Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., will start on the pole for both races in this weekend's World Challenge Championships Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg doubleheader after posting the fastest qualifying time on Friday afternoon. Dino Crescentini, of Manhattan Beach, Calif., will start alongside Pobst on the front row. James Sofronas, of Newport Beach, Calif., qualified third.
Additionally, Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., and local driver Mark Hein, of Clearwater, Fla., earned the GTS and Touring Car poles, respectively.
The pole was not unexpected for Pobst, a two-time (2005-2006) World Challenge winner on the streets of St. Petersburg in the Touring Car class. He turned a fast lap of 1:18.962 (82.064mph) on his first flying lap, which was fast enough to hold up throughout the 25-minute session.
“The K-Pax Volvo has been worked over end to end and there are improvements,” Pobst said. “It handles better. Every season is a new season with new cars and you can tell. The Porsche is a new model and improved as well. The car is a pleasure to drive. I drove really well for half a lap and not so well for half a lap, and then I did the same thing on my second lap. I really want to thank the K-Pax team for the work they've done to keep these highly turbocharged Volvos running. What we've worked on more than anything is reliability, but I've also got better braking. I'm not sure the car stops better, but it has better feel and I can use the brakes better.”
The No. 6 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60 driver earned 30 championship points for starting on the pole for both of this weekend's races.
“I made a conscious effort not to think about the one session counting for both races and so many points,” Pobst continued. “I do my best work as a driver when I am calm and relaxed. I'm not a guy who likes to get revved up because, guess what, I do that naturally behind the wheel. I thought about it a lot before the session, but once I got in the car, I held those butterflies down.”
A pair of Global Motorsports Group (GMG) teammates qualified second and third. Crescentini, the fastest in Friday's afternoon practice session, turned a lap of 1:19.011 (82.013mph) behind the wheel of the No. 4 Centric Parts/Stoptech GMG Porsche 911 GT3 to finish just 0.049sec behind Pobst. Sofronas turned a lap of 1:19.385 (81.627mph) for third.
Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., earned the fourth starting position for the weekend in the No. 8 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60, the second Volvo in the front two rows. Jason Daskalos, of Albuquerque, NM, piloted the No. 5 Daskalos Roberts Racing Dodge Viper to a fifth starting position.
Kuno Wittmer will start sixth in the No. 13 Dodge Motorsports Dodge Viper.
Tony Rivera, introducing the No. 97 Brass Monkey Racing Nissan GT-R, and Patrick Lindsey, driving the No. 57 Horton/Sloan Securities Porsche 911 GT3, will make up row 4 on the weekend's grid.
Steve Ott (Nissan GT-R) and Brian Kubinski (Chevrolet Corvette) will start ninth and 10th on the GT grid.
Cunningham, Hein the Fastest Qualifiers for GTS, Touring Car Fields
Cunningham turned a lap of 1:25.605 (75.696mph) in the No. 43 Acura RealTime Racing Acura TSX to earn his 33rd career World Challenge pole, second all-time. Cunningham swept all three of Friday's sessions (including two practice sessions) in the GTS class.
"The car works well and I got a good time in,” Cunningham said. “The track experience I have here helped me become comfortable early. I need to keep an eye on my mirror in the race for my teammate and I look forward to a good race.
The season-opening weekend was the first time in the GTS class for RealTime Racing, which previously ran in Touring Car before the rules were revamped for 2010.
“The car this year is pretty much the same as last year,” Cunningham continued. “It's a little bit lighter and it breathes a little bit better with less air restriction. It's not something you can really feel behind the wheel, though.”
Nick Esayian, of San Diego, Calif., qualified second in the No. 34 Acura RealTime Racing Acura TSX behind his teammate. Both Cunningham and Esayian turned their laps early in the 25-minute qualifying sessions and waited out the clock.
Kevin Helms, of Charlotte, N.C., will start third in GTS, turning a time just off of Esayian's best lap in the No. 04 DBA/Carbotech/AST/Exedy Honda Civic Si.
Racing in his hometown, Hein turned a fastest time of 1:28.821 (72.955mph) in the No. 38 Morgan Stanley Smith Barney Honda Civic Si to earn his first-career World Challenge pole position in his 14th World Challenge race.
“I love to race street courses, it's been kind of my forte forever and my favorite tracks to race on,” Hein said. “Of course, I like racing at St. Pete and this is going to be a lot of fun. I really enjoy the whole weekend, and it's been a really well-run event.
“It's the first time I've driven the car at this weight, and it's been a learning experience. It doesn't stop because it's heavier than it was before, and it doesn't have the wing that it was built for because of the new Touring Car rules. There were a couple of times in qualifying I got in hard on the brakes and realized I was locking it up, so I'm still learning how to dial those in. This race is going to be hard on the brakes. It's going to be a long race, but I'm looking forward to it.”
Todd Buras, of Daytona Beach, Fla., will make his World Challenge debut starting alongside Hein on the front row after piloting his No. 49 Irish Mike's Racing Volkswagen Jetta GLI to a fast time of 1:29.300 (72.564mph).
Row two on the Touring Car grid will be occupied by two drivers making their World Challenge debuts this weekend. Teenager Robert Stout lines up his No. 18 DG-Spec/Scion/TRD/Lucas Oil Scion tC third, with Eric Meyer fourth in his No. 32 XOWii/Samaritan's Feet/Delvira Mazda RX-8 in fourth. Russian Alexander Lvov will start fifth in the No. 9 Honda GMS Honda Civic Si.
The first of two World Challenge races will run Saturday at 5 p.m. Both races will be broadcast in Versus HD on Saturday, April 18 at 2 p.m. (EDT).