SALINAS, Calif. – Johnny O’Connell, Martin Fuentes and Corey Fergus scored the poles for GT/GTA Round 20 and GT Cup Round 19 part of the Pirelli World Challenge Championship Finale Weekend presented by Nissan at MRLS. The 45-minute segment was held under sunny, breezy 71-degree weather conditions.
GTA and GT Cup competitors took to the track first for their 20-minute session.
Early on Cooper MacNeil, in the No. 79 WeatherTech/Alex Job Racing Porsche 991 GT3 R topped the charts in GTA with a 1:27.830, while Fergus, in the No. 00 Byers Porsche/US LED/Motul/ Motorsports Promotions Porsche 911 GT3 Cup posted the quickest time with a 1:29.872.
Michael Schein, in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R then topped the charts in GTA with a 1:25.575, with MacNeil bettering his time to a 1:26.133 to slot into second on the charts. GTA 2016 Driver’s Champion Fuentes, in the No. 07 Hublot/Under Armour/Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia then topped the charts with a 1:24.814, while Sloan Urry, in the No. 20 Security National Mortgage/Avasis TruSpeed Autosport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup moved to the top in GT Cup with a 1:28.705. A couple of laps later, Urry bettered his time to a 1:28.237.
Moments later Fergus peeled off a 1:27.874 to top the charts and secure the pole in GT Cup. The time bettered the previous GT Cup qualifying track record set last year by Colin Thompson (1:27.942). For Fergus, it’s his first career GT Cup pole and third career PWC pole. Fuentes’ time held to secure the pole in GTA, his 10th pole of an impressive 2016 campaign.
“We have been trying for the pole the whole year now,” said Fergus. “It has taken a little longer than we wanted. Things have started to click this weekend now. We made an engine change yesterday and we missed one of the practice sessions. But we felt confident coming into qualifying. It was a bonus to win the pole and set the track record. Better late than never. It’s funny but I feel like Laguna Seca is more of a home track for us than even Mid-Ohio. We clinched the TC championship here last year and we should would like to take our first GT Cup win here too.”
GTA pole-sitter Fuentes had this to say: “We had a great couple of practice days here. The car felt amazing and we made a couple of changes on Friday for today’s qualifying. And it seemed like it worked. The car was staple and we were able to get into the 24s (1:24 lap). I’m so happy to close out this season with a pole. Scuderia Corsa did a great job as usual and it’s fun to start in P1 for the final race. People were asking me if I was going to cruise here since I won the championship at Sonoma. But no, I want to win and take the 10th victory of the season for our team. I want to finish off the best season of my life with a win.”
GT drivers then took to the track for their 20-minute session and early on Driver’s Championship contender Michael Cooper, in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS–V.R GT3 topped the charts with a 1:24.018, followed by fellow championship protagonist Patrick Long, in the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R with a 1:24.182.
O’Connell, vying for his fifth-straight Driver’s Championship then went to the top with a 1:23.960, behind the wheel of his No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS–V.R GT3. His time held for the session — it’s his 18th career PWC pole, and first of the 2016 season. “It was a total team effort,” O’Connell explained. “In the first open practice on Thursday morning, 10-minutes into the session I got hit exiting the Corkscrew. The Cadillac Racing crew had to build a lot of the race car. They actually got me back out later in the day. This is my first pole of the year, so that keeps my streak going of getting one in every PWC season. Needless to say I was motivated. We are doing what we need to do, get the points for the pole and remain in a fight for this championship.”
Patrick Long, in P2 of the GT grid, said, ““It was fun. Our team’s main priority was to come here and get a race car to be at the front of the field. So we have been backing it session after session. We shut it down early in qualifying and made one last run to see if we could win the pole and steal the added seven points. In a normal scenario, we wouldn’t do that. I gave it one last try and the car wriggled on me in turn six and I had to get out of the throttle. So I said let’s get this thing in the show. Johnny is the epitomy of never give up. You can never count him out. It’s great to be on the front row with him. And we trying to win the first championship in four years since we went head-to-head in 2011 (and Long won the title.)”
