French Finally Wins Pole at COTA

James French brought home his second pole of the season with his first ever TOTAL Pole Award win at Circuit of the Americas.

If there was ever a doubt in French’s mind that he was not going to take pole, it didn’t last long enough for anyone to notice. French earned his sixth career pole at COTA. He is currently tied for most poles won with Colin Braun, this record sits above all four WeatherTech SportsCar Championship classes.

French dominated the Prototype Challenge qualifying session, so much so he set a new track record for fastest lap time in PC qualifying. The No. 38 Ric-Man Construction / Neurospine Institute / Cardio Access / AIG Technologies / Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children PC took pole with a lap time of 2:00.066. The previous record was held by Sean Rayhall with a 2:00.528.

The Performance Tech Motorsports No. 38 entry sits well ahead of its next challenger, the next fastest lap time was a 2:03.026. The gap time allows five GT Le Mans cars to be sat between the competitors. Traffic will, without a doubt, be a factor for tomorrow’s race on the 3.4-mile circuit. The ability to start without competition on your heels is an added advantage.

French was welcomed back to the pit stall by teammates and cameras. He admitted that the cameras made him more nervous than the qualifying session. Once the fanfare faded he went back to business strategizing race day with Team Principal Brent O’Neill and the Performance Tech crew.

“I think we nailed it on the qualifying setup today,” French said. “I think it may be too aggressive for the race so I think we’ll make a little change and take some of the steer-y-ness out of it, for lack of a better term. But it was an awesome car for qualifying, I would have liked to have had that 1:59 but the two times I pushed I kind of went past the limit. With the margin, we had between the other cars that would not have have been the most intelligent decision.

“We’re in front of all the GTLM cars, the two Bar 1 cars are mixed within them behind us. We have a great starting position. This is a really challenging track and it got the best of me last year. With the heat, I was pretty tuckered out, I have the wind taken out of me the last two laps. I’m hoping for some redemption this year.”

With the pole secure, O’Neill set his sights on preparing for the Advanced Auto Parts SportsCar Showdown.

“We’ll probably pull the car back a little bit after this. Since we got here we’ve been working on making the car faster and faster,” O’Neill said. “The car is wicked fast right now, and that just isn’t necessary for the race. James proved how quick the car is in qualifying, he made a little mistake on that last lap but had he not he would have had a 1:59, which is just crazy in this car. We started the weekend with a little issue with the power steering, but I think we’ve worked through it now. We’re ready for the race.”

The Advanced Auto Parts SportsCar Showdown at Circuit of the Americas takes place tomorrow Saturday, May 6. The green flag drops at 1:35 p.m. CT. The race will air on delay on FOX Sports 1 at 7 p.m. ET. Saturday will also be driver Patricio O’Wards 18th birthday. Birthday celebration’s begin on podium.

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