Bourdais Smashes WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Track Record En Route to Motul Pole Award

By John Oreovicz

IMSA Wire Service

Qualifying Results

MONTEREY, Calif. – Record laps were expected at the recently repaved WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, and the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship delivered in qualifying for the Motul Course de Monterey Presented by Hyundai N.

Coming off a victory three weeks ago in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, the No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R – that is also the defending Laguna Seca race winner – swept to the Motul Pole Award Saturday in the hands of Sebastien Bourdais. The Frenchman lapped the 2.238-mile road course in 1 minute, 12.445 seconds (111.212 mph), some 2.3 seconds quicker than a year ago and nearly 1.5 seconds under the track’s all-time sports car record of 1:13.924 set by Ricky Taylor in a Daytona Prototype International (DPi)-class car in 2022.

Saturday’s qualifying session was only 15 minutes long, but it produced almost non-stop excitement as Bourdais and Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac Racing Cadillac traded fast laps. Derani, who was on a quest for his fourth consecutive GTP class pole, fell short by 0.112 seconds with a lap of 1:12.557 (111.040 mph).

Instead, it was Bourdais who nailed down Cadillac’s fourth consecutive pole – the seventh of his IMSA career and first since June 2022 in Detroit.

All 10 GTP class entries were clustered within 0.869 seconds, with all producing faster qualifying laps than the existing sports car track record. At one point, four cars were within 0.036 seconds with two setting identical times.

Bourdais was visibly enthusiastic after claiming the top spot, noting the disappointment that he and the Cadillac team, operated by Chip Ganassi Racing, suffered in the first two races of the 2024 season before rebounding for the win at Long Beach.

He said he relished the opportunity to string a series of qualifying laps together in ideal conditions in pursuit of a new track record.

“You know the track temperature is going to come down and the grip is going to increase as the track is cleaning up and rubbering in,” he observed. “With the old pavement, you kind of only had one lap on the tires – you had your chance and that was it. Now we can string laps together. It’s quite tricky because we never really have the chance to do it in practice because there is so much traffic. You’re just lucky and happy if you get one clean lap. It’s a difficult set of circumstances and it’s a lot of fun to really get the tires into the groove.”

Bourdais, whose co-driver in the No. 01 Cadillac is Renger van der Zande, said the lap could have been even faster, but he made a small mistake entering WeatherTech Raceway’s famous Corkscrew corner and nearly had to abort the attempt.

“You really have to hang it out, and it’s really fun when you do put a lap that’s almost together,” he said. “I had one (brake) lock-up up top and almost didn’t make the Corkscrew, but it’s always like that when you start challenging that braking zone. You know it’s going to make or break your lap time, and that was close to being a throwaway lap. So I’m very glad, because we could have lost several places when it’s so close.”

Phillipp Eng qualified the No. 24 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8 third, lapping in 1:12.649, narrowly ahead of Mathieu Jaminet at 1:12.664 in the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963. BMW and Porsche also filled the third row of the grid.

Bourdais expects a difficult battle in Sunday’s two-hour, 40-minute race. “You’re going to have to be on your toes,” he predicted. “Every time you pass a GT (a Grand Touring Daytona or GTD PRO class entry), you’re trying to not go off-line too much. All along, you’re fighting your own race and trying not to make mistakes.

“It’s definitely pretty nerve racking and as the race progresses, the difference between the line and the outside is going to be getting worse. It will be treacherous tomorrow, for sure.”

The Motul Course de Monterey Presented by Hyundai N airs live on NBC starting at 3 p.m. ET (Noon PT) on Sunday, May 12 and streams live on Peacock.