 RSR.

During the GT Daytona qualifying session, SunEnergy1 Racing owner-driver Kenny Habul had a similar crash, but he went into the tires harder. There was some damage to the SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG GT3, but Habul was able to pull away.  He eventually qualified 14th in class.

In GT Daytona, Jeroen Mul continued his perfect run by topping his fourth consecutive session of the weekend.  Mul’s lap of 103.391 seconds (113.859 mph) was about one-sixth of a second slower than his best lap in Practice No. 3, but it was more than enough to give Mul his second pole of 2017.

Mul is very excited about his weekend to this point.

“I have to say that the team has done such a good job preparing the car this weekend.,” Mul said after the session.  “It’s been flying from the start, a little too much maybe in the free practice session but still, the car has been absolutely phenomenal in all conditions on all tires. Corey [Lewis] and I are very happy with the car, he did an awesome job in practice earlier today getting the car ready for him in the race.  So, this back-to-back pole is very much deserving for this Change Racing team, super excited to be able to do this for our home crowd.”

Mul’s lap was two-tenths of a second faster than Turner Motorsport’s Jesse Krohn in the No. 96 BMW.  Andrew Davis will start third after setting his best time at the very end of the session.  Jeroen Bleekemolen will start fourth in GTD after being forced into action due to teammate Trent Hindman competing in the Biscuitville Grand Prix shortly after the session.  3GT Racing’s Jack Hawksworth will start fifth.

Starting Grid for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Michelin GT Challenge at VIR

The Michelin GT Challenge at VIR is due to start at 1:35 p.m. on Sunday.  The race will air live on FOX Sports 1.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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