VIR: Banner Racing qualifying report

Collins qualifies Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R 4th for Rolex Grand-Am race at VIR Alton Virginia (Friday, April 24, 2009): Kelly Collins qualified the ...

Collins qualifies Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R 4th for Rolex Grand-Am race at VIR

Alton Virginia (Friday, April 24, 2009): Kelly Collins qualified the #07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R 4th today for Saturday's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Bosch Engineering 250 at VIRginia International Raceway in Alton Virginia. Collins recorded a 1:52.379 on his first hot lap during a qualifying session that was definitely hot.

Collins, of Newport Beach California, waited in the pits until the entire GT field moved out onto the VIR track to get a clear run on his first qualifying lap and that strategy paid off as Kelly clocked a session leading 1:52.379 which temporarily put the #07 Pontiac on the pole.

Two laps later the #87 Porsche of Leh Keen jumped into P1 with a 1:52.293 only to be dropped to 2nd a lap later by the #30 Mazda of Dane Cameron. As the session neared the end cloud cover cooled the track slightly and Nick Ham clicked off a 1:51.742 to take the pole position.

Collins tried to improve his time on his second fast lap but got balked in traffic and after cooling his tires and trying to improve later in the 15 minute session couldn't better his first lap time as traffic always seemed to come into play at precisely the wrong time.

"Not to complain like a race car driver does but our Pontiac GXP.R was a really good car but the qualifying session was less than perfect," said Collins. "On what should have been my fastest lap I caught the GTO and I couldn't get around him so I backed out if it. That was definitely going to be my quickest lap. I don't think it would have been quick enough to win the pole or even get us on the front row.

"I backed off and cooled my tires but when I got going again I caught traffic, twice. Once was due to a yellow flag and I can understand that but the second time one of the Nonnamaker Corvettes pulled out in front of me and I had to go way off line slid the car and had to get out of the gas so that hurt."

"The track was definitely better this morning although we did get some cloud cover at the end of the session and you could feel that in the performance of the car," said Collins. "Actually the Pirelli tires stayed under us pretty well considering how hard I was beating on them and how hot is was, but the goodness of these tires is in the first and second laps for us, particularly on a long track like VIR, so they had fallen off a bit and I couldn't take advantage of the cooler track temperatures."

Although the Banner Racing Team was slightly disappointed that they didn't qualify better they are satisfied in being at the sharp edge of a very competitive grid and even happier that their LRPG Pontiac GXP.R is well balanced and set up for a ling and strong run for tomorrow race.

"The Leighton Reese Performance Group Pontiac GXP.R was really good today and the car was really balanced although we had a little bit of a loose problem but everyone is fighting that in this heat," said Collins. "Fourth is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick and we are top Pontiac so well take it and see what we can do in the race tomorrow."

"The Mazdas are quick and we knew they were going to be quick," said Paul Edwards who will finish the race in the #07 Pontiac GXP.R. "You never know what everyone has got until qualifying. I do know that we have a good race car and I am really happy with our balance so I think we have a strong car for the race. Having all of these cars so close at the top is sort of a recipe for disaster so we need to stay out of trouble and get to the finish line first tomorrow."

"What this shows is that practice doesn't mean anything," said team owner Leighton Reese. "We were P1 in practice but 4th in qualifying. We have quite a smattering of different cars in the top ten so that should make for a good show tomorrow. We just need to get Kelly [Collins] safely through the first part of the race and put Paul [Edwards] in and try for the win."

-credit: br

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Paul Edwards , Kelly Collins , Leighton Reese , Nick Ham , Lehman Keen