Laguna Seca: GM Racing qualifying report

GAINSCO Pontiac Qualifies Second At Laguna Banner Pontiac GXP.R to start third in GT Monterey, CA, May 16, 2008 -- The GAINSCO Pontiac Daytona Prototype (DP) of Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney will start from the front row for tomorrow's running...

GAINSCO Pontiac Qualifies Second At Laguna
Banner Pontiac GXP.R to start third in GT

Monterey, CA, May 16, 2008 -- The GAINSCO Pontiac Daytona Prototype (DP) of Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney will start from the front row for tomorrow's running of round five of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 to at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. In GT, the Banner Pontiac of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards will start from the second row.

The Number 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team put Jon Fogarty behind the wheel for qualifying. The Californian posted a time of 1:19.151 good for a front row start. The duo that dominated the 2007 schedule with seven wins is looking for their first of the 2008 season.

"It was very strange," said Fogarty. "That has never happened to us before. I went around the lefthander at the top of the Corkscrew and I was under acceleration coming out and something went wrong with the right rear. Because I was turning right, I really didn't notice, but then the car went straight. It was a really good lap, I was up on my previous and I tried too keep my foot in it and luckily I didn't hit anything. So we will put it back together and we will go through it and it was still a good effort. Not the pole, but it is good and we have got an hour in warm-up to make sure everything is put together in a proper manner and still work on the car for the race."

The team No. 98 GAINSCO Pontiac running the for the first time with Champ Car champions Cristiano da Matta and Jimmy Vasser will start sixth for tomorrow's 250-mile race. Vasser put in a time of 1:20.679. This race will mark the return to competitive racing for da Matta who suffered a head injury in a collision with a deer while testing a Champ Car in 2006 at Road America.

"Everybody has got a story but with the track time, every lap was getting quicker," said Vasser. "I was like 4/10ths up on that last lap but the No. 3 car and some other car just figured it was all over with one lap to go. They were just heading to the pits but I still ran a 21.2 just getting totally blocked by those guys. I had a good lap going, but just didn't get to finish it. The long warm-up will help Cristiano and myself, with our lack of track time, and we will continue to steadily move up."

Starting from the fourth row will be the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac of Michael Valiante and Max Angelelli. Valiante posted a time of 1:21.220. The team is looking for a strong finish this weekend to help get into the top 10 in driver points.

"Unfortunately, we didn't roll out of the trailer very quick today, and with such limited track time, it's tough to try too many things before qualifying," said Valiante. "We missed the first 25 minutes of practice this morning with an electrical issue. It's definitely disappointing that we're seventh. But we've made big improvements on the car since the first session. That's the thing with the new car. There are some places we go that are not going to suit the car right away but we just have to keep working through it, which we've been doing. We're definitely going in the right direction. With another hour of practice Saturday morning, by the time the race comes, we'll be much stronger."

Nic Jonsson qualified the Krohn Racing Pontiac in eighth with a time of 1:21.283. The high downforce Dallara driven by Jonsson and Ricardo Zonta will hopefully be a recipe for the team's first win tomorrow afternoon.

"Eighth place is not what I had hoped for," Jonsson said. "We had a top five car. We have to keep the faith that our consistent race pace helps to have a strong finish tomorrow. The car is really good under braking, into mid-corner and at the exit. We just seem to be giving up too much on the straight. The Lola has a lot of drag that cannot be overcome mechanically yet. The car is in a development phase where we have to be careful not to take off too much downforce. That is proven with the way we have been racing consistently, just not too good for qualifying."

In the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac, Jim Matthews qualified the car in 1:22.676 and will start from the seventh row. Matthews will hand over to the speedy Marc Goossens. The team is currently second in the DP points standings.

"I am disappointed in our track positions," Matthews. "I kept running up on slower cars, cars cooling their tires and cars throwing rocks up on the track. I think I had at least a half-second faster time in the car. The track really hasn't changed from this morning, it just changes every lap with dirt get thrown on it."

Eric van de Poele qualified the No. 75 Krohn Racing car in 16th. Van de Poele will share the seat with team owner Tracy Krohn.

"I had a good lap," van de Poele said. "The track is quite nice. The balance of the car is good. We seem to be losing just a little bit in a lot of places and that adds up. It is not obvious where we are losing the time to what the pole guys are running. The team is working hard and we are improving every race."

Starting next to the No. 75 will be the No. 16 Cheever Racing Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Pontiac Coyote of Matteo Bobbi and Antonio Garcia. Bobbi qualified the Coyote with a time of 1:24.063. This time followed a spin that caused a black flag negating Bobbi's fast first lap. The team will start from the back of the 18 car DP field.

"I had a good first lap," Bobbi said. "Then I spun on the second lap so that lap, according to the rules, was taken away. The car is really good here. It is the best that we have had it all year. I really like the track, especially the fast downhill section after the Corkscrew. The mistake on the second lap means we start at the back. It will be tough as this is a difficult place to overtake."

The top qualifying Pontiac GT car was Kelly Collins in the No. 07 Banner Racing GXP.R. Collins put in a time of 1:27.292 that will see him start from the third position on the grid. Collins and teammate Paul Edwards are the GT series points leaders.

"I put a fast lap in early," Collins said. "The car went loose after the first few laps. In turn five the car kept stepping out going up the hill. Usually you can just plant the front and power through. We may need to go with a softer spring in the rear for the race."

Tim Lewis Jr. qualified the No. 72 Autohaus Pontiac in fifth with a time of 1:28.119. That represents the team's best qualifying effort of the year. Lewis will hand off to teammate Lawson Aschenbach.

"I had some traffic early on in the session," Lewis said. "We didn't have much practice time. The team was tuning on the car and there were a lot of black flag time during the practice sessions. We made a lot of small adjustments during practice. That is the best we have qualified this season. That shows how hard the team is working. The car is very consistent which should payoff in the race tomorrow."

Andrew Davis drove the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsport Pontiac to a sixth place qualifying effort with a time of 1:28.189. Davis and Robin Liddell have won the last two GT races at Virginia International Raceway and Mexico City.

"We are going fast," Davis said. "I was running behind one of the RX8s and they really move down the straight. We made a lot of progress since early today. It is tough to get a good rhythm here which is where the speed is qualifying really comes from. I was able to run consistent lap times in qualifying, so I think we are right there with our setup for the race."

Starting eighth in GT is the PR1Motorsports team of Thomas Merrill and Mike Forest. Merrill put in the time of 1:28.403, the best qualifying effort of the year for the team. Merrill is an instructor at Laguna Seca and lives 10-minutes from the circuit.

"We made a huge gain since practice," Merrill said. "I was able to drop my lap time by two seconds. This is my home track so it is great to put in a good qualifying time here. I need to focus on having a good start. The last race at Homestead I was able to make up some ground at the beginning and will be looking to do that again tomorrow."

Setup II winner Chris Prey qualified the No. 06 Banner Racing Pontiac in ninth. Prey got his first taste of the GXP.R this morning and steadily improved his speed throughout the day to post a qualifying time of 1:28.614. Prey will start the race and hand over to team owner Leighton Reese.

"I am still trying to get the maximum out of the car in every turn," Prey said. "The team gave me a ton of laps this morning. My first time out with the DP cars on the track took some getting used to. I just focused on my line and gave them a little room and things are great. The car is really good here. The handling is pretty neutral, so I can just put the car where I want and it holds the track. I didn't get a 100% out of the car in qualifying, but am good with a top ten qualifying position for the race. I still have some little bits of the track I need to get some speed from tomorrow."

-credit: gm racing

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Series GRANDAM