JGaples Leads Surprising World Challenge GT Opening Practice in Sebring SEBRING, Fla. (March 18, 2009) -- Tony Gaples, of Libertyville, Ill., topped the opening practice session of 2009 for the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT ...
JGaples Leads Surprising World Challenge GT Opening Practice in Sebring
SEBRING, Fla. (March 18, 2009) -- Tony Gaples, of Libertyville, Ill., topped the opening practice session of 2009 for the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship at Sebring International Raceway, part of the Toyo Tires Season Opener at the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring Presented by Fresh from Florida. Series newcomers Rob Morgan, of Costa Mesa, Calif., and Tony Rivera, of Missouri City, Texas, completed the top three.
Driving the No. 34 Kleinschmidt/Blackdog Racing Chevrolet Corvette, Gaples turned a fastest time of 2:11.686 (101.149 mph) around the 3.7-mile, 17-turn course on his second-to-last lap in the early-morning session.
"It feels pretty good [to be on top], of course, but it also makes me a little nervous," Gaples said of his unfamiliar position. "I'm wondering why, because I'm just driving like normal.
"The track was a little slippery, which plays into my benefit, because I'm used to driving in the wet. It's good to be at the top. We've been coming here seven years now. It's my favorite flat track and we usually do pretty well here. It still surprised me that we're number one though. We get to enjoy for the next eight hours, until the next practice. We always hope to do well, whether that's what's happening or not is yet to be seen."
Morgan jumped to second as the checkered flag fell in his No. 47 EverCleanse/NADA/TruSpeed Porsche 911 GT3 with a time of 2:11.771 (101.084 mph)--just 0.085-second off of Gaples' time. The time bumped fellow series newcomer Rivera's No. 97 Tax Masters/Mirage Group Porsche 911 GT3 back to third with his 2:11.855 (101.020 mph). Rivera led much of the session with his fast time, turned on lap four.
Gunter Schaldach, of Aspen, Colo., also jumped into the top five on his final lap, with a 2:12.083 (100.845 mph) in the No. 9 Lala Motorsports Dodge Viper. Former Sebring winner Eric Curran, of East Hampton, Mass., was fifth in his No. 30 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet Corvette, with a time of 2:12.091 (100.840 mph).
While the 20-minute session had several surprises at the top, it had just as many at the bottom, with defending series Champion Randy Pobst only making half a lap in his new Volvo S60 and fellow frontrunners Andy Pilgrim (Volvo S60), James Sofronas (Porsche 911 GT3) and Dino Crescentini (Porsche 911 GT3) remaining in the paddock for a variety of reasons.
The next practice session for Friday's SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Toyo Tires Season Opener is scheduled for Wednesday at 5:10 p.m. (EDT).
-credit: scca pro racing