Memo Rojas and Alex Tagliani officially christened the new Kansas Speedway road course Friday evening, capturing the respective GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series DP and GT class TOTAL Pole Awards for Saturday’s SFP Grand Prix.
Rojas won his first pole of the season with a lap of 1 minute, 9.883 seconds (122.090 mph) in the No. 01 Telcel/TELMEX BMW/Riley co-driven by fellow reigning DP champion Scott Pruett. IZOD IndyCar Series regular Tagliani, subbing for Max Papis, put the No. 61 R.Ferri/AIM Motorsports Ferrari 458 co-driven by Jeff Segal on the GT pole with a lap of 1:14.956 (113.827 mph).
The SFP Grand Prix begins at 7 p.m. CT/local (FOX Sports 2, live, 8 p.m. ET; FOX Sports 1, Sunday, Aug. 17, 4 p.m. ET).
“Our car rolled off the truck really quick, and typically, that means you spend the rest of the weekend fine tuning it,” said Rojas after winning his ninth career pole. “We were one of the few teams that did not test here, and we were worried about our chances. But the team did a great job preparing the car. Now, we’re ready for a tough and exciting race.”
Gustavo Yacaman took the outside of the DP front row with a last lap of 1:09.950 (121.973 mph) in the No. 6 Aero/Tuvacol Ford/Riley co-driven by Justin Wilson. The second row will be shared by Action Express Racing teammates Christian Fittipaldi (with Joao Barbosa) in the No. 5 Corvette DP and Burt Frisselle (with his brother Brian Frisselle) in the No. 9 Corvette DP.
DP point leaders Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel will start eighth in the No. 2 Soloson BMW/Riley.
Tagliani – the 2011 Indianapolis 500 pole winner – said he “came in to this team and this car at a really good time. Jeff is helping me a lot with learning the car and the data. My goal this weekend was to come in, support the team and give Jeff a good position so we could try to win. You can’t do it on your own.”
It was the second pole in two weekends for Tagliani, who went on to finish fifth in a NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race at Trois-Rivieres last weekend near his home in Montreal. He is racing at Kansas because Papis is competing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Mid-Ohio.
“Running the heavier NASCAR stock car really helped me, because coming to the Ferrari was like coming to an IndyCar. I really enjoy this car, and it really suits my style. Coming directly from IndyCar to GT is not as easy as it might look.”
It was also Tagliani’s first race in a Ferrari – the realization of a life-long dream.
“It’s awesome for an Italian to be able to put on a red suit and drive in a red car,” he said. “I hope to get to do this many, many more times.”
Segal and Papis won the Brickyard Grand Prix’s GT title at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July, while Papis won the GT pole for Detroit Belle Isle in June.
“He’s the real deal,” Segal said of Tagliani. “He’s been on the pole for the Indy 500. You can’t do that if you can’t drive.”
Leh Keen was second in GT, in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 co-driven by Alessandro Balzan, 1:15.262 (113.36 mph), followed by Emil Assentato in the No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD co-driven by Anthony Lazzaro.
Tom Long took his fifth pole of the season in the GX class, running 1:21.644 (104.50 mph) in the No. 70 Mazdaspeed/Castrol Edge Mazda 6 co-driven by Sylvain Tremblay.