Long Tops Overall Pirelli World Challenge Practice From St. Pete; Cunningham, Aschenbach Lead Classes
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 25, 2011) – The transition from treaded tires to Pirelli racing slicks for the Pirelli World Challenge Championships indicated times would be faster than a season ago across the board. Class leaders Patrick Long, of North Las Vegas, Nev., Peter Cunningham, from Milwaukee, Wis., and Lawson Aschenbach, from Darnestown, Md., proved the theory by posting times lower than the existing qualifying record in the opening practice session in the GT, GTS and Touring Car classes, respectively, on Friday morning at the Acura Sports Car Challenge Presented by Pirelli on the streets of St. Petersburg.
Long, the Porsche racing star making just his second career World Challenge appearance, turned the fastest lap in the 30-minute session on Friday morning, posting a time of 1:16.681 (84.506 mph) in the No. 45 TruSpeed Porsche 911 GT3. That tops the existing GT qualifying record of 1:17.796 (83.294 mph), set in 2006 on the 14-turn, 1.9-mile street circuit.
Chasing Long in the session was the No. 2 Crager Wheels Chevrolet Corvette Z06 of Mike Skeen, who won in GT last season at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Skeen posted a best time of 1:17.375 (83.748 mph) during the session. Running third in the GT class was defending Drivers’ Champion Randy Pobst, driving the No. 6 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60 with a time of 1:17.416 (83.703 mph).
The GTS class followed suit, with the No. 1 Acura/HPD Acura TSX of Cunningham falling under the existing GTS record with a best lap of 1:23.601 (77.511 mph) in the first session. Cunningham holds the existing qualifying record at St. Petersburg with a time of 1:25.605 (75.696 mph), set a season ago in the inaugural year of the GTS class.
Cunningham was followed in the session by former World Challenge Rookie of the Year Eric Foss, who posted the second-quickest time in class at 1:24.032 (77.113 mph) in the No. 73 Traxxas/St. Jude Hospital/SPX Ford Mustang FR500S.
Alec Udell posted the third-fastest lap of the session in GTS, in a time of 1:24.557 (76.634 mph) in the No. 06 Momentum Autosport Chevrolet Camaro. Udell is racing this weekend on the street circuit, but the 15-year-old has to wait until he’s old enough for a driver’s license to drive the streets during normal rush hour traffic.
In Touring Car, Aschenbach, a former winner at St. Petersburg in the GT class, returns to the Pirelli World Challenge and posted a quick time of 1:27.998 (73.638 mph) in the No. 88 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si. The current qualifying record is 1:28.821 (72.955 mph), set last year in the revamped Touring Car class.
Brett Sandberg, driving the No. 28 Monticello Motor Club Honda Civic Si, was second in class with a time of 1:28.234 (73.441 mph). Aaron Povoledo, driving the No. 88 K-Pax Racing Volvo C30, turned a time of 1:28.551 (73.178 mph) to finish third. The Touring Car Volvo is the first entry in the class for the defending Team and Manufacturers’ Champions in the GT class.
In all, 49 cars are on the entry list for this weekend’s doubleheader at St. Petersburg.