On Friday afternoon, the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge teams had to deal with high temperatures in order to determine the starting grid for Saturday’s 150-minute race at Lime Rock Park. The two earlier practice sessions saw two different models top the charts in both the Grand Sport and Street Tuner classes, so it was a bit of a toss-up.
What surprised a number of the drivers was how quickly the tires went off. With only a couple of exceptions (most notably Freedom Autosport‘s Liam Dwyer, who was ninth in ST), everyone turned their best laps early in the session. As a result, you had to get up to speed quickly.
In Grand Sport, CJ Wilson Racing‘s Danny Burkett (sans lumberjack firesuit) turned in the fastest lap on his fourth circuit with a time of 57.458 seconds (95.861 mph). From there, the other contenders in the class took shots at him. Multimatic Motorsports‘ Scott Maxwell, who had won the previous two pole position, was the closest. However, no one could beat “Darth Cayman” as Burkett took pole.
To Burkett, just getting yourself out there quickly was the key to putting down a good lap.
“The key was going out early and getting a lap time quick,” Burkett said in the post-qualifying scrum. “We knew the tires were going to wear fairly quickly once you got a few laps into them. With the heat, that makes a big difference.”
Burkett believes that overall pace in the GS class during the race will be near qualifying pace at the start, but eventually slow down to the 59-second bracket. Traffic could slow the top teams to laps over a minute.
Maxwell ended up just 16 thousandths of a second behind in second in his Ford Shelby GT350R-C. Compass360 Racing‘s Paul Holton was third quickest, followed by Till Bechtolsheimer in the second CJ Wilson Racing Porsche. Automatic Racing‘s Rob Ecklin, Jr. rounded out the top 5 in the race’s lone Aston Martin.
In Street Tuner, you had a bit of a reversal of sorts. In the practice sessions, the Porsche Caymans were actually quite strong. Murillo Racing‘s Eric Foss was fastest in class during the first session and both sessions had two Caymans in the top 5. Qualifying saw no Caymans qualify any better than tenth in class.
With the Caymans falling back, it was the Mazda MX-5’s that came to the front. That, combined with the hot weather that constitutes an advantage to the MX-5’s because they’re not as hard on tires led to Freedom Autosport’s Chad McCumbee rising to the challenge.
Lime Rock Park is the track that McCumbee has the most experience on, having made his road racing debut in a Playboy MX-5 Cup race on the short course in 2011. He’s also the defending ST winner at Lime Rock from last year with CJ Wilson Racing.
McCumbee set down a time of 59.306 seconds (92.874 mph) on his fifth lap of the session to put himself on top of the charts. The other 27 ST entries tried their luck at beating that time, but no one could top McCumbee’s effort. The lap was six tenths of a second slower than the class record that McCumbee set last year, but it was enough to take the pole.
Mazda took home a 1-2-3 in qualifying as ALARA Racing‘s Terry Borcheller (driving in a last-minute deal) qualified second, a little more than a tenth of a second slower than McCumbee. Riley Racing kept up their form as Jameson Riley qualified third in class. Honda of America Racing Team‘s Chad Gilsinger was fourth in the best of the Honda Civic Si’s while BimmerWorld team principal James Clay was fifth quickest.
The IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge’s 2.5 hour race at Lime Rock Park is due to start at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning. The race will be livestreamed at both IMSA.com and FansChoice.tv. Highlighted TV coverage of the race will air on FOX Sports 1 on Jul. 31 at Noon.