Johnny O’Connell and Jack Roush Jr. set the fastest laps in Saturday’s exciting qualifying session at Long Beach for the Pirelli World Challenge Roar By the Shore Presented by Kia, part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend. The starting order for both classes shifted numerous times during the 30-minute qualifying session.
O’Connell in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R, will start on the pole for Sunday’s 2014 Round 2 race after topping the charts with a 1:20.386, a new GT track record. O’Connell bested the previous track record of 1:21.087 set by James Sofronas in 2013.
“Qualifying is about being smart; knowing when to push and when to attack,” O’Connell said. “We know what laps our tires are at their best. It was very fortunate my tires were the best during my clear lap. We are definitely, right now, benefiting from guys with new equipment who don’t know their sweet spot. We have four years knowledge.”
O’Connell’s teammate, Andy Pilgrim of Boca Raton, Fla. in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R will start second on Sunday after posting a 1:20.633.
Anthony Lazzaro in the No. 61 R.Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia will start 3rd after posting a 120.698. Rounding out the top 5 in GT are Alex Figge in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3 (1:20.729) and Andrew Palmer in the No. 21 GMG Racing Audi R8 Ultra (1:20.964).
In GTS, Roush Jr., driving the No. 60 ROUSH Road Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302R, claimed his first career Pirelli World Challenge pole with a 127.325, also a new track record in the GTS class. The previous mark was set by Andy Lee in 2013 with a 1:27.662.
Roush’s pole is the first for a driver piloting a Boss 302 in the series since Paul Brown had the pole at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2011 in a Boss 302S.
“From practice yesterday, I’ve been trying to learn the track, taking care of the car,” Roush said. “The crew did a great job on this ROUSH Ford Mustang. I’m pleasantly surprised. I know tomorrow won’t be easy but so proud of this crew and all this effort.”
Nic Jonsson driving the No. 36 Kia Motors America Kia Optima, will start second on the GTS grid after posting a 1:27.509, while defending class champion and Round 1 St. Petersburg race winner Lawson Aschenbach in the No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro will start third (1:27.512).
“The car was really good right off the truck yesterday,” Jonsson said. “There have been some changes and the tough part is that we don’t have much time. But we have been running these Kias for three years. It’s a solid car, and a solid qualifying at the Kia-sponsored race here at Long Beach, about 20 minutes from our headquarters in Irvine.”
Rounding out the top 5 in GTS are Tony Buffomante in the No. 33 Capaldi Racing Ford Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S (1:27.862) and Jack Baldwin in the No. 73 RESET-MD/StopTech/Motul Porsche Cayman S (1:27.871).
The top GT-A driver was Nick Mancuso in the No. 16 R.Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia who will start 7th on the GT grid after posting a 1:21.329.
“I’m getting more comfortable getting the car up to speed,” Mancuso said. “We barely did any testing, and we’re learning the car every lap. My teammate (Lazzaro) is a lot more comfortable in the car. I’m still trying to feel it out.”