On Thursday afternoon, the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge teams took to the track for two 15-minute qualifying sessions to set the field for Friday’s Road Atlanta 150. However, the sessions ended up being a free-for-all.
In Grand Sport, teams have to contend with tires that drop fairly quickly. As a result, drivers nominated to qualify had to get their best possible lap on their first try.
Ethan Low was the first driver on track for Rebel Rock Racing and set the mark to beat in the swan song for the Porsche 911. It was quickly usurped by a number of other drivers, including CJ Wilson Racing‘s Daniel Burkett.
However, Multimatic Motorsports‘ Scott Maxwell once again was the man to beat. Maxwell turned in a lap of 91.045 seconds (100.434 mph) to put himself on top. Tthe rest of the pack took shots at it, but could not pass.
Later on, Muehlner Motorsports America‘s Peter Ludwig went a little too aggressive on his entry to turn 3. Ludwig clipped the inside curb, came down hard and lost control. The Porsche Cayman GT4 spun towards the wall, but did not hit anything. However, the car did end up with a broken piece in the left rear suspension. As a result, Ludwig could not drive the car back to the pits.
Safety crews were able to get to Ludwig’s No. 21 and tow him back to the pits, but by the time they did, the session was over. As a result, Maxwell was able to claim his sixth pole of the season and 16th of his career.
Afterwards, Maxwell stressed the importance of getting the fast lap in immediately.
“The tires are always best right out of the pits,” Maxwell said. “The hotter they get, the more they lose grip. You really only have one or two laps, three on a good day to get it done. It was good on the first one; I made a mistake on the second. After that, I said ‘that’s enough for me,'”
Burkett was able to improve his time just before Ludwig’s incident to put himself second on the grid, a little less than a quarter of a second behind. Compass360 Racing‘s Pierre Kleinubing was third quickest. Despite his spin (and the red flag it caused), Ludwig ended up fourth, followed by Bodymotion Racing‘s Cameron Cassels.
In Street Tuner, teams ultimately got even less time to put down a good lap. Everyone got enough time to do an out-lap while scrubbing tires, then one lap at speed (some drivers got two).
Bodymotion Racing’s Jason Rabe put up a lap of 96.933 seconds (94.333 mph) to give everyone something to shoot at. A couple of minutes later, the session came to a screeching halt due to a two-car crash on the run down to the turn 10a-b complex. Michael Johnson, driving the No. 54 BMW 228i for JDC/Miller MotorSports, appeared to lose control coming down the hill under braking. Johnson ended up going head-on into the concrete wall, severely damaging the No. 54.
Jeff Mosing, third in the championship entering the weekend in the Murillo Racing No. 56 Porsche Cayman, got clipped in the left rear and ended up in the gravel trap. Both drivers were checked and released from the Infield Care Center.
Johnson’s hit was hard enough that it actually moved the concrete wall back slightly. As a result, a piece of heavy equipment was employed in order to move the wall back into its proper position.
Since the crash happened barely five minutes into the session, there was a question as to whether or not IMSA would actually use the results from the session, or fall back on points. However, IMSA officials decided to accept the results, giving Rabe and Bodymotion Racing the ST pole for Friday’s race.
ALARA Racing‘s Drake Kemper overcame the team’s early transmission problems to qualify second in their Mazda MX-5, while Mosing was third fastest. However, since Mosing was involved in the crash that caused the red flag, he lost his only flying lap. He will start 25th in class as a result.