Veteran Ian James drove the No. 50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT4 sports car to the GTS pole position Saturday morning at Road America in Pirelli World Challenge GTS Sprint Round 5 event set for Saturday at 4:35 p.m. CDT.
The 20-minute GTS qualifying session was shortened due to a Turn 6 incident with defending GTSA champion George Kurtz, whose No. 04 CrowdStrike/GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4 made contact with the outside wall. Kurtz walked away from the incident.
James, the British driver now residing in Paradise Valley, Ariz., won both GTS 50-minute sprint races last year at Road America with his Panoz sports car and looks to repeat the performance in the Saturday and Sunday doubleheader.
James was only able to record one flying lap in Saturday morning’s qualifying round due to the Kurtz incident, but that single lap time was the best of the 24-car field with a time of 2m17.527s.
In a separate incident, reigning GTS series champion Lawson Aschenbach had a mechanical issue in his No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevy Camaro GT4.R at Turn 2 in the Saturday morning practice. The result saw the Florida driver smack the inside wall and damage his mount. Lawson was unable to drive in GTS qualifying Saturday, but the team hopes to repair the machine for the Saturday afternoon sprint contest.
“I love coming back to Road America,” said James. “Throughout my career I’ve always done well here, so I come here with a bit of a spring in my step. The Panoz is great around here. It actually has done the best of all the different Panoz cars I’ve raced here. On Friday, it was about the race setup with the longer stints. Then, we put some new tires on, no fuel in the tank and just went for it.”
Taking the second spot in the GTS qualifying was two-time GTS SprintX race winner Jade Buford in the No. 55 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 at 2m17.818s followed by the top GTSA driver in qualifying, Mark Klenin, in the No. 62 Premiere Copier McLaren 570S GT4 at 2m18.371s and Harry Gottsacker at 2m18.916s in the No. 69 Racers Edge Motorsports Sin R1 GT4.
Kurtz was the fifth quickest in qualifying at 2m18.997s but will have to go to a backup car for Saturday’s GTS Round 5 race. Kurtz and Aschenbach will start at the rear of the field in Saturday’s 50-minute event.
On Sunday, the GT/GTS combined 50-minute race will begin at 2:45 p.m. CDT.