Andy Lee set a new track record on his way to the GTS class Motul Pole for Round Three of the Pirelli World Challenge Championships at Long Beach Presented by KIA. Kevin Gleason qualified second, followed by Peter Cunningham.
Lee, in the No. 20 Best IT Chevrolet Camaro, clicked off a time of 1:27.662 (80.819 mph) around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street course, nearly a full second quicker than the prior record of 1:28.729 (79.847 mph) set by Jason von Kluge in 2011.
Lee set the lap just two minutes before the second of two red flags in the session came out for contact between Dane Moxlow's No. 7 Trenton Forging/Eaton Steel/Huntington Bank Ford Mustang Boss 302 and Harry Curtin's No. 29 Best IT Chevrolet Camaro in Turn Two. The flag was displayed with three minutes of the 20-minute session remaining, essentially ending qualifying early.
The first Red Flag, which lasted about a minute, was displayed for the stalled No. 36 KIA Motors America KIA Optima of Nic Jonsson sitting between Turn Four and Five.
“I felt after the first red flag, we were sitting third and that was about all I could do,” Lee said. “Even if we did get back out, I thought we might be able to get up to second but I didn't think I had anything for Cunningham. But for whatever reason I just was able to piece one good flyer in there and it stuck. It amazed us. I didn't go out to qualifying thinking we had a car for pole today but it worked out perfect.
“I think anytime you can be up front for a street course race that's huge because there's no runoff, there's walls everywhere, there's no room for error and if someone makes a mistake you can spend a lot of time under caution just like Detroit last year, so being up front can put you in a good position if something like that happens. It's tough to pass on a street course, it's really hard. Track position is everything, and qualifying is, I don't want to say more important than the race, but it's right up there.”
Gleason piloted his No. 16 Napleton Porsche Porsche Cayman to second in class with a time of 1:28.017 (80.493 mph).
“I got quicker and quicker,” Gleason said. “We were able to tune the car on used tires for practice, and I think we will be good for the race. I'm looking to get a good start and just get through the first lap. I think it's going to be pretty hectic. It's my first time racing at Long Beach and really I'm just trying to get through the first lap, settle into a nice rhythm and be there at the end to fight for the podium and hopefully a win.”
Cunningham will line up for the lights in third, setting a best time of 1:28.331 (80.207 mph) in the No. 42 Acura/HPD/RealTime Racing Acura TSX. Cunningham was on top until Lee put in a fast lap, minutes before the red flag
“I had a number of fair chances to turn in a time and turned a couple of times that were within in a tenth of each other, but just couldn't go any quicker,” Cunningham said. “We had the pole here last year, and we've got a really good car for Long Beach, it's just that there's a couple of cars that are quicker here.”
Lawson Aschenbach will take to the grid on the inside of row two. Aschenbach piloted the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro to a time of 1:28.433 (80.114 mph).
The No. 73 Motul/StopTech/Foametix Porsche Cayman will line up fifth for Sunday's race with Jack Baldwin, of Marietta, Ga., behind the wheel. Baldwin's best time in qualifying was 1:28.665 (79.905 mph).
The GT class, running concurrently with the GTS class on Sunday afternoon, qualified on Saturday morning. James Sofronas' No. 14 GMG/ Mobil 1 Audi R8 will start from the overall and class pole.