Jeroen Bleekemolen grabs the GTC pole in his WeatherTech Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup through the streets of Baltimore.
Patrick Long, Wolf Henzler Top Porsche GT Qualifiers
Baltimore. In the closest GT qualifying session, top-to-bottom, so far this season, two of the three Porsche 911 GT3 RSR entries ran as high as second during the high pressure, 15-minute session on the 2.02-mile course through the streets for tomorrow's Grand Prix of Baltimore.
Both Patrick Long (Playa del Rey, Calif.), driving the Core autosport Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, and Wolf Henzler (Germany), in the Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, ended the session in the top six - less than a second off the polesitter's pace - after running as high as second during the session. Long, who will co-drive tomorrow with Tom Kimber-Smith (UK), ended up fourth, while Henzler, who shares his car with Bryan Sellers (Braselton, Ga.), was sixth. Marco Holzer (Germany) qualified the Paul Miller Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR ninth on the grid in the car that Bryce Miller (Summit, NJ) co-drives with him.
Long, who was fastest in class for both practice sessions before qualifying, thinks his CORE Porsche is ready for tomorrow's race.
"The car felt good in qualifying. We bettered our practice times by a second so we're happy with our performance. We were hoping for the pole, but we knew the other teams might find two seconds from their practice times-that's the spirit of the game. All in all, we have a solid car for the race and we've seen that the race pace is a totally different ball game from the practice and qualifying pace. We're happy with how the car feels on a long run. In the end, it'll come down to track position and pit stops. The track will rubber up because the Indy cars will be out there. What works for or against the track gaining grip will be the ambient and track temperatures fluctuating. It will really depend on the weather, but we'll definitely be in the mix. We have a tire we've never been happier with on this track. A big thank you to Michelin for doing their homework and improving, as always," said Long.
Henzler and Sellers, who have won the Baltimore race the last two years, came into the weekend with high hopes, and Wolf still thinks the car has not shown its best for the weekend.
"Our qualifying position doesn't reflect what our Falken Porsche could have done today. The balance got better and better every lap. At the beginning, I fought under steer, which got less and less so I could go a little faster with every lap. On one lap, my predicted lap time showed it would be a good one, but the one of the BMWs held me up, unfortunately. I slowed down and let him go. The last lap would have been really good again, but the red flag came out a couple minutes before the end. We finished sixth. The car was a lot better in qualifying than when we started in Practice One. At Baltimore, I think our strategy and consistent lap times are what we expect tomorrow for the race. It will help us to move up and get a better result than our qualifying position," commented Henzler.
In the GTC class, a combination or Porsche Supercup and Porsche Carrera Cup champions, and a two-time Rolex 24 winner duked it out in the hot, humid weather for their 15-minute session. Spencer Pumpelly (Atlanta), qualifying the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup No. 45 as the class points leader with co-driver Nelson Canache, Jr. (Venezuela), looked like he was going capture the pole and brought his car into the pits. But, on the last lap of the session, Jeroen Bleekemolen (The Netherlands), driving the Alex Job Racing Porsche, turned the fastest lap to take the top spot. Sean Edwards (UK), Porsche Carrera Cup champion, in the NGT Porsche, the car he will share with Henrique Cisneros (Miami), was third.
"It was a very tight battle with Spencer [Pumpelly, Flying Lizards] and Sean Edwards [NGT]," Bleekemolen said. "In the end I was able to put a really good lap together. The car really worked well. I knew we had a good lap in the car. I just had to get it out. It is easy to screw it up on a track like this, but it was good to get the pole for the team. They have worked really hard all day on the car and it was good to reward them with a pole. It was a great lap. The chicane is very tough just prior to the railroad tracks. If you take the curbs too aggressive it really takes the car in the air. There is a perfect run through there, but you can't do it every time."
Pumpelly was upbeat about the second place position, and looks forward to the race tomorrow.
"It was a great effort by the team to give me such a fast car for today, both in practice and qualifying. Setting a fast qualifying lap here is a daunting task - it requires taking a lot of chances, sliding out to the concrete walls, taking as much of the chicane curbing as the car can stand, and being airborne several times per lap. But our second place starting position puts us in good shape for tomorrow's race and our weekend goal of extending our lead in the championship," said Pumpelly.
Daimien Falkner (Ireland), who usually participates in that top-three competition, was disappointed in his fourth-place position in the TRG Porsche in the car he co-drives with Ben Keating (Port Lavaca, Tex.).
"Overall we are disappointed with the result. Our car sustained damage in the first practice, including a broken shock. We had some trouble with the replacement shock package in the second practice, but qualifying was much better after we got everything set. We know for tomorrow we can get the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup to run even better. Huge thank you to TRG crew for the amazing work to get us out for practice two and sorted for qualifying after our morning crash," said Faulkner.
GT class (qualifying driver underlined)
#55 Bill Auberlen/Redondo Beach, CA; Maxime Martin / Brussel, Belgium; BMW Z4 GTE - 1:29.56
#56 Dirk Müller/Tägerwilen, CH; Joey Hand/Sacramento, Calif.; BMW Z4 GTE - 1:29.79
#4 Oliver Gavin /Northhamptonshire, England; Tommy Milner / Leesburg, VA; Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 - 1:30.00
#06 Patrick Long/ Playa del Rey, CA; Tom Kimber-Smith/Henley-on-Thames, UK, 1:30.10
#3 Jan Magnussen / Roskilde, Denmark; Antonio Garcia / Barcelona, Spain; Corvette C6 ZR1 - 1:30.13
#17 Wolf Henzler/Nürtingen, Germany/Bryan Sellers / Atlanta, GA; Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR - 1:30.23
#91 Mark Goossens/Geel, Belgium; Dominik Farnbacher/Ansbach, Germany; SRT Motorsports Viper GTS-R - 1:30.59
#62 Matteo Malucelli (Italy); Olivier Beretta (Monaco), Feraari F458 Italia - 1:30.90
#48 Bryce Miller/Summit, NJ; Marco Holzer/Bobingen, Germany; Paul Miller Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR - 1:31.35
#93 Jonathan Bomarito/Monterey, CA; Kuno Wittmer /Montreal, QC; SRT Motorsports Viper GTS-R - 1:31.35
#23 Townsend Bell, San Luis Obispo, Calif./Leh Keen/Charleston, SC.; Ferrari F458 Italia - 1:31.49
GTC - all Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars (qualifying driver underlined)
#22 Jeroen Bleekemolen/Monte Carlo, Monaco, Cooper MacNeil/Hindsdale, IL, Alex Job Racing - 1:34.32
#45 Nelson Canache Jr./Caracas, Venezuela; Spencer Pumpelly / Atlanta, GA; Flying Lizard Motorsports - 1:34.51
#30 Sean Edwards/Monte Carlo, Monaco; Henrique Cisneros, Miami, Fla., - 1:34.60
#66 Damien Faulkner/Mouille, IE, Ben Keating, Port Lavaca, TX, TRG - 1:34.78
#68 Al Carter/Greenville, Del., Kevin Estre/Lyon, France, TRG - 1:34.94
#11 Jan Heylen/Tampa, FL, Mike Hedlund/Woodside, CA, JDX Racing - 1:35.37
#44 Seth Neiman/San Francisco, CA; Dion von Moltke/Coral Gables, FL; Flying Lizard Motorsports - 1:35.49
#27 Patrick Dempsey/Malibu, CA; Andy Lally, Atlanta, GA; Dempsey Del Piero Racing - 1:35.50
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