Teenager J.T. Coupal was impressive in his Friday practice rounds in the TCR division at Watkins Glen International by securing the quickest time in both sessions for this weekend’s Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Watkins Glen presented by TM Performance.
Coupal, the 18-year-old driver from nearby Rochester, New York, drove his No. 77 Compass Racing Audi Sport RS3 LMS sedan to the quickest time of the TCR competitors with a one minute, 57.977 seconds at an average of 102.89 miles per hour over the 3.4-mile, 11-turn road course.
Coupal, who started freshman classes this weekend at Syracuse University where he will major in journalism, also recorded the fastest Friday TCR morning clocking with a 1:58.642 (102.31mph) in only his second racing appearance at his home track. J.T. currently ranks ninth in the TCR point standings, but the fast youngster looks to be a favorite in Round 11 on Saturday and Round 12 on Sunday at the historic race facility in upstate New York.
“I think this track really suits our Compass Racing Audi RS3 LMS and today showed that with our times in practice,” said Coupal. “Audi likes fast corners and top speed straight and we have that here at Watkins Glen.
“I grew up here racing races including the last time the Pirelli World Challenge was here in 2010. So obviously I’m very excited to race in front of family and friends. We’ll have about 45 of them here this weekend. I have only raced here once in SCCA. TCR has been really fun this year. I knew the Audi would be great in full TCR trim. I just have to drive as fast as possible in qualifying now.”
Second in the TCR class Friday went to current TCR point leader Ryan Eversley in the No. 43 RealTime Racing Honda Civic Type-R with a best of 1:58.111 (102.77mph) followed by Mason Filippi in the No. 44 RealTime Racing Honda Civic Type-R, Jerimy Daniel in the No. 2 The Racing Company Audi Sport RS3 LMS at 1:58.774 (102.20mph) and Mark Wilkins in the No. 99 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai i30 N TCR, at 1:59.105 (101.92mph).
The TCR/TCA division will have qualifying Saturday at 10:15 a.m. ET with the 40-minute Round 11 event set for 3:00 p.m. ET at Watkins Glen.
Former Pirelli World Challenge series champion Johan Schwartz drove his Rooster Hall Racing/West Virginia University BMW M235iR sports car to the fastest time Friday in the Touring Car class practice rounds.
Schwartz, the 2015 TCB series titleholder, posted a best time of two minutes, 3.208 seconds for an average speed of 98.52 miles per hour, as the veteran BMW driver seeks to improve on his third-place rating currently in the TC point standings. The TC doubleheader weekend at the Glen will have valuable points on the line for the final standings.
Taking second in the first TC practice was another veteran Dennis Hanratty Jr. in the No. 40 Krugspeed Lotus Exige at 2:04.534 (97.47mph) followed by Robert Nimkoff in the No. 20 AutoTechnic Racing BMW M235iR at 2:04.659 (97.38mph), Karl Wittmer in the No. 91 Classic BMW BMW M235iR at 2:04.958 (97.14mph) and Jeff Ricca in the No. 78 GenRacer Genesis Couple at 2:04.976 (97.13mph).
The Touring Car action on Saturday will be qualifying at 9:05 a.m. ET with the first TC 40-minute sprint event of the weekend getting underway at 12 noon EDT.
“We got the car dialed in today,” said Schwartz. “The Rooster Hall guys did a great job preparing the car. We tried a lot of different setups and we found a couple of good things today. We played with the tire pressures too. We like the philosophy of BMW and we don’t really want to hide anything on track. We did that today in both the morning and afternoon sessions. We had cooler conditions here today. The Glen suits our BMW very well. I raced here two years ago and I really enjoy this place. It’s great, historic track. And it’s fun to drive.”
In the TCA category, series point leader Tom O’Gorman paced the field in his No. 94 TOMO Racing Honda Civic Si at 2:12.178 (91.84mph) Friday morning with second going to Spencer Patterson in the No. 79 TechSport Racing Subaru BRZ tS at 2:12.236 (91.80mph) followed by Eric Powell in in the No. 95 TechSport Racing Subaru BRZ tS at 2:12.335 (91.73mph).
“Our Honda Civic Si felt outstanding in the first practice session,” said Gorman, the former TCB series champion. “The car is excellent in high speed corners and Watkins Glen has those types of turns. In the afternoon, we just scuffed in some tires for Sunday’s race. I have races here four times this year, so I feel confident entering the weekend. We just want to race clean and secure the TCA championship on Sunday afternoon. It’s an exciting weekend for our team.”