A record field of entries took the track Saturday at Thunderhill Park for practice and qualifying for the Trans Am West Coast Championship, presented by Pirelli season opening race weekend.
Simon Gregg drove his No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette to the top time of the day as he covered the 2.866-mile, 15 turn road course with a fastest lap time of 1:46.369s (96.998 mph) to claim the pole position.
The eight-car TA2 powered by AEM contingent was led by Anthony Honeywell piloting the Honeywell Competition/TFB Performance Chevrolet Camaro to a lap of 1:48.427s (95.157 mph).
“Thunderhill is a really fun but difficult track,” said Gregg, a former Series Champion and regular competitor in the National Trans Am Series. “It’s takes me awhile to memorize the track, so I’m certain that I will continue to get faster and faster. It should be a great race.”
Gregg will be joined in the front row by local SCCA Club racer Michelle Nagai who is making her first Trans Am start. Michael Fine and Greg Pickett will start in row 2.
Pickett set a blistering pace in Friday’s two test sessions, turning in times in his Mustang that would have secured the pole in qualifying. But an engine failure meant that his team had to work throughout the day installing a new engine, with the changeover preventing Pickett from setting a time in qualifying.
For Pickett, one of the all-time greats in Trans Am Series history, Saturday’s race will be his 188th career start and he’s still considered the favorite to win Sunday afternoon’s 35-lap (or 70 minute) feature event.
“Man, I hate missing qualifying, but the good news is that we’ll be ready to go with a fresh bullet,” said Pickett. “We’ve got a great setup thanks to the testing we’ve done here so we’re all systems go.”
In TA2 powered by AEM, Honeywell earned his first pole in his first West Coast start after running very competitively in TA2 in the National Tour in 2018. He edged out TA2 West Coast veteran Brad McAlister in the Portland Implant Dentistry Ford Mustang by a mere 4/100ths of a second, while third ranked Michael Mihld in the Mihld Racing Chevrolet Camaro, was a close third, only a half second back.
In GT, teammates Roger Eagleton and Beau Borders qualified one-two.
“This is a great start,” noted Trans Am Race Company’s John Clagett. “This is the largest field of cars we have for the West Coast. Adding Thunderhill Park and Laguna Seca, while returning to Sonoma and Portland gives our West Coast series a lot of momentum, great depth and added challenge for all comers.”
Following tomorrow’s 35 lap/70-minute main event, the Trans Am West Coast Championship by Pirelli heads off to AutoClub Speedway in Fontana for three-days, April 26-28.