Gurney Scores Second Rolex Series Pole in Three Races for EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 26, 2005) -- On what may prove to be a pivotal day in the 2005 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series, No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk ...
Gurney Scores Second Rolex Series Pole in Three Races for EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio
LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 26, 2005) -- On what may prove to be a pivotal day in the 2005 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series, No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley driver Alex Gurney picked up his second pole position in three races in qualifying for Saturday's EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (SPEED Channel, Sunday, 12:00 Noon ET).
Gurney's lap came just before the checkered flag was displayed to end the qualifying session, which was halted eight minutes early as the right side of the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley co-driven by Daytona Prototype points leaders Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli burst into flames heading down the back straightaway of the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road circuit. Taylor was driving at the time of the incident and avoided injury, but the car's bodywork--particularly the engine cover and the roof--sustained heavy damage.
As the qualifying session was already underway, the SunTrust team must repair the car if Angelelli and Taylor are to defend their points lead. Taylor qualified 11th prior to the fire, but will start from the rear of the grid as the team will need to change engines among its other repairs.
"The only thing I could think about was the car and the bloody championship," Taylor said. "It was a wake-up call, you know. You never think about these kinds of things. I haven't seen the car but if anybody can get it back together, these guys can. One consolation is that the race isn't until 5:30 tomorrow night. I think we'll be okay for the race."
Back at the front of the grid, Gurney will start from the pole for the second time in his five career Rolex Series races. The son of racing legend Dan Gurney also started from the inside of Row 1 for the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant at Barber Motorsports Park last month. He will share the No. 99 machine with car owner and co-driver Bob Stallings.
"I'm very happy to put the GAINSCO Pontiac Riley on the pole once again," Gurney said. "We knew coming into qualifying, because of all the practice black flags, that I would need to go quick early on. It's great to be starting up front, and the whole team has really been working hard to get us here. "
Gurney will be joined on the front row by Luis Diaz in the No. 01 CompUSA Lexus Riley for Chip Ganassi Racing. The Mexican turned a best lap of 1:20.474 (101.012 mph) to take the team's best starting position since co-driver Scott Pruett put the car on the outside of the front row for the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen in June. Diaz and Pruett will be looking to drive the No. 01 machine to victory lane at Mid-Ohio for the second-consecutive year, as Pruett and then-co-driver Max Papis claimed the victory on their way to the Daytona Prototype championship.
"We actually had a bit of traffic and I had to make a couple of passes just after the start-finish line heading into Turn 1," Diaz said. "The car performed very well even though I was experiencing a loose-to-neutral feeling in it. That lent itself to a fast qualifying setup, but we have some changes that we know will tighten it back up for the race tomorrow."
Michael McDowell qualified third in the No. 19 Make A Wish/Air Force Reserve/Commercial Defeasance BMW Riley with a lap at 1:20.878 (100.507 mph) for Finlay Motorsports. The run matched the team's best qualifying performance of the season, and McDowell and co-driver Memo Gidley head into the EMCO Gears Classic looking for their first Rolex Series victory after finishing a career-best second at Barber Motorsports Park two races ago.
Jorg Bergmeister placed the No. 66 Krohn Racing/TRG Pontiac Riley fourth on the grid courtesy of a best lap at 1:21.345 (99.930 mph). Although Bergmeister and co-driver Max Papis have won in Rolex Series competition previously, the co-drivers are still looking for their first victory this season.
Matteo Bobbi made it four different engine manufacturers in the top five starting positions by placing the No. 77 Crown Royal Special Reserve Ford Doran fifth on the grid with a lap at 1:22.013 (99.116 mph) for the Lebanon, Ohio-based Doran Racing. Bobbi and co-driver Fabrizio Gollin look for their first career Rolex Series victories in Saturday's race as well.
MARKS TAKES THIRD-STRAIGHT GT CLASS POLE POSITION FOR EMCO GEARS CLASSIC
With a single-car incident shortening the qualifying session by one-third, many GT class cars were only able to register two or three "quick" laps for the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio. One incident, however, wouldn't stop drivers from setting up the starting grid for Round 10 of 14 in the 2005 Rolex Sports Car Series season.
Justin Marks will lead the GT field to the green flag in tomorrow evening's race, after powering his No. 16 F1 Air BMW M3 to the top qualifying spot with a lap of 1:28.359 (91.997 mph). Marks, who has combined with BMW Team PTG teammate Joey Hand to win two of the past three races, seemed astonished after learning he had topped the qualifying session.
"I'm a little bit surprised, but I'm more happy," said Marks, winner of three GT class races this season. "We showed up with a car that wasn't that great this weekend and the guys worked really hard. I just gave everything I had."
Qualifying for his first Rolex Series race since a victory in the 2001 Rolex 24 At Daytona, Canadian Ron Fellows placed the No. 64 TRG Pontiac GTO.R on the outside of the front row with a lap at 1:28.422 (91.932 mph). Fellows is standing-in for regular No. 64 driver Jan Magnussen and will share the car with Paul Edwards in the EMCO Gears Classic. Edwards and Magnussen picked up the first Rolex Series GT victory for the new Pontiac GTO.R in the CompUSA 200 at The Glen two weeks ago.
"We started our session a little late and when we finally got out there, we got 'black-flagged' just before I was going to start my quick lap," said Fellows, whose best time came on his last lap. "Our guys have been working hard and that's a decent result for my first time out. I just want to thank Paul."
The No. 22 BMW Financial Services BMW M3 qualified third, as Ian James powered the No. 22 machine he shares with co-drivers Chris Gleason and Bill Auberlen to a best lap of 1:28.538 (91.811 mph). James will share Row 2 on the GT starting grid with BMW Team PTG teammate Kelly Collins, who qualified fourth in his No. 21 BMW Financial Services BMW M3 with a time of 1:28.572 (91.776 mph). Collins will co-drive with RJ Valentine and Tom Milner.
Despite missing the final three minutes of the qualifying session due to a penalty, David Murry managed to place the No. 80 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3 Cup fifth on the GT grid with a lap at 1:29.021 (91.313 mph). Murry's co-driver, Craig Stanton, currently sits atop the GT point standings, but the duo is still looking for its first GT win this season.
AUBERLEN TOPS GRAND-AM CUP PRACTICE CHARTS; PLUMB QUICKEST IN ST
Bill Auberlen clocked a best lap of 1:34.766 (85.778 mph) in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 to lead Friday's practice sessions in preparation for Sunday's Grand-Am Cup 200. Though not entered to drive the car in the race, David Murry turned-in the second-best time of the day in the No. 91 Fiorano Racing/Unitech Racing Porsche 996 with a lap at 1:35.024 (85.545 mph). Grand Sport (GS) points leader David Empringham was third-quickest on the day at 1:35.025 (85.544 mph) in the No. 05 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT.
In the Sport Touring (ST) class, Matt Plumb was quickest in practice with a lap at 1:38.962 (82.141 mph) in the No. 98 Stewart Motorsports Acura TSX in the first of the day's two practice sessions. Second-quick was Tom Milner in the No. 64 Matt Connolly Motorsports BMW 330ci at 1:38.994 (82.114 mph), followed by Aaron Povoledo in the No. 75 Kensai Racing Acura RSX-S at 1:39.119 (82.011 mph).