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Long Beach: Series Friday practice report

Curran Sets World Challenge GT Practice Pace at Long Beach LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 17, 2009) -- Eric Curran, of Easthampton, Mass., topped the opening practice session for Round Two of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship...

Curran Sets World Challenge GT Practice Pace at Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 17, 2009) -- Eric Curran, of Easthampton, Mass., topped the opening practice session for Round Two of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship in preparation for Sunday's World Challenge ACS Grand Prix of Long Beach Presented by Lala Motorsports. Local drivers Dino Crescentini, of Manhattan Beach, Calif., and James Sofronas, of Newport Beach, Calif., completed the top three during the 35th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend.

Piloting the No. 30 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet Corvette, Curran's practice times shuffled about the top five in the order throughout the 25-minute session. On his penultimate lap around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile temporary street circuit, the 2007 Long Beach race winner clocked his fastest time, a 1:26.401 (81.999 mph).

"The car is working pretty well," Curran said. "This No. 30 Whelen Corvette is good here. We've always been good here. [We] had some bad luck last year, not qualifying and having to start from the back of the pack. But the year before that, we won here and hopefully this is an every other year thing for us at Long Beach."

Curran's fast lap was turned shortly after a short red flag period to retrieve the stalled No. 34 Kleinschmidt/Blackdog Racing Chevrolet Corvette of Tony Gaples. The brief time in the pit lane allowed Curran's crew to make some productive adjustments.

"We stickered up for that session," Curran added. "We don't have very much time on track here so we wanted to make the most of it to see what we've got. Right at the end there, we were the fastest. We made a nice little change and went in the right direction. We're showing everything we have right now. I'm not sure that everyone else is. We'll have to wait and see what qualifying brings out.

"This track is going to change a lot before qualifying. It's slippery right now. It reminds me of the old ice racing days--it's that slippery right now. On a day like today, you've just got to be smooth. I see a lot of guys muscling the car around quite a bit and that's not the way to go fast on a track like this. You've got to be smooth, don't get sideways and don't get crossed up and just roll the speed right through the corner. This is one of those situations where slower and smoother in a lot of the corners is going to be faster."

Relishing the comforts of racing at their home track, Crescentini and his GMG teammate Sofronas followed Curran on the timing sheets. The No. 4 Stoptech/GMG Porsche 911 GT3 driver and Sebring pole winner clocked a 1:26.894 (81.533 mph) to finish second-quick. After leading the early part of the session, Sofronas ended the session third in the No. 14 GMG Porsche 911 GT3 with a 1:27.006 (81.428 mph).

Sebring race winner Tony Rivera, of Missouri City, Texas, was fourth fastest in practice. Driving the No. 97 Tax Masters/Mirage Group Porsche 911 GT3, Rivera clocked a 1:27.020 (81.415 mph) in his first laps around the Long Beach street circuit.

Brandon Davis, the defending race winner, completed the top five. Driving the No. 10 Applied Computer Solutions/Sun Micro Systems Ford Mustang Cobra. Davis from nearby Huntington Beach, Calif., turned a 1:27.080 (81.359 mph) at his home track.

Jason Daskalos and Ritch Marziale led the Dodge Viper contingent in sixth and seventh, respectively.

K-PAX teammates Randy Pobst and Andy Pilgrim showed the new Volvo S60s had made solid progress since Sebring, with Pobst ninth and Pilgrim 10th in the practice order.

Long Beach resident Craig Stanton was the fastest of the GT3 Cup Shootout competitors in the No. 07 AASCO Performance Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. Stanton entered a fast lap of 1:28.287 (80.247 mph).

The second World Challenge GT practice session is scheduled for Saturday, April 18, at 8:05 a.m. (PDT). Live timing, notes and streaming audio are available at www.world-challenge.com by clicking the Long Beach link. The World Challenge ACS Grand Prix of Long Beach Presented by Lala Motorsports will go green at 4:15 p.m. (PDT) on Sunday, April 19.

-credit: scca pro racing

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Series PWC
Drivers Andy Pilgrim , Randy Pobst , Eric Curran , Tony Rivera , Craig Stanton , James Sofronas , Tony Gaples , Dino Crescentini , Brandon Davis , Jason Daskalos , Ritch Marziale