Watkins Glen II: Porsche Motorsport qualifying report

POINTS LEADER KEEN GRABS GT POLE IN PORSCHE AT THE GLEN; PENSKE PORSCHE RILEY WITHIN STRIKING DISTANCE IN DP QUALIFYING WATKINS GLEN, New York - August 6 - Rolex Grand-Am Acxiom GT class points leader Leh Keen (Charleston, SC) jumped from 11th...

POINTS LEADER KEEN GRABS GT POLE IN PORSCHE AT THE GLEN; PENSKE PORSCHE RILEY WITHIN STRIKING DISTANCE IN DP QUALIFYING

WATKINS GLEN, New York - August 6 - Rolex Grand-Am Acxiom GT class points leader Leh Keen (Charleston, SC) jumped from 11th to first in a single lap to grab the class pole position Thursday in his Farnbacher-Loles Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car during qualifying for Friday's Crown Royal 200 at legendary Watkins Glen (NY) International Raceway.

Meanwhile, despite qualifying only fifth in Daytona Prototypes, Porsche factory drivers Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) believe they are within striking distance of a podium finish in Friday's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 race.

The Crown Royal 200 at the Glen gets the green flag at 6:30 pm ET Friday, and will be aired on a same-day, tape delay basis on Speed TV starting at 8 pm ET Friday. Live timing and scoring, notes and results will be available on www.grand-am.com, with regular updates also posted on www.twitter.com/RolexSeries.

Keen earned his second straight top spot and fourth career GT pole position with an impressive first lap following a yellow flag that temporarily halted the 15- minute qualifying session. His fastest lap in the #87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche 911 GT3 Cup was 1:11.788, or 122.862 mph around the 2.45-mile, 11-turn Watkins Glen short course. He will co-drive with Dirk Werner (Germany) in search of their fifth victory of the season and in defense of their 25-point lead in the GT championship standings.

"I was sweating a little because after the black (flag that stopped the session), there was not a lot of time for Leh (Keen) to improve," Werner said. "He really did a good job of picking a perfect time for his fast lap. I don't where he pulled that off (the pole). I will have to look at the data to tell what he did, but that lap must have been really good going through traffic. That was impressive."

"The strategy we make from race to race. With three races (remaining), you cannot drive too conservative. We must take every point we can, because you never know what can happen. If you have a good, fast car we should try to win the race. But for sure we don't do any hard fights or take stupid chances that could put us out of the race," added Werner

Prior to that fast lap, Keen ranked only 11th on the time charts.

"I got a lot of breaks on that last lap, and that earned me the pole," Keen said. "It is a testament to the Farnbacher Loles crew and to the way we have learned to manage the Pirelli tires that we can get the tire temps up quickly and have our fastest lap after a yellow (flag) like that. That was fun, but our concentration is on staying out of trouble and protecting the points lead. We would like to win, but we will not take any chances."

In Daytona Prototype qualifying, only seven tenths of a second separated pole winner Jon Fogarty (#99 Pontiac Riley) and the #12 Penske Porsche Riley driven by Bernhard. Fogarty's pole lap was 1:05.069 135.584 mph and Bernhard's best lap was 1:05.730 134.185 mph.

"The qualifying was close as always, so we did the best we could do and now we are looking forward to the race," Bernhard said. "In June here, we were also sixth in qualifying and we finished third on the podium. We think third or better is reasonable for us to expect because we seem to run more consistent lap times than the others. We are a few tenths behind but we are more consistent and we will have the good crew work in the pits and good strategy. Because of the (anticipated) yellows, I cannot tell the strategy at the moment, but we expect to run in the front."

Dumas watched qualifying from the pits, carefully watching the monitors with lap times and car performance data.

"We are very consistent, but we are missing something," Dumas said. "In 15 minutes (qualifying session), he (Timo Bernhard) every lap was within two tenths. But we are five tenths behind (the leader). We have a under-steer problem we have no fix for yet, but we will work on the car tonight and improve for the race. It is a shame. At Barber in the last test, we found a few solutions we try here but they are not giving us all the results we expect.

"This is ashort track so five tenths on each lap is a lot, but like always we will improve the car for the race and be closer. Then it becomes strategy, yellows and pit stops that determine the outcome. For sure we will have good pit stops, for track position is important on a short track like this. We will try our best and we will see," said dumas

Darren Law (Phoenix, AZ) qualified the #58 Brumos Porsche Riley he will share with David Donohue (Malvern, PA) seventh at 1:05.730 134.185 mph and JC France (Ormond Beach, FL) qualified the #59 Brumos Porsche Riley he'll co- drive with Joao Barbosa (Portugal) 13th at 1:07.415 130.831 mph.

Porsche Junior pilot Marco Holzer (Germany) is making his Grand-Am debut, co- driving the #86 Farnbacher Loles Porsche 911 GT3 Cup with Eric Lux (Jacksonville, FL). Lux qualified third in GT at 1:12.667 121.376 mph. The new Miller Barrett Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car with Bryce Miller and Kevin Roush qualified tenth, while the #66 Andy Lally/Justin Marks TRG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car was the top qualifier for that three-car team, with an 11th-place grid position.

"It is nice to be here in Watkins Glen at this famous track," Holzer said. "I am also new to the team and new to Grand-Am, so I am grateful to Porsche for putting me here. For me, it is most important to learn the track .Today, in the evening, I will have another final practice to learn more for the long race. The track is really short. I think with the DPs (Daytona Prototypes) on the track at the same time, track position will be really important in the results. The Mazda's are very fast, so we will have to push to beat them. It is important to be at the front and be aware of the yellows and opportunities to pit under the yellows."

-credit: porsche motorsport

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Jon Fogarty , Andy Lally , Darren Law , David Donohue , Timo Bernhard , Joao Barbosa , Justin Marks , Romain Dumas , Lehman Keen , Eric Lux , Kevin Roush , Marco Holzer , Dirk Werner , Bryce Miller