TOOELE, Utah – Mark Wilkins, of Toronto, Ont. scored the Round 13 GTS pole position at Miller Motorsports Park at the Ford Grand Prix presented by VP Racing Fuels. Wilkins led a Kia one-two in qualifying, as his teammate Ben Clucas of Northampton, England will start on the outside of the front row.
The 30-minute session went green under clear conditions and temperatures at 80 degrees.
Both Kia teammates set their fastest lap times early in the session, and waited the time out, with no one able to better either Kia Optima.
Wilkins in the No. 38 Kinetic Motorsports/Kia Racing PutOnTheBrakes.Org Kia Optima scored the Motul Pole Award with a lap at 1:56.620, bettering the existing track record he set in 2014 just over a full second.
Clucas, driving the No. 36 Kinetic Motorsports/Kia Racing PutOnTheBrakes.Org Kia Optima, will start second, with a lap roughly two tenths off pole at 1:56.887.
Wilkins and Clucas each led a GTS Friday practice session, with Wilkins having the fastest GTS lap of Friday at Miller.
Jack Baldwin of Marietta, Ga. in the No. 73 GTSport Racing Umphrey’s McGee Porsche Cayman S will come from third on the grid after his best lap of 1:57.530.
After already taking double Touring Car victories at Miller this weekend, Vesko Kozarov of Salt Lake City, Utah in the No. 23 Nissan/Skullcandy/Stance Nissan 370Z was able to solidly improve his times down to 1:57.758 at the 15-minute mark of the qualifying session and will line up alongside Baldwin on the second row of the grid.
Michael Cooper of Syosset, N.Y. driving the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z28 will round out the top five on the starting grid.
Andy Lee of Colorado Springs, Colo. in the No. 20 BestIT Racing Chevrolet Camaro ran his quick laps late in the qualifying session, moving up to sixth fastest on the time sheets at a 1:58.446.
GTS Championship leader Andrew Aquilante of Chester Springs, Pa. in the No. 32 Phoenix American Motorsports Calvert Dynamics/Phoenix Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302 will line up 13th for the rolling start after a best time during qualifying of 1:59.801.
“The Optima is well suited to this track,” said Wilkins. “The long wheelbase car with the long, flowing corners is good for us. This is one of the tracks that we knew would be one of our strongest. We have to go out and put in a quickly immediately with this car so we get the most out of the tire. For the race, it will be a totally different story. Obviously it’s going to be hot. And testing in the heat a few days ago, we noticed a different car. I think it’s going to be a tough race as we are going to have be holding the other guys back. We are going to have to be careful to not abuse the tires in the race. We have a love/hate relationship with this track. I like the track but we had a tough result last year. With this layout, I think the relative lap times between all of the cars will be pretty close in the race. Obviously, we want to get a good lap early for qualifying for Sunday’s race too. But we have to be careful and not over drive the tire. If we do that, the last half of the race is going to be a challenge.”
“This is my first time here and this is an abrasive circuit,” said Clucas. “We have good pace with the all-Kia front row too. The race is going to be a tire management event for us in the last 20 or 25 minutes. But it was similar at Road America. I’m sure that other cars are going to be stronger towards the end of the race. I love this circuit. It’s very much like European tracks. It’s a great circuit. I love using curbs and there are lots of curbs here. It’s fun to drive. There are two schools of thought for the race. You can drive like mad and pull a gap, then try to hold on. Or try to keep a little reserve in the beginning so you have something for the end. I think I will try to get in a quick lap early and management the tires throughout the race. Try to get as little wheelspin as possible. We obviously want to have a 1-2 for Kia if possible.”
GTS competitors next take to the track for their first race of the weekend at Miller Motorsports Park, scheduled for 3:10 p.m. Mountain time. Watch live online at world-challengetv.com and motortrendondemand.com, and watch live timing and scoring at worldchallenge.growsites.net.