Fitzgerald looks to defend his crown, snares pole for Speed GT race at Road Atlanta. BRASELTON, Ga. (Oct. 16, 2003) -- Defending race winner Mike Fitzgerald, of Phoenix, Ariz., took a major step toward sweeping both Road Atlanta rounds by ...
Fitzgerald looks to defend his crown, snares pole for Speed GT race at Road Atlanta.
BRASELTON, Ga. (Oct. 16, 2003) -- Defending race winner Mike Fitzgerald, of Phoenix, Ariz., took a major step toward sweeping both Road Atlanta rounds by qualifying on the pole for Friday's SCCA Speed World Challenge GT Round Nine race as part of Le Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., qualified second and Bill Auberlen, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., will start third on the grid.
Fitzgerald, who failed to turn a fast lap early in qualifying, spent most of the session, along with the rest of the Speed GT field, on pit road because of a red flag to extract rookie Keith Videtto's Chevrolet Corvette from the turn three gravel. Nervous, and next to last on the time sheet, Fitzgerald was concerned that time would expire on the session before he had the opportunity turn a solid qualifying lap. With only five minutes remaining in the 20-minute session, Speed GT qualifying resumed and Fitzgerald needed only one lap to find his way to the pole position.
Driving the No. 22 Coors Light/1st Interstate/3R Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, Fitzgerald set a new Road Atlanta SCCA Speed GT qualifying record with his lap of 1:28.479 (103.346 mph) on the 2.54-mile, 12-turn circuit. This is Fitzgerald's first GT pole of the 2003 season.
"I had a flier going early and Randy Pobst and I both caught a slower car in turn 10," Fitzgerald said of his early qualifying attempt. "I new it would mess up my next lap, so I came in the pits. When I went back out, I saw a black Corvette crash behind me just after coming out of the pits. I knew I might only get one lap, so I went for it, but a car came out of the pits right in front of me. It was frustrating, and then we had the red flag. I was second to last, so I pulled right to the front of the line, behind my teammate Phil McClure and we had enough time at the end to put in a flier.
"The car was just phenomenal. We're 150 lbs heavier now than we were in June and we're going faster with the same motor. That's how good this crew is. They will be drinking the Coors Light tonight, celebrating."
Pobst, who had the fastest combined practice times Wednesday, qualified his No. 2 Champion Audi Racing Audi RS 6 on the outside of row one with a time of 1:28.837 (102.930 mph).
Auberlen hopes to clinch the Speed GT Drivers' Championship Friday, and if he does, he will have to do it from the third spot on the grid. Auberlen drove his No. 7 BMW Team PTG BMW M3 to the pole position for the June Road Atlanta race and finished a season worst 10th.
Phil McClure, of Floris, Iowa, makes his return to the track more than 10 weeks after he sustained a concussion following an accident at Road America Aug. 3. McClure was medically cleared to race last week and had a good showing in his first qualifying session since the accident. He qualified his Coors Original/Aggregate Industries/3R Racing fourth for Friday's race. David Farmer, of Albemarle, N.C., qualified the Metric Chemical Chevrolet Corvette Z06 a season-high fifth.
Fifteen drivers qualified faster than the old qualifying record set by Auberlen for the race in June.
Friday's SCCA Speed World Challenge GT Championship Round Nine race is set to make its standing start at 3:30 p.m. (EDT). For more information, including live timing and scoring, please visit www.world-challenge.com.
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