In third place directly behind teammate O’Connell is Michael Cooper. “A good run for Cadillac Racing with Johnny on the pole,” he stated. “I was a little off on where I wanted to be with the set-up. We will work on it and get it set for the race. I am on the inside second row, which is a good place to be. A lot can happen on the outside of Turn 1. We can race from that position
Of note, current GT points leader Alvaro Parente, driving the No. 9 K–PAX Racing McLaren 650S will start 6th after posting a 1:24.212.
Results are provisional until posted final. GT, GTA and GT Cup drivers now prepare for the final race of the 2016 season on Sunday at 1:05pm Pacific/4:05 pm Eastern. Watch the race online live at motortrendondemand.com and follow live timing and scoring at http://livetiming.net/pwc/.
Monterey, CA – Provisional results from Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016 Pirelli World Challenge Championship GT/GTA Round 20, GT Cup Round 19 Qualifying, part of the Grand Prix Presented by NISSAN at MRLS. Drivers listed by Position, place in class, class, name, hometown, car, fast time. All times are provisional until posted Final.
1. 1, GT, Johnny O’Connell, Flowery Branch GA, Cadillac ATS-V.R. GT3, 1:23.960
2. 2, GT, Patrick Long, Manhattan Beach CA, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 1:23.984
3. 3, GT, Michael Cooper, Syosset NY, Cadillac ATS-V.R. GT3, 1:24.018
4. 4, GT, Jon Fogarty, Bend OR, McLaren 650S GT3, 1:24.087
5. 5, GT, Austin Cindric, Charlotte NC, McLaren 650S GT3, 1:24.162
6. 6, GT, Alvaro Parente, Porto Portugal, McLaren 650S GT3, 1:24.212
7. 7, GT, Colin Thompson, Doylestown PA, McLaren 650S GT3, 1:24.271
8. 8, GT, Gunner Jeannette, Salt Lake City UT, Porsche 991 GT3 R, 1:24.333
9. 9, GT, Bryan Heitkotter, Fresno CA, Nissan GTR GT3, 1:24.399
10. 10, GT, Mike Skeen, Charlotte NC, Dodge Viper GT3-R, 1:24.590
11. 11, GT, Kyle Marcelli, Barrie ON, Audi R8 LMS GT3, 1:24.635
12. 1, GTA, Martin Fuentes, Mexico City Mexico, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, 1:24.814
13. 13, GT, Michael Lewis, Laguna Beach CA, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 1:24.861
14. 14, GT, J.D. Davison, Denver CO, Nissan GTR GT3, 1:24.931
15. 15, GT, Spencer Pumpelly, Atlanta GA, Acura TLX-GT, 1:24.976
16. 2, GTA, Michael Schein, Glen Cove NY, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 1:25.029
17. 17, GT, Fabian Hamprecht, Beckenried Switzerland, Bentley Continental GT3, 1:25.199
18. 18, GT, Ryan Eversley, Atlanta GA, Acura TLX-GT, 1:25.247
19. 3, GTA, Cooper MacNeil, Hinsdale IL, Porsche 991 GT3 R, 1:25.425
20. 4, GTA, Andrew Kim, Seoul South Korea, Bentley Continental GT3, 1:25.809
21. 5, GTA, Tim Pappas, Boston MA, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 1:25.954
22. 6, GTA, Brent Holden, Newport Beach CA, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 1:26.787
23. 7, GTA, Drew Regitz, Denver CO, Audi R8 LMS GT3, 1:27.022
24. 8, GTA, Andy Wilzoch, Aurora CO, Porsche GT3R, 1:27.434
25. 9, GTA, Jorge De La Torre, Mexico City, Aston Martin Vantage GT3, 1:27.784
26. 1, GT Cup, Corey Fergus, Columbus OH, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 1:27.874
27. 2, GT Cup, Sloan Urry, Park City UT, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 1:28.210
28. 3, GT Cup, Chris Thompson, San Clemente CA, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 1:32.809