Five-time Pirelli World Challenge series champion Lawson Aschenbach drove the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R to the top of the GTS speed chart late Friday afternoon to lead Friday practice runs at Watkins Glen International in preparations for this weekend’s PWC Grand Prix of Watkins Glen presented by TM Performance.
Aschenbach has scored four GTS Sprint race wins in 2018 and looks like a favorite in the GTS doubleheader after a best lap of one minute, 56.594 seconds for an average speed of 104.11 miles per hour during the cooler conditions at the famed 3.4-mile, 11-turn road course in upstate New York.
“I am very happy to be back at Watkins Glen,” said Aschenbach, the 2017 GTS series champion. “This is one of my favorite tracks in North America. This track suits the Camaro very well and I’m anxious for qualifying on Saturday morning and then the first race on Saturday afternoon. So far, in practice, the car has taken to the track very well. I think we found a good compromise for the high-speed grip and the compliance over the curbs. It’s always fun to race at a legendary track like Watkins Glen.”
Placing second in Friday’s GTS practice was Patrick Gallagher in the No. 10 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 with a top time of 1:56.686 (104.03mph) followed by his PF Racing teammate Jade Buford in the No. 55 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 at 1:56.701 (104.02mph), current GTS Overall and Sprint point leader James Sofronas in the No. 14 GMG Racing Audi R8 LMS GT4 at 1:56.906 (103.83mph) and veteran Ian James in the No. 50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezanno GT4 at 1:56.941 (103.80mph).
Leading the competitive GTSA division is another veteran, Jeff Courtney in the No. 99 JCR Motorsports Maserati Grand Turismo GT4 with a clocking of 1:57.169 (103.60mph) with second going to Mike Hedlund in the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT4 at 1:57.382 (103.41mph) and third to Nicolai Elghanayan in the No. 71 MarcoPolo Motorsports KTM X-Bow GT4 at 1:57.886 (102.97mph).
“With a long wheelbase car, we expect the Maserati to be good here at Watkins Glen,” said Courtney, the GTSA Sprint race winner at Road America. “We will see what happens when the race starts. Our problem isn’t going fast at a track like this, but it is race ability with the older car. I have very little experience here, maybe eight or ten years ago. But we did some simulation work on the computer recently to get used to the track. That helped. I was comfortable with the car after five laps today. I get excited for stuff I like, and this track is fun. I just want to go out and race hard for the wins this weekend.”
The GTS/GTSA competition will start on Saturday with qualifying scheduled for 10:50 a.m. ET and Race 1 of the Grand Prix weekend set for 4:10 p.m. ET. Sunday’s 50-minute sprint race begins at 11:05 a.m. ET.
Both GTS/GSTA races will be streamed live on www.world-challenge.com and the World Challenge YouTube channel.