Patrick Long, Martin Fuentes and Sloan Urry scored poles for the first GT, GTA and GT Cup race, Round 1 of the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge season, at Circuit of the Americas and the Nissan Grand Prix of Texas brought to you by VP Racing Fuels.
The first 30-minute segment of qualifying saw GTA and GT Cup competitors take to the track, with early fast times being posted by GTA’s Martin Fuentes, driving the No. 07 Scuderia Corsa Hublot Underarmour Ferrari 458 Italia, with a lap of 2:05.905 and in GT Cup, with Alec Udell, in the No. 17 GMG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, posting an early fast time of 2:10.750.
Fuentes then lowered his fast time to 2:05.655, as 2014 GTA Driver’s Champion Michael Mills, driving the No. 46 Mills Racing BMW Z4, went to second on the time sheets in GTA with a lap time of 2:06.920.
“The car was very well balanced and the team did a great job in qualifying,” said Fuentes. “I feel good about the weekend with the Ferrari. We were lacking a little bit of grip with the early qualifying session in the morning. We didn’t get the benefit of the rubber helping the traction. We were expecting a lot more rubber with the track surface. But overall it was a good performance for the team. Looking forward to the race now.”
In GT Cup, Urry, in the No. 22 TruSpeed Autosport Security National Mortgage/Avasis Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, popped up to the top of the time sheets with a quick time of 2:10.452 which would stand for the pole ahead of Udell. It’s Urry’s first career PWC pole.
Times continued to drop in GTA, with Fuentes at the top of the charts with his 2:05.655, followed by Michael Schein, in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche GT3-R in third with a lap of 2:06.562. Fuentes’ time would stand up for the GTA pole, as he qualified ahead of Schein and Mills.
The session was stopped at the 13-minute mark for Corey Fergus, in the No. 00 Motorsports Promo Byers Porsche, US LED, Motul Porsche 911 GT Cup, who stopped on course.
The qualifying session then moved to a 30-minute window for GT competitors, with 2011 GT Driver’s Champion Patrick Long, in the No. 31 EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3, posting a quick time on his first flying lap to go to first with a time of 2:05.355, and then lowered his time a lap later to 2:04.588, widening the gap over second place Michael Cooper, in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R., who had posted a quick time of 2:04.590, just .002 seconds off pole.
“It was really an ideal session for me,” Long stated. “A clean and clear two laps and the car was very balanced. I hit my marks and that was all I could do. It’s so tight at the top of the grid. The Caddies are going to be tough week in and week out. You will have some interlopers like (Alvaro) Parente who will learn these tracks. There is a really impressive group of young to mid-20 year olds with a lot of talent who will improve all season too. I think we have a little bit of everything in this championship from a driver, car and team perspective. And we saw that in the first qualifying session of the year. It was just two one-thousands of a second. It’s going to be a tough race today, all weekend and through the series.”
In third, Alvaro Parente, in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S, logged a lap at 2:04.821, which was quickly eclipsed by four-time GT Driver’s Champion Johnny O’Connell, in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing ATS-V.R, with a 2:04.816. Then Parente went faster, posting a 2:04.756 to slide back around O’Connell on the time sheets while a 2:04.819 for JD Davison, in the No. 33 AE Replay XD Nissan GT Academy Nissan GTR GT3, completed the top five.
As the session developed, times continued to change, with Long and Cooper remaining one-two, but O’Connell going faster with 2:04.678 a for third place, ahead of Parente and Davison, with those times making up the top five of the grid. For Long, it’s his sixth career PWC pole.
Qualifying sixth was Bryan Heitkotter, in the No. 05 AE Replay XD Nissan GT Academy Always Evolving/Replay XD/Nissan Nismo GT3 GT-R, with a time of 2:05.157 and in seventh it was Andrew Palmer, in the No. 87 Bentley Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3, with a lap of 2:05.321.
GT/GTA/GT Cup drivers hit the track next for their first race of the season at 2:30 p.m. central time. Watch the race live at motortrendondemand.com and follow live timing at world-challenge.com.