Tyler McQuarrie made an emphatic statement on Thursday that CarBahn with Peregrine Racing won’t surrender its IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge championship without a fight.
In Motul Pole Award qualifying for the season finale, the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring International Raceway, McQuarrie covered the field by nearly a full second to earn the first starting position in Friday’s two-hour race. He and Jeff Westphal face an uphill battle in the No. 39 Audi R8 GT4 – trailing championship leaders Nate Stacy and Kyle Marcelli by 15 points in the Grand Sport (GS) class – but they refuse to concede anything.
“Our car is really good here at Sebring,” McQuarrie said after clocking a lap of 2 minutes, 10.744 seconds (102.979 mph). “We’ve won here two years in a row, that’s the second pole in a row here and we’ve had three poles in a row in the last three races (this season). I think we’ve just hit our stride at the end of the year, and we’re really putting everything out on the table to try and win the championship.”
Cameron Lawrence was second fastest in the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 (2:11.729, 102.209 mph). Lawrence was a last-minute replacement in the No. 95 for Bill Auberlen, who remained home this week after potentially being exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Stacy qualified the No. 60 KohR Motorsports Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in fifth position. A finish of 10th or better nets him and Marcelli the GS championship. McQuarrie said it is full steam ahead for the No. 39 Audi as he and Westphal try to defend their crown.
“We have to win; it’s all or nothing,” McQuarrie said. “We have second (in the championship) locked up so if we crash trying to win this thing, so be it. We’re going to lay it all out there. Starting on pole is a great way to stay out of trouble, keep the car up front and just give it to Jeff, and hopefully he can bring it home for the win.”
In the Touring Car (TCR) class, Harry Gottsacker collected the Motul Pole Award with a lap of 2:16.110 (98.919 mph) in the No. 21 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Veloster N TCR. Gottsacker’s lap was 0.115 seconds better than teammate Ryan Norman in the No. 33 BHA Hyundai, with Roy Block putting the No. 5 KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering Alfo Romeo Giulietta TCR in third, 0.352 seconds off the pole.
“It’s a good start to the weekend, for sure, but it’s not over yet,” Gottsacker said. “There’s a long one tomorrow. Really thankful for Bryan Herta Autosport and everybody at Hyundai giving me such a great race car today. Me and my engineer Hunter really kind of nailed that setup and it worked out really great for us.”
Norman and No. 33 Hyundai co-driver Gabby Chaves have a four-point lead in the TCR standings over No. 98 BHA teammates Michael Lewis and Mason Filippi, who qualified fourth. Gavin Ernstone and Jon Morley (No. 61 Road Shagger Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR) are 12 points from the lead, with Gottsacker and co-driver Mark Wilkins 14 points back.
Friday’s race is available live starting at noon ET on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.
Kingsley Keeps Humming along with Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA Pole
Jeff Kingsley isn’t letting up in his pursuit of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama championship. The 22-year-old Canadian locked up the pole position in qualifying Thursday for the first of two races to close the season.
Kingsley laid down a lap of 2:07.216 (105.835 mph) at Sebring International Raceway’s 3.74-mile, 17-turn road course to edge championship rival Riley Dickinson by 0.098 seconds. Kingsley, who has won 10 of the 14 races this season in the No. 16 Kelly-Moss Road and Race Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, needs only to start both races Friday and finish eighth or better in one to clinch the crown.
“Qualifying was a bit of a mixed bag,” Kingsley said. “It felt super slow but we’re on pole. The car was definitely a handful out there. With this heat and lots of different rubber going down, it changed things quite a bit.”
Kingsley knows he must temper his typical aggressiveness in the races and focus on bringing home the championship.
“I’ve got to play it safe, keep my nose clean, and as much as I want to win both races this weekend, I also have to look at the big picture,” he said. “That says more about your career, if you have a championship title versus a race win at Sebring.”
Alan Metni, points leader in the Platinum Masters class for drivers 45 and older, was the fastest qualifier in that group – and fourth overall – with a lap of 2:08.001 (105.186 mph) in the No. 99 Kelly-Moss/AM Motorsports Porsche. Richard Edge captured his first pole of the season in Gold Cup (for Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars built between 2014 and 2016) with a lap of 2:12.424 (101.673 mph) in the No. 18 ACI Motorsports Porsche.
Gold Cup points leader Curt Swearingin sat out the qualifying session. He needs only to start each race Friday to wrap up the class championship. Swearingin was also given permission to change his car number from 17 to 44 to honor his father, who was born in 1944 and passed away earlier this week.
The GT3 Cup Challenge USA races, each 45 minutes in length, are scheduled to start at 8 a.m. and 2:35 p.m. ET Friday. Both will stream live on IMSA.com.
Aghakhani, Eidson Tighten Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America Battle with Double-Pole Effort
Steven Aghakhani and Jacob Eidson each did his work on Thursday, earning the pole position for both races of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America doubleheader on Friday at Sebring International Raceway.
With a championship point earned for each pole, the drivers of the No. 6 US RaceTronics, Lamborghini Beverly Hills Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo EVO moved within 13 points of Pro class leader Madison Snow in the No. 16 Change Racing, Lamborghini Charlotte Huracán.
In Race 1 qualifying, Aghakhani turned a best lap of 2:01.933 (110.421 mph) that was 0.354 seconds better than Snow.
“The whole team came out here and we were ready to do what we had to do,” Aghakhani said. “Obviously coming back from the last race at Laguna Seca (a fifth-place result in class), there was nothing we could change about it, so we just had to put it behind us and keep our heads high for Sebring. That’s exactly what we did. As you can see, the results show.”
Eidson followed his teammate’s effort in the Race 2 qualifying session with a top lap of 2:02.318 (110.073 mph). Again, Snow was second fastest.
“After Practice 1 yesterday, I was cautiously optimistic about qualifying today,” Eidson said. “We knew we had a chance at pole, but it’s just a matter of going out there and executing, and we did that today. It’s awesome to get pole position. We’re only at the start. We’ve still got tomorrow and that’s what really matters, but it’s a great start.”
Qualifying results of other classes saw Danny Formal (No. 99 Ansa Motorsports, Lamborghini Broward Huracán) sweep honors in both ProAm sessions and Randy Sellari (No. 03 Change Racing, Lamborghini Charlotte Huracán) do the same in LB Cup.
Moritz Kranz (No. 74 Prestige Performance with Wayne Taylor Racing, Lamborghini Charlotte Huracán) won the Am class pole for Race 1 in his season debut, with Victor Gomez IV (No. 29 Change Racing, Lamborghini Charlotte Huracán) topping Am qualifying for Race 2.
The first 50-minute race rolls off at 9:05 a.m. ET Friday, with Race 2 at 3:40 p.m. Both will stream live on IMSA.com.