Tomas Enge has captured the Motul pole position for the opening round of the 2014 Pirelli World Challenge Championships season, the Cadillac Grand Prix of St. Petersburg brought to you by StopTech. The race is part of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weekend.
After leading both Friday practice sessions, Enge improved his time by more than a second on Saturday morning at the 1.8-mile street circuit.
Enge, in the No. 25 Reiter Engineering Lamborghini Gallardo FL2, improved to a new track record of 1:13.429 at a speed of 88.248 mph.
He set his fastest lap on his eighth and final lap of the session, as the track began to dry out from the damp conditions that began the morning session.
“At the end of the session, track was faster for sure as it was drying out more and more,” Enge said. “We figured it out, went out for the last 10 minutes, put in a great time. The Reiter Lamborghini Gallardo is really easy to handle; the advantages of this car are definitely traction and braking. We look forward to succeeding here and also in GT-A with Albert von Thurn und Taxis and Marcelo Hahn.”
The top two drivers eclipsed the previous track record, a 1:13.860 set by Alex Figge last year. Figge and James Sofronas were the winners of both St. Petersburg races in 2013.
Anthony Lazzaro qualified second in the No. 61 Remo Ferri Group – Ferrari of Ontario/Ferrari of Alberta/Maranello Autobody Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 at 1:13.691.
Lazzaro, a sports car veteran in endurance racing, spoke about having his own car for the first time in a dozen years, since 2002 in IndyCar.
“It’s a different mentality having your own car again,” Lazzaro said. “I’m a believer in this series. Since they made the change to GT3, if you build it they will come. It has the potential to be the best (series) in the country for sure, even one of the best in the world.”
Dane Cameron qualified third in the No. 94 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3, as Will Turner’s team returns to Pirelli World Challenge after a several-year hiatus. Cameron equaled Figge’s mark set last year at 1:13.860.
The pair of Cadillac Racing entries rounded out the top five ahead of the Cadillac Grand Prix. Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., qualified fourth in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R, with two-time defending GT class champion Johnny O’Connell fifth in the sister No. 3 Cadillac.
Nick Mancuso was sixth and best of the GT-A classified drivers at 1:14.686 – a time identical to O’Connell’s – in the No. 16 Ferrari Lake Forest Ferrari 458 Italia GT3. Three other GT-A classified drivers, Albert von Thurn und Taxis, Andrew Palmer and Marcelo Hahn, also qualified in the overall top 10.
There were six different manufacturers in the overall top 10. Per Lamborghini, which has recently raced in the U.S. in single-make sports car championships, this marks the first time Lamborghini, Ferrari and McLaren have all raced in the same sports car event.
In GTS, Jack Baldwin also matched Enge in securing the Motul pole position after leading both Friday practice sessions. Baldwin drives the No. 73 RESET-MD/Motul/StopTech Porsche Cayman S.
Baldwin’s best lap of 1:23.453 came after a neck-and-neck fight with GTS defending class champion Lawson Aschenbach in the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro. Aschenbach’s best time was a 1:23.879.
“It was exciting, and a fun thing with Lawson,” Baldwin said. “I have the utmost respect for him and the Blackdog program. For us, it was a situation where track conditions in traffic fell in place, I got a clean lap on drying conditions and that’s what paid off. There were still some slick spots. But this track suits the RESET-MD Cayman really well.”
After the top two, two-time St. Petersburg polesitter Andy Lee qualified third in the No. 20 Best IT/Crown 7 Chevrolet Camaro at 1:24.526.
Positions four through six were all Ford Mustang Boss 302s, with Dean Martin of Rehagen Racing fourth, series returnee Tony Buffomante of Capaldi Racing fifth and series newcomer Jack Roush Jr. sixth for ROUSH Road Racing.
Qualifying was held in 70-degree ambient temperatures with 96 percent humidity, with overcast and cloudy skies to start the session and warming and clearing as the session progressed.
Round 1 of the 2014 Pirelli World Challenge Championships season begins at 3:10 p.m. EDT this afternoon, with live streaming on www.world-challengetv.com. It will be a 50-minute race to begin from a rolling start.