Class points leaders Johnny O'Connell (GT) and Jack Baldwin (GTS) took the pole positions for Round 13 of the Pirelli World Challenge season, the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sonoma. The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma weekend is the penultimate stop in the 2013 championship.
Baldwin's lap of 1:42.863 beat his old track record of 1:43.137 set last year. His new mark, though, was set on a slightly different course configuration of Sonoma Raceway.
O'Connell, in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R, set a fastest lap of 1:35.400 around the 2.3-mile Sonoma Raceway to secure the GT class pole. It's his class-high seventh pole of the season and will allow him the benefit of a clear track from tomorrow's standing start for the 50-minute race.
"We knew that qualifying would be important this weekend," O'Connell said. "The biggest challenge was the limited practice time. We really didn't get a good feel for where the car was with the constant starting and stopping of practice and really only three laps in the last session on Friday. We pretty much reverted back to the original setup that we unloaded with on Wednesday.
"My second lap, which was looking like my best, I had to go off line to avoid one of the Audi drivers that had a flat tire. I have a good racecar for tomorrow and I have a friendly face in Andy staring next to me."
Cadillac Racing teammate Andy Pilgrim qualified second in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R at 1:35.433. Third was Randy Pobst in the No. 6 Alex's Lemonade Stand K-PAX Racing Volvo S60 at 1:35.760.
James Sofronas was fourth in the No. 14 The Thermal Club/GMG/Swisher Racing/Mobil 1 Audi R8 LMS (1:36.143) with Mike Skeen fifth in the No. 2 Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette at 1:36.175.
Entering the weekend, O'Connell led Sofronas by 13 points, 1278-1265 in GT. The battle for third is also tight, with Pilgrim just 14 ahead of Pobst, at 1139-1125.
Defending Sonoma GT winner Alex Figge was sixth in the No. 9 Alex's Lemonade Stand K-PAX Racing Volvo S60 ahead of the pair of new FIA GT3-spec cars making their first starts of the 2013 Pirelli World Challenge season. Kevin Buckler was seventh in the No. 66 Adobe Road Winery Aston Martin GT3 for TRG-AMR North America, with Elton Julian eighth in the No. 80 DragonSpeed, LLC Audi R8 LMS Ultra.
In GTS, Baldwin in the No. 73 Motul/StopTech/Foametix Porsche Cayman S scored his second pole of the year with his flier. Brandon Davis has an excellent second place on the grid in his return race in the No. 27 Barracuda Networks Aston Martin Vantage GT4. He qualified the TRG-AMR entry at 1:43.094.
"I'm telling you, this is a pole we needed. I really wanted to give it to the guys, the team. They've worked all year to get us in this position," Baldwin said. "We just put it all together. One of the key ingredients to a championship team is adapt and overcome, and get it done. We did today, and it boils down to that."
Mark Wilkins starts third in the No. 38 B.R.A.K.E.S. Kia Optima turbo at 1:43.302. Wilkins entered the weekend second in points, 87 behind Baldwin. Lawson Aschenbach, third in points entering at 105 behind Baldwin, qualified his No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro in sixth.
The two in between them are the top Ford and Chevrolet, respectively. Alec Udell qualified fourth in the No. 17 Motorsports Development Ford Mustang Boss 302R (1:43.416) and Andy Lee in the No. 20 Best IT/Bondurant/Crown Seven Chevrolet Camaro qualified fifth at 1:43.555.