Matt Bell (GS) and Justin Piscitell (ST) scored the pole positions for Saturday’s third round of the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season in Monterey.
Both drivers scored the pole last race at Sebring and have now followed it up at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
This is Bell’s second pole in three races and 11th overall (second all-time), while Piscitell is now a perfect three-for-three after adding this pole in Monterey to his two earlier ones at Daytona and Sebring.
Bell, in the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R, ran a best time of 1:35.765 on Friday, which eclipsed the 2014 pole time of 1:35.948 set by Trent Hindman. Bell will share the car with Lawson Aschenbach.
“I think we really hit it on the money for the timing on this,” Bell said. “Everyone behind me didn’t have the track position and had to deal with cars heating up the track in front of them. It doesn’t sound like it happens, but it definitely does.
“The more rubber you’re putting down in front of somebody, the worst traction they’re going to have. On a track like this, it’s very greasy and slippery. For us to be able to get out in front and put down my lap and call it a day is exactly what we needed to do.”
The No. 158 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang Boss 302R driven by Austin Cindric and Jade Buford clocked in second, at 1:36.024, with the second Stevenson Camaro driven by Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell third at 1:36.046.
Rum Bum Racing, the practice leaders on the afternoon, will start fourth with Hugh and Matt Plumb in the No. 13 Porsche 911.
Nick McMillen and Steve Doherty, the latter in his first Continental Tire Challenge GS start of the season, will start fifth in the No. 41 Doran Racing Nissan 370Z.
Davis and Liddell lead the Plumbs by two and the Aschenbach/Bell pair by five points (67-65-62) heading into Saturday’s race.
Mazdas led the way in ST qualifying, as expected, with Piscitell leading an all-Mazda front row in the 15-minute session. Both drivers eclipsed the 2014 pole time in class, 1:39.260 set by series debutante Elliott Skeer.
Piscitell clocked a new track record lap of 1:38.926 in the No. 34 Alara Racing Mazda MX-5 he’ll share with Christian Szymczak, while Stevan McAleer was just behind at 1:39.154 in the lone remaining No. 5 CJ Wilson Racing Mazda MX-5 that he’ll share with Chad McCumbee.
“We had a transmission failure in practice two and this crew had to thrash to get it back out there,” Piscitell said. “Drama likes to be near me. We got the car ready for qualifying. Had a few good laps, found a gap, and really put my head down. The Mazdas handle so well here.”
Britt Casey Jr. took the No. 25 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 to third, completing the top three sweep for the manufacturer at its home track.
Sarah Cattaneo was fourth in the No. 44 CRG-I Do Borrow Honda Civic Si with Jeff Segal best of the Porsche Caymans, fifth and a full 1.168 seconds back of Piscitell in the No. 43 Team Sahlen car.
The top two pairings in points – the No. 83 Next Level European Porsche Cayman (Eric Zimmerman, Greg Liefooghe) and No. 64 Team TGM BMW 328i (Ted Giovanis, David Murry) – will have their work cut out for them from 21st and 24th on the grid.
Liefooghe and Zimmerman hold a one-point lead over Giovanis and Murry, 63-62, heading into Saturday’s race.
Saturday’s Round 3 will run from 1 to 3:30 p.m. PT and local time.