Laguna Seca: GM Racing qualifying report

Pontiac GTO.Rs On GT Front Row For Road & Track 250 Kelly Collins Drives ...

Pontiac GTO.Rs On GT Front Row For Road & Track 250

Kelly Collins Drives #64 TRG GTO.R to Victory in Rolex Series GT Qualifying Race; Andy Lally Takes Second For an All GTO.R Front Row

SALINAS, Calif. - Kelly Collins piloted the #64 TRG Pontiac GTO.R to a qualifying-race win today at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series teams are readying for tomorrow's Road & Track 250. Collins, who shares the car with Paul Edwards, started the qualifying race from the second starting position (based on a second-fastest practice time from earlier today) and passed the #72 Porsche GT3 Cup of Robin Liddell on the third lap. He managed to maintain the lead for the remaining 17 laps and crossed the finish line to earn points towards the championships and give co-driver Edwards the best starting position for tomorrow's race.

Teammates Andy Lally and Marc Bunting of the #65 TRG Pontiac GTO.R will start next to the #64 car, Lally having finished second in the 45-mile qualifying race. Lally starting from the third spot on the grid and fought for most of the race with Bill Auberlen of the #05 BMW M3 before passing him on the sixteenth lap and following Collins to the finish. Lally's win puts co-driver Bunting on the front row of the GT class grid.

"I feel I did as much as I could right in that race," said Collins. "We've been fighting a pushing car all weekend - loose off the corner. We finally found out last evening that our sway bar was unwinding itself and going to full soft (setting) and that's why we were pushing so bad. We made some adjustments, put it where we thought it needed to be, and then went for it. As easy as it may have looked, I had the shift knob come off in my hand, lost a flat shift and the pit lane speed limiter came on. The crew had to remind me to shut it off."

Lally, who took the pole position in yesterday's Grand-Am Cup qualifying, also ran well but had to fight a bit harder for his position as he had the BMW M3 of Bill Auberlen to contend with. The third GTO.R which is making its Rolex Series debut this weekend, the #98 Pacific Coast Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R of David Empringham and Ross Thompson, finished 11th; Empringham started from the sixth spot on the grid but fell back when he spun the car on the hill. With the starter failing to engage, he managed to roll the car down the hill and started it by engaging the clutch while in gear.

Pontiac's Daytona Prototype (DP) effort is showing promise for tomorrow's race; in the DP class the highest-finishing Pontiac was the #89 Pacific Coast Motorsports Pontiac Riley of Ryan Dalziel and Alex Figge. Dalziel drove the #89 car to PCM's best Rolex Series starting position to date and co-driver Figge will start tomorrow's race from the third spot on the grid. The pole position was won by Patrick Long of the #23 Porsche Crawford (co-driving with Mike Rockenfeller) and the #60 Lexus Riley of Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson rounded out the front row.

"We've been struggling a bit this week but we kind of got our act together overnight," said Dalziel. "This morning we had a strong car so we're pretty confident going into the race that we'll have a third- or fourth-place car."

"The curbs are lower here now so a lot of gravel and dirt get on the track," said Paul Edwards, referring to the lower curbs that were installed for the Moto GP race held here last year. "It's making it really tough. The gravel is easy to get to and with the DPs on the inside of everyone they end up going in the dirt, bringing it back on the track and it's just more to prepare for."

The Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will take place tomorrow at 12:00 p.m. PDT (3:00 p.m. EDT). The race will air live on SPEED TV with a repeat on Monday, May 8 at 12:00 p.m. EDT.

-gm racing-

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Paul Edwards , Robin Liddell , Bill Auberlen , Kelly Collins , Andy Lally , David Empringham , Patrick Long , Alex Figge , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Marc Bunting , Mike Rockenfeller , Mark Patterson , Ross Thompson