DETROIT – There’s rarely been a dull moment in the first half of the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for Sebastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande and the No. 01 Cadillac Racing team.
The latest dose of excitement came Friday when Bourdais claimed the Motul Pole Award for the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class at the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic with a new track record for the 14-corner, 2.3-mile Belle Isle Raceway temporary course.
The fifth career pole position of the 43-year-old Frenchman’s IMSA career – and fourth this season – came despite making contact with the Turn 2 wall at one point during the 15-minute qualifying session and later spinning out.
It was just the latest adventurous day for Bourdais, who has qualified on the pole for four of the last five WeatherTech Championship races. But that qualifying dominance hasn’t translated to race day, as van der Zande and Bourdais have collected only one victory – on the streets of Long Beach, California – and lie sixth in the point standings.
Their challenge is therefore to have a clean day in Saturday’s race on a narrow, unforgiving circuit that almost caught Bourdais out twice in qualifying.
He broke Juan Pablo Montoya’s three-year-old Belle Isle sports car track record with a 1-minute, 19.017-second lap with about six minutes remaining Friday, then suffered hard right-side impact with the Turn 2 wall as he started another flying lap.
After taking a couple laps to ensure the Cadillac V-Performance Academy DPi-V.R was not seriously damaged, Bourdais uncorked a 1:18.818 (107.335 mph) on his final attempt that edged Tom Blomqvist in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura DPi by 0.110 seconds.
“It was a bit of a messy qualifying, and I don’t think I’ve hit that many walls in succession in a very long time,” Bourdais said. “You have to hustle the cars and push so hard here that you really expose yourself. It proves that we really have to dig deep to keep those Acuras at bay.
“It’s really sweet. It takes big commitment out here, so it’s really rewarding,” he added. “A couple of really big laps, a really big hit, and I’m super happy that Cadillac is so strong because I think my session would have been done halfway through in any other car.”
Championship leaders Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque qualified third fastest in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05, followed by the No. 02 Cadillac Racing Cadillac shared by Alex Lynn and Earl Bamber.
Bourdais and van der Zande understand that multiple race wins represent the only way for them to climb back into championship contention. After Friday’s qualifying effort shaved their deficit by five points, they are still 203 behind Taylor and Albuquerque.
“We’re hoping for a great day,” Bourdais said. “The No. 01 car won here last year (with van der Zande and Kevin Magnussen), so expectations are high. As everybody knows, it’s Cadillac’s and GM’s home ground, so we are kind of expected to win here. I hope we are the ones doing so.
“We know things need to start coming our way, and we need our opponents to run into some issues,” he continued. “We need to kick-start our season and put some points on the board, and I hope it starts tomorrow. We just need to put our heads down, minimize mistakes, and hopefully we’ll get some luck that will help us get back in this fight.”
The Chevrolet Sports Car Classic airs live on USA Network and will stream on Peacock starting at 3 p.m. ET Saturday. IMSA Radio also has full race coverage.