Watkins Glen: TRG qualifying report

QUALIFYING SESSION PRODUCES TWO TOP-10 STARTING SPOTS FOR TRG AT THE GLEN WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - Coming into the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen weekend at Watkins Glen ...

QUALIFYING SESSION PRODUCES TWO TOP-10 STARTING SPOTS FOR TRG AT THE GLEN

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - Coming into the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen weekend at Watkins Glen International, all involved with TRG were optimistic about their chances for a successful weekend.

The legendary, 3.4-mile road course in upstate New York seemed to favor the Porsche, and TRG had reason to feel confident coming into the weekend as the defending race champions in the GT class. After Friday's qualifying session, however, the entire team was left scratching their heads.

"Our guys did a good job with what they had," said team owner Kevin Buckler. "It's really a shame that we come to a track that's supposed to favor a Porsche and we're getting so blown away by the Pontiacs and Mazdas that it's just not even fun to be here. All the drivers did a good job in qualifying. Not only do we have the Pontiac and Mazda just whooping us at a track we should be good at, but we also have a real issue with our Pirelli tires beyond performance. They were simply horrible today."

Bryan Sellers led the five-car TRG entry in qualifying with a best lap at 1:54.081 (107.292 mph) in the No. 68 CRG/Maxter/Rotax/MBA Group/F1 Air Porsche GT3 he is sharing with RJ Valentine and Randy Pobst. Sellers' best lap was good enough for eighth on the starting grid, which should be a solid starting position, especially for a six-hour race. However, Sellers was hoping for a bit more from the session.

"We qualified eighth and we were quickest of the TRG cars," Sellers said. "(Richard) Westbrook (in the No. 66 TRG Porsche) is one of the best drivers to ever sit in a Porsche, so to even be in the same league as him is a great thing. We're the second-quickest Porsche, but there are a lot of Pontiacs and Mazdas still ahead of us. TRG works so hard day-in and day-out, and I don't know how much harder they can work to find another second-and-a-half out of the race car. It's a good effort by everybody. I just wish they could see the fruits of their labor a little bit. I think we have a stellar race car that can hang onto those laps for a good while, which is what really matters. All the complaints being said, I think we're in great shape."

Westbrook will start one position behind Sellers after a ninth-best qualifying lap at 1:54.106 (107.269 mph) in the No. 66 Marquis Jet/Mitchell Rubber/Resorts International/IPC/Total Lubricants Porsche GT3. The Englishman is making his second Rolex Series start of the season and his first since January's Rolex 24 At Daytona. Westbrook is sharing the No. 66 machine with full-time drivers Bryce Miller and Ted Ballou, and was clearly bothered by his experience in qualifying.

"It's really frustrating, because for the first half of the lap there, the car felt great," said Westbrook. "But then, the tire started delaminating, which is not what you'd expect on a new set of tires. Qualifying doesn't really mean anything, but if we're delaminating tires after half a lap and we've got a six-hour race, we've got a problem. We need to get to the bottom of that. We need to get the tires to last for a stint."

Tim George Jr., who heads into the Six Hours of The Glen sitting second in the GT point standings with co-driver Spencer Pumpelly, placed the No. 67 Monster Cable/944 Magazine/WIN Institute/Gleukos Porsche GT3 16th on the grid with a lap at 1:55.732 (105.762 mph). He is sharing the car with Pumpelly and Andy Lally, who is back defend his GT class victory from a year ago. George was frustrated with qualifying for a different reason.

"It didn't go how I wanted," George said. "I went faster in practice, honestly, on old tires. Right at the end, I got hosed by Jonathan Bomarito in the 30 car two different times. I'm really not happy with him right now, so that's what happened. That's what it is. I burned off the tires trying to get around him. He's a good open-wheel driver and he's adapting well to this, but it's frustrating."

Starting 21st on the GT grid will be Hima Maher in the No. 65 Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing/Total R Solutions Porsche GT3 from TRG/Riegel Autosport. Maher's best qualifying lap was 1:57.747 (103.952 mph) in the car he will co-drive with Mexican racer Josemanuel Gutierrez and 2005 Rolex Series GT champion Craig Stanton.

"It went really well," Maher said. "We made two changes and both of them got us an extra second. The car came in quick, bang. The, we ran half a second off that qualifying lap, so it was really good."

Jim Lowe will start one position behind his TRG teammate after qualifying 22nd with a lap at 1:58.452 (103.333 mph) in the No. 64 SRS/Globus/Adopt A Pig Porsche GT3 for TRG/J Lowe Racing. Lowe will co-drive with Jim Pace and Tim Sugden in Saturday's race.

"It's a hot, greasy track, but it's pretty nice," Lowe said. "Some of the problems we were struggling with on setup are better now, but not all of them. The car is good; it's just not great. To even be out there was great, since in the last practice session I was in the tire wall. The crew put it back together in about 20 minutes and it was as good or better than it was when we started. Just being out there was a good thing. I'm pretty happy. With Jim Pace and Tim Sugden, who is working with us this weekend, we're looking for a good finish. It's going to be a tough start, and I'm sure it'll be a little work through the field until the first yellow, but if you're going to have a race where your qualifying lap wasn't quite up to speed, this is the one. We won't be suffering too much with it."

The Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen takes the green flag at 11:15 a.m. ET on Saturday. The race will be televised live in two parts on SPEED Channel. The first part hits the airwaves at 11:00 a.m. ET, with Part 2 slated to air beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET. Live Timing & Scoring data from every session is also available on www.grand-am.com.

-credit: trg

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Randy Pobst , Andy Lally , Spencer Pumpelly , Jim Pace , Craig Stanton , Tim Sugden , Bryan Sellers , Hima Maher , Jim Lowe , Ted Ballou , Tim George Jr. , Bryce Miller