Santo Domingo- The American GT Challenge series completed qualifying for the inaugural Autodromo Las Americas event. With high tempatures and slick track conditions, local driver Tony Canahuate in his Mustang qualified on the pole for Sunday's event with a lap time of 1:13:448. Canahuate will share the front row with fellow Dominican Luis Rafael Mendez.
"I am not really surprised," said Canahuate. "We have set many poles here. This makes 22 poles in 32 events for me. That's why they call me Mr. Pole"
Canahuate was fast all weekend beginning with Friday's practice times. The team setup the car on previously run tires. "I thought new tires would be about one second faster," commented Tony. "But in reality we only gained about a half second. The setup doesn't seem to change much from used tires to new tires."
This weekend will mark the first time drivers have gone twenty five laps at Las Americas. Canahuate expressed concern with the heat and length. "Twenty five laps will be a long race. I am going to try and get to the front but not abuse the tires," offered Tony.
"If I have to give up a spot or two in the beginning I will in order to be there at the end," offered Canahuate.
Edison Lluch [number 72 Don Q/Eltuque Corvette] comes to Las Americas one point ahead of Charlie Webster in the AGT standings. Lluch will start sixth after a disappointing qualifying run.
"During qualifying a tire went down," said Lluch. "The team replaced the tire, but by the time we returned to the track, I never got a clean lap in. We missed the chance to go faster."
"Our plan is to finish ahead of Webster, regardless of where that might be," said Edison. "I need to avoid contact with the locals and run clean. The heat will come into play during the twenty five laps. I must be patient."
The number 95 C.J.Webster of Canada Corvette did not fair well during qualifying. The transmission broke causing the Webster team to cut short their track time.
"Mark is fixing the car now," said Webster. "We will be alright for the race."
"The heat is going to be tough. But I think if we run clean and as hard as I can, we'll take that AGT title back North eh," stated Webster.
Fellow Canadian Jim Holtom [number 38 Scadapack Corvette] shared in Webster's misfortunes during qualifying. Holtom's Corvette lost a pulley, cutting off the power steering and water pump. Holtom will start tenth Sunday.
Luis Rafael Mendez qualified second on the day. Mendez feels good about his efforts. "During practice I was faster," said Luis. "I made mistakes in qualifying and lost time. We could have had the pole. That's ok, it will be a long race."
"I think the heat and length (25 laps) will create some attrition. I hope to save the tires and be there at the end."
Bobby Sak will make his AGT debut in race two behind the wheel of the number 88 Faustino Porozo Corvette. Sak finds the Mark Meissen chassis to his liking. "The car is really easy to setup. Changes are noticeable and the car has a great feel to it," commented Sak. "I need to thank VP's crew and George Main of Speedsense for all of their help."
"I don't plan to let my dad down, he promised everyone I would win," said Bobby. "I plan to conserve the tires during my race and be there at the end. My primary objective is to gain points for VP in the championship."
The American GT Challenge series will compete in a two race format Sunday. Race one will take the green flag at 1:10EST with race two starting at 4:20PM.
Jerry Lustig continues to work on his Acura RSX. Lustig is using the pair of island events as an R&D session on the new car. The team has limited spares and gears for the Acura as this car is the first of its kind built.
Four different countries are being represented during the island events. The United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic all have multiple entries in the field.
The first ever father and son team will compete in the Las Americas AGT event. Juan Lopez and his son RJ Lopez will compete. RJ will grid fourth with dad Juan thirteenth on the field. Laughed RJ, "That's were he belongs, behind me. It's all in good fun." Said Juan, "If he beats me I will ground him from his car."
<pre> 1 85 Tony Canahuate Mustang 1:13:448 2 68 Luis Rafael Mendez Mustang 1:13:844 3 88 Faystino Porozo Corvette 1:14:063 4 47 RJ Lopez Camaro 1:14:168 5 3 Luis ML Mendez Camaro 1:14:263 6 72 Edison Lluch Corvette 1:14:593 7 42 Juan Carlos Leroux Mustang 1:14:697 8 35 Mandy Gonzalez Corvette 1:14:843 9 95 Chalie Webster Corvette 1:15:828 10 38 Jim Holtom Corvette 1:16:387 11 1 Luis Thomas Mendez Jaguar 1:18:304 12 29 Woodson Duncan Mustang 1:20:441 13 106 Juan Lopez Oldsmobile 1:20:549 14 24 Jerry Lustig Acura 1:28:027 15 17 Kenny Bupp Camaro 00:0:000 16 33 Jhon Suncar Camaro 00:0:000