Last Minute “Effort” In IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama Qualifying
Tire Conservation Strategy Pays Off for Effort and Wright Racing
Bowmanville, Ont., July 20, 2012--The IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama Series is currently at its second Canadian stop this season for this weekend’s Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. The largest single-make series in North America held qualifying today for Round 8 of 15 for both the Platinum Cup and Gold Cup class Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars competing in the series.
Both classes hit the track together at 5:45 pm local time for a 30-minute session to determine starting positions for tomorrow’s 45-minute sprint at the 10-turn, 3.957-kilometer (2.459 miles) circuit.
One of the fastest circuits on the schedule, with its blind corners and elevation changes, was sure to offer plenty of thrills as drivers battled for starting position. It would not disappoint.
In one of the more exciting qualifying sessions in Platinum Cup this season, Wright Motorsports' Sean Johnston posted his fastest lap early at 1:22.319 on his third lap out. It would stand as the fastest of the day and establish a new qualifying lap record for the BBS Pole Award Winner.
“The car was great, I was able to go out and put down a lap that we felt was going to be good enough,” said Johnston. “But we really wanted to conserve the tires at a track like this with such high loads. Taking care of the tires and having a nice good fresh tire for the start of the race was our main priority. So to go out and do that with just a few laps was our goal and we are happy to say that we achieved that!”
The real drama would follow Johnston’s quick lap, as D. Bryce Miller would post a 1:22.689 in his Effort Racing Porsche also on his third lap. He marginally improved his time six laps later and would retain second position for most of the session. Miller signed on with Effort Racing just a few days ago, and this is his first on-track venture with the team.
Nearby Windsor, Ontario’s 6th Gear Racing sent driver Marco Cirone out early to nail down third position. His time would stand until the last ten minutes, before getting pushed down the time sheets to sixth position.
Not satisfied to watch his time keep slipping, the Toronto resident would head back on track late in the session and post a faster lap of 1:22.877 that temporarily moved him back up to third.
As the session began to wind down and the shadows of the day lengthened, all eyes were on several other Platinum drivers capable of jumping into one of the top positions late. Some of those included Sloan Urry of TruSpeed Motorsports, as well as Wright Motorsports Fernando Pena and Kasey Kuhlman. Pena currently sits second in point standings.
A few more drivers managed to post individual fastest laps of the day with the checkered flag looming. Yet positions one through three remained unchanged.
However, with less than a minute to go, Michael Mills laid down a 1:22.622 for his Effort Racing squad to vault into a front-row starting position in second and send both Miller and Cirone down a notch to third and fourth, respectively. Championship contender Pena made a last-lap effort, but it was not enough to get into the first two rows.
“Just like Sebring, Jorg [Bergmeister] is coaching us and we used a lot of his data to find that last half a second to get there,” said Mills. “And I was finally able to apply it in qualifying. The tires were great today. I was able to come in and let them cool down and cycle and get them back up to temp nice and smooth for the second run at it. I was able to get a clear lap at the end and was able to get it done on the last lap.”
Effort Racing teammate Miller said, “It’s been a really really exciting weekend. Effort provided me with a great car and I am excited to be back on track. It’s been a wonderful experience getting to know everyone and bond with the guys and it’s a great fit for me. We had a pretty good qualifying session today. I was P2 early on and we parked it early to save our tires, but Michael [Mills] went out at the end and threw down a zinger. We have a great race strategy for tomorrow and will focus on racing the other teams rather than ourselves and hopefully it will lead us to the podium if not a win.”
Mills added this about his Effort Racing team, “It couldn’t have been better for Bryce [Miller] and me this weekend. Our goal for the weekend was to get a big gap on our competitors and Sean [Johnston] is up there by himself and he is going to have to deal with us now!”
In Gold Cup competition, Angel Benitez, Jr. set the fastest lap early with a 1:24.069 on his fourth lap. Benitez, Jr. currently leads the points in Gold, ahead of Melanie Snow of Snow Racing/Wright Motorsports and Fred Poordad at Competition Motorsports.
The Ansa Motorsport driver’s time would stand, placing him on the pole for tomorrow’s race where he looks to extend his points lead.
“We made a big gap of over a second and I really didn’t expect it,” said the pole winner. “I was really looking for a run of 23 since we started the weekend running low 24’s. So, I was actually pushing really hard to get to 23.9! I wanted to see a 23 on the charts. It couldn’t happen, but we are happy regardless. The team is great and the car feels awesome, so we just need to keep it like this for the rest of the races!”
Similar to Platinum, a number of Gold competitors made late session advances. Both Ludovico Manfredi of NGT Motorsport and MGM’s Peter Collins would set their fastest times on their next to final laps. Manfredi and Collins sit second and third for tomorrow’s race.
The entire field of GT3 Cup cars took the green flag for today's qualifying session proudly flying their new gold windshield banners courtesy of Hertz as the new sponsorship was rolled out this weekend in full force.
“We are excited to have Hertz play an integral role as part of the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama series,” commented Mark P. Frissora, Hertz Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “By sponsoring the Challenge, Hertz is able to tap into the loyal enthusiasts who are part of and watch the race; enthusiasts who will love the unbridled passion our Prestige Collection, and the recently added Porsche Panamera to that collection, brings to travelers throughout the country.”
Tomorrow's race one of the weekend double header will take place at 1:10 pm Eastern. The 45-minute feature is the first of two races at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for the Mobil 1 Presents the Grand Prix of Mosport.