Canadian Kuno Wittmer won the pole for Saturday’s SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Round Three race at New Jersey Motorsports Park’s Thunderbolt Raceway. However, after a post-qualifying coin flip, the top-five qualifiers were inverted. This means Wittmer will start fifth, while his teammate and fifth-place qualifier Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., will start first.
Driving the No. 44 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX, Wittmer turned the fastest qualifying lap with a 1:31.991 (88.052 mph). Despite starting fifth on the grid, Wittmer will be credited with his second-career pole.
“Coming from Sebring, I didn’t have a top-10 starting position in qualifying, so we opted to stay in pit lane until about 30 seconds after the last car left to get a clear track,” Wittmer said his qualifying effort. “It panned out perfectly. The tires warmed up well and that first flier was the magic lap. Everything came together perfectly. Every brake marker, everything was just a little bit better than in practice on those tires. Everything felt just great.
“I still have a very good car. It’s very consistent. We’re able to run multiple laps back-to-back within a half a tenth so everything is just bang on. I’m super confident even starting fifth.
“[The coin flip] is something you cannot control. It’s a gamble. It’s 50-50. I completely understand the rule. I was for it from the beginning because it makes things exciting, but hey, that’s the game.”
Cunningham, the beneficiary of the coin flip, qualified his No. 1 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX fifth with a time of 1:32.383 (87.687 mph), but will start first. The defending series champion hopes his start from the pole will net him his 32nd –career World Challenge victory.
“On the cool-off lap, I told Kuno, ‘no pressure on the coin flip, but it’s up to you to make a good decision or you’ll be walking to the track at Round Three,’” Cunningham said jokingly. “That was the deal and now I’m starting first. I’ll try to keep my Acura TSX up there, but I’m sure that Kuno would like to come back up and show how good his car is too.”
Sebring winner Seth Thomas, of Cumming, Ga., turned the second fastest qualifying lap (1:32.040, 88.005 mph) in his No. 38 BimmerWorld/GearWrench BMW 328i and will start fourth on the grid. Thomas looks for his second win in as many races.
Ft. Worth, Texas resident, Jason Saini, who finished third at Sebring, will start third. He piloted his No. 74 MAZDASPEED/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6 to a quick time of 1:32.104 (87.944 mph) around the 2.25-mile, 12-turn road course.
Saini’s teammate Charles Espenlaub, of Lutz, Fla., will start on the outside of the front row after turning the fourth quickest time of 1:32.110 (87.938 mph) in his No. 73 MAZDASPEED/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6.
Qualifying positions six through 10 remain just how they qualified. This means that Pierre Kleinubing (Acura TSX) will start sixth, followed by James Clay (BMW 328i), Andrew Aquilante (Subaru WRX), Nick Esayian (BMW 328i), and Eric Foss (Mazda 6), respectively.