TOOELE, Utah – Johnny O’Connell of Flowery Branch, Ga. will start on pole in GT for Round 16 at Miller Motorsports Park for the Ford Grand Prix presented by VP Racing Fuels. Frankie Montecalvo of Highlands, N.J will start on pole in GTA’s Round 16, while Colin Thompson of Doylestown, PA will start on pole for GT Cup in Round 14.
The 40-minute qualifying session was held under sunny, blue sky conditions with 75 degree temperatures. The session was split into two 20 minute sessions with GTA and GT Cup competitors taking to the track first. GT drivers then took to the track for the second 20-minute segment.
Early on in the GTA/GT Cup session, Montecalvo in the No. 66 DragonSpeed Bayshore Racing Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS GT3 went to the top of the charts with a 1:50.536 then bettered the time soon after with a 1:48.397.
GTA Championship points leader Martin Fuentes of Mexico City, Mexico in the No. 07 Scuderia Corse Hublot/Samsung/UnderArmour Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia posted a 1:49.165 and then bettered that time with a 1:49.059. Montecalvo came back to take GTA pole at 1:48.397.
In GT Cup, Championship points leader Thompson in the Kelly-Moss Motorsports Porsche of Bucks County/Penn Valley Constructors/Sherwin Williams Automotive Finishes/Austin Hatcher Foundation Porsche 911 GT3 Cup went to the top of the charts early with a 1:53.459. Alec Udell of The Woodlands, Texas in the No. 17 GMG Amsource Capital/Panther Pipeline Porsche 911 GT3 Cup in the No. 17 posted a 1:53.511.
Soon after that Udell went to the top of the charts with a 1:53.404. Thompson then grabbed the pole with a lap 1:53.129.
In GT, early on O’Connell in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-VR GT3 set the early pace with a 1:47.616 followed by Nicky Catsburg of Kirchanschoring, Germany in the No. 25 Blancpain Racing Lamborghini Gallardo FL2 with a 1:48.314. Michael Lewis of Laguna Beach, Calif. in the No. 41 EFFORT Racing Curb-Agajanian Porsche 911 GT3R grabbed third with a 1:48.323.
James Davison of St. Petersburg, Fla. in the No. 33 Nissan AE/ReplayXD/NISSAN NISMO GT-R GT3 then slotted into second with a lap of 1:48.086, quickly bettered by Guy Smith of Beverley, England in the No. 20 Team Bentley Bentley/Breitling/Mobil1 Bentley Continental GT3 with a lap three thousandths of a second faster at 1:48.083.
O’Connell’s early fast lap of 1:47.616 would earn him the Motul Pole Award for the fast overall time, as the top 11 qualifiers bettered the qualifying track record, which was set by Smith’s Bentley in 2014 at 1:48.524.
Of note, GT points leader Ryan Dalziel, of Windermere, Fla. in the No. 31 EFFORT Racing World PMO Porsche 911 GT3R will start sixth. Trailing Dalziel in the GT standings, and starting 14th will be Olivier Beretta, of Monte Carlo in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsport Ferrari of Ontario/Toronto/Alberta Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia.
“Racing is a team sport,” O’Connell said. “We have a new car this year going up against some proven machinery, so the team has been focused on maximizing every aspect of this new ATS-V.R. Every now and then in your career you get special laps, even defying some of Newton’s laws, and that happened this morning. The weather was a little cooler, so we were pushing some cooler, thinner air through the twin-turbos and I was able to get the pole and a track record. Everyone went faster in qualifying, I just had a couple good laps. I feel really good about the car. It was important for the guys and everyone at Cadillac Racing.”
“I actually raced this track in American LeMans in 2011,” said Montecalvo. “I really love this track and the outer loop. I’ve driven both configurations but this is my favorite one. The outer loop gives you the best of both worlds with a variety of corners. You definitely always have an advantage if you have been to a track before. As long as you have a good team behind you, everything goes well. And I have that with the Dragon Speed boys. We started off good in practice and got a little lost in the middle of it. Then we came back to what we knew and it was a good car for qualifying. So we are looking forward to the race now.”
“The last time I was here was five years ago in a VW GTI Cup car and I only ran the east course,” said Thompson. “So the high speed stuff is new to me. It’s unbelievable to come back after five years away and put the Porsche of Buck’s County/Kelly-Moss Porsche on the pole. The two guys up there with me in qualifying are top notch drivers and we’ll have a good race. It’s close and this race is going to be bonkers. There will be three guys fighting for the win to the end. I forgot everything about this track since it has been so long. The layout is all new to me. Long straightaways and faster corners. It took some time to adjust to it. With the help of working on some simulators and watching video, I was able to get up to speed pretty quickly.”
GT, GTA and GT Cup drivers now get set for the Round 16/Round 14 race at Miller Motorsports Park scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 12:45 p.m. Mountain. Watch live streaming of the race at world-challengetv.com or on motortrendondemand.com and follow live timing and scoring at http://worldchallenge.growsites.net.