SALINAS, Calif. — Jack Baldwin, of Marietta, Ga., ran the fastest lap to secure the pole position during Saturday morning’s GTS qualifying session at the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca presented by Cadillac. Kris Wilson of Monument, Colo., and Ben Clucas, of London, England, will start second and third on the grid.
Saturday’s 20-minute qualifying session took place under mostly cloudy, 65-degree conditions.
Just over four minutes into the session, the No. 37 Calvert Dynamics/Phoenix Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302 of Kurt Rezzetano, of Phoenixville, Penn., sat disabled in turn four after contact. Race Control issued a red flag.
When the track went back to green, it was Clucas that posted the early fastest lap time of 1:31.606, set in the No. 36 DonorsChoose.Org Kia Optima.
With just under seven minutes remaining in the session, Baldwin piloted the No. 73 GTSport Racing/Umphrey’s McGee Porsche Cayman S to the top spot with a 1:31.427 lap. Wilson, driving the No. 07 Royal Purple/Orion Energy/LaSalle Solutions/PassTime USA Aston Martin Vantage GT4 set a 1:31.982 lap time that was good for third place.
A short time later, Baldwin bettered his time with a 1:31.279 while Wilson’s 1:31.520 lap moved him from third into second place, over Clucas’ still standing lap time.
At just under two minutes, Geoff Reeves, of Cleveland, Ohio, in the No. 40 Buffalo Trace Bourbon Chevrolet Camaro, stalled on track and set another red flag situation, effectively running out the clock on the qualifying session.
It’s Baldwin’s 6th pole of the season. Further back on the grid, championship points contenders Andrew Aquilante, of Chester Springs, Penn., driving the No. 32 Calvert Dynamics/Phoenix Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302 and Michael Cooper, of Syosset, N.Y., in the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Z28, will occupy the fifth and sixth spots, setting up what will be an interesting battle for the Drivers’ Championship.
“This was really a challenge for us the last two days. We usually roll off the trailer with a good setup,” said Baldwin. “That hasn’t been the case this weekend. We have made a number of changes to the car already. I have to hand it to the crew guys for making the car much better. They kept grinding to improve the car. I made a bunch of pit stops and the car became better this weekend. I wasn’t sure we were going to win the pole today. It’s a tough series and some great drivers are competing here. So I feel very good about a pole position at this great, historic track. I think I have only won here once over my career. I have been on the podium a bunch but I’d love to win here again on Sunday.”
The GTS field takes to the track on Sunday at 10:20 a.m. Pacific/1:20 p.m. Eastern for the Round 17 final race of the season. Follow live timing and scoring at http://worldchallenge.growsites.net. Watch live streaming of the race at world-challengetv.com or motortrendondemand.com.