Pobst Charges to Monterey Pirelli World Challenge GT Pole, Cunningham, Herbert Pace GTS, TC
May 10, 2012 - MONTEREY, Calif. - Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., captured his 37th Pirelli World Challenge pole, and will lead the GT field for Friday’s Cadillac Sports Car Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., and Tristan Herbert, of Reston, Va., earned the pole positions for the GTS and Touring Car classes, respectively.
Randy Pobst earned will start Friday's race from the pole (Weber Image)
Driving the No. 6 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60, Pobst earned his second-consecutive Pirelli World Challenge pole at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, turning a 1:26.361 (93.292 mph) on his third lap to eclipse the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R.
“For our K-PAX Racing Volvo, it really comes down to balance,” Pobst said. “Dax Raub and Will Moody really found the balance for me today. The car is so fast on the entry to corners, the challenge is getting the car to keep turning as we come out of the corners. Today, the balance was really good.”
Pobst’s lap was 0.862-second slower than his track record from 2011 in the same car, something that has the 2002 and 2006 Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca World Challenge GT winner puzzled.
“The laps feel fast but when we look at the data, things are just a little off,” Pobst said. “Maybe once the American Le Mans cars run, there will be more grip. If the track has less grip, that helps our K-PAX Volvos, which are the only all-wheel drive cars in the Pirelli World Challenge GT series.”
After topping practice in the morning, Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., set the time to beat on his first lap, lowering it again on his second lap. After turning that 1:26.682 (92.947 mph), Pilgrim headed to the pit lane to preserve his tires for the race. Unfortunately for him, Pobst went 0.321-second faster the next time around.
Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C., was third fastest, running a 1:26.753 (92.870 mph) eight laps into his session in the No. 02 Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette. Pobst’s teammate Alex Figge, of Denver, Colo., was fourth with a 1:26.773 (92.849 mph) in his No. 9 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60. James Sofronas, of Newport Beach, Calif., completed the top five in his No. 14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 with a lap of 1:26.903 (92.710 mph).
Cunningham earned his record-extending 48th career Pirelli World Challenge pole and his fourth-consecutive in GTS in the No. 42 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing Acura TSX. His record-breaking lap of 1:33.094 (86.544 mph) came on his first flying lap, and then he reported to the pit lane.
When he reported to pit lane, he was more than a second clear of the field, but the gap closed over the next 10 minutes, with Jack Baldwin ultimately turning a 1:33.125 (86.516 mph)—just 0.031-second behind Cunningham.
“I had a perfect lap and I knew that the tires were going to be at their best on that first lap,” Cunningham said. “If you take a second lap, or additional laps, you can drive better, but the time won’t be there. So, I knew we had a representative lap without any mistakes. We were pretty sure that was all we could do. But then as Jack [Baldwin] did a great job of getting to within 31 thousandths, we thought we’d go and try again and I was four tenths slower. So either the track was off a little bit or the sweet spot of my tires was lost.
“Monterey is very nice this time of year and the Acuras always like coming here. We knew this was going to be a track that we could do well at. Now the goal is just to take that starting position and convert it into a win tomorrow.”
While Cunningham has four poles in five races, he has yet to win this year, since converting the Acura TSXs to V6 power.
Cunningham’s RealTime Racing teammate Nick Esayian qualified third in his No. 34 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing Acura TSX with a 1:33.752 (85.937 mph).
Michael Galati, of Olmsted, Ohio, qualified his No. 36 Kia Motors America Kia Optima fourth, followed by the series’ most recent winner, Andy Lee, of Colorado Springs, Colo., in his No. 20 Best IT Chevrolet Camaro.
Herbert captured his second pole position of the Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car season, the third of his career, turning a best time of 1:39.156 (81.253 mph) in his No. 33 HPA/RennGruppe/Brimtek/SG Racing Volkswagen GLI.
“We’ve got a really fast car,” Herbert said. “I was on the ragged edge on a couple of those laps. I dropped the wheels in, went totally sideways in the sand. I just tried to push it too much before the car warmed up and the tires got hot. I caught it, thank God, but it was almost the end of the weekend for sure.
“I calmed down, relaxed a little bit and started hitting the marks. I started picking up speed, putting down lap times, and progressively working on it. I knew some of the trouble spots on this track for me, and hit them perfectly. I could tell it was going to be a fast lap. After that, I didn’t think I was going to go any faster. I couldn’t push the car any further, so I just brought it in to save it for tomorrow.”
Todd Lamb earned the outside front row starting position in Touring Car with a best time of 1:39.597 (80.894 mph) in his No. 71 National Karting News/HPD Honda Civic Si. Herbert’s teammate, former Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Touring Car winner Jeff Altenburg, of Ellicott City, Md., qualified third in the No. 43 HPA/RennGruppe/Brimtek/SG Racing Volkswagen GLI with a 1:39.689 (80.819 mph).
Ryan Winchester (No. 72 Ligon Industries/HPD Honda Civic Si) and point leader Michael Cooper (No. 03 Mazdaspeed Motorsports MAZDASPEED3) completed the top five.
Friday’s Cadillac Sports Car Grand Prix Pirelli World Challenge Championship race will make its standing start at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Friday at 12:20 p.m. (PDT). Watch live at www.world-challengetv.com or Sunday, May 27 at 11 p.m. (EDT) on NBC Sports Network.