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Road Atlanta: Series Touring Car qualifying report

Clay Captures First-Career SPEED Touring Car Pole at Road Atlanta BimmerWorld BMWs to start 1-3-5 BRASELTON, Ga. (Sept. 24, 2009) -- James Clay, of Blacksburg, Va., grabbed his first-career SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car pole...

Clay Captures First-Career SPEED Touring Car Pole at Road Atlanta
BimmerWorld BMWs to start 1-3-5

BRASELTON, Ga. (Sept. 24, 2009) -- James Clay, of Blacksburg, Va., grabbed his first-career SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car pole today at Road Atlanta, in preparation for Friday's Toyo Tires Road Atlanta Grand Prix Presented by Dish Network.

Sporting the new Gear Wrench paint scheme on his the No. 36 BimmerWorld/GearWrench BMW 328i, Clay set his pole-winning time of 1:34.695 (96.562 mph) on his final try late in the 20-minute qualifying session. This was Clay's first pole in 64 tries.

"It had to be the paint scheme," Clay said crediting his first-career pole to the new Gear Wrench paint scheme. "It was all the support we've gotten from Gear Wrench. They are here in a big way this weekend. It was awesome to be able to do it [win the pole] in front of them.

"But, really, I also have to thank my teammates. It was Seth's [Thomas] draft that got me there. I gave him a draft early on in the session and it worked out well for him. Then, we came in and let things cool off. Once they did, we gave it one more go with me in his draft and that's what did it. It was a long time coming."

Unfortunately, during the post-qualifying coin flip Clay called tails and lost. This means the top-five qualifiers will be inverted for tomorrow's race. Fifth-place qualifier and teammate Nick Esayian, of Encinitas, Calif., will start from the pole.

"I've never started from the pole before," Esayian said enthusiastically. "I've been close before. But, my two teammates are already giving me a hard time about it. The BMWs, with rear drive, will give us a great launch. I've had some great launches in the past. So, I just plan to get another one tomorrow. Hopefully, James, Seth and I can share a podium together."

Esayian turned the fifth quickest time of 1:35.590 (95.658 mph) in the No. 34 BimmerWorld/GearWrench BMW 328i.

Rookie Eric Foss, of Fort Worth, Texas, qualified second with a 1:35.098 (96.153 mph), but will start fourth in the No. 75 MAZDASPEED/Stoptech/ProParts MAZDA6.

Seth Thomas, of nearby Cumming, Ga., will start third in the BimmerWorld/GearWrench BMW 328i after turning a 1:35.152 (96.098 mph). He was the only driver in the top five not affected by the inversion. In five-career Road Atlanta starts, Thomas' best finish in front of the hometown crowd was fourth in 2004.

Kuno Wittmer, who was fastest in yesterday's practices, qualified fourth with a 1:35.534 (95.714 mph) in the No. 44 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX. As a result of the top-five inversion, Wittmer will now start second.

Charles Espenlaub (MAZDA6), Peter Cunningham (Acura TSX), Jason Saini (MAZDA6), Pierre Kleinubing (Acura TSX), and Patrick Lindsey (MAZDA6) complete the top-10, respectively.

Round Nine of the SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championships is set for 10:10 a.m. (EDT) Friday, Sept. 25. Streaming audio, live timing and lap notes for both sessions are available at www.world-challenge.com.

-credit: scca pro racing

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Series PWC
Drivers Pierre Kleinubing , Peter Cunningham , Charles Espenlaub , James Clay , Nick Esayian , Kuno Wittmer , Seth Thomas , Jason Saini , Patrick Lindsey , Eric Foss