In qualifying for this afternoon's third round of a 12-race Pirelli World Challenge Championships schedule for the GT and GTS classes, Randy Pobst, of Gainesville, Ga., and Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., took their respective class pole positions at the Pirelli World Challenge Long Beach Grand Prix presented by StopTech. The race goes off from a standing start at 4:15 p.m. PT.
It is 36th time in Pobst's World Challenge career that he was the fastest qualifier, moving him into a tie for second place with Pierre Kleinubing on the all-time World Challenge fastest qualifiers list. Cunningham extended his fastest qualifier record by earning his 46th career pole.
After posting the second fastest time in Saturday morning practice, Pobst managed to find a bit more speed in a somewhat unseasonably chilly qualifying session on the streets of Long Beach. His best lap in the No. 6 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60 was a 1:21.304 (87.140 mph).
"I'm just absolutely thrilled," Pobst said. "It's like Christmas morning and you got that bb gun you were begging your parents for, at least when I was a kid, maybe not anymore. The Volvo has been quite a challenge and K-Pax Racing just never gives up. It's gotten better and better, and my engineer, Will Moody, did some magic tricks and the car was actually rather difficult to drive on the early laps.
"It's relatively cold here this morning and low track temp, so it took a long time to get the confidence and the speed and the car just kept getting better and better and better. I just kept pushing it. I tried a couple of different gears in a couple of corners and it worked out. The speed just kept coming. It's such a feeling of relief and gratitude to the team. It's just qualifying but it just feels good. We had some troubles at St. Pete. We ran well there, and it's great to come back and have the car running so well and get her on the pole right in front of the Long Beach crowd. I am just thrilled."
Joining Pobst on the front row for this afternoon's standing start will be Andy Pilgrim, of Marina Del Rey, Fla., in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V. Pilgrim posted a best lap at 1:22.017 (86.382 mph) to qualify one spot ahead of his teammate, Johnny O'Connell.
"It's a great position for both of us, 2-3," Pilgrim said. "We were hoping for top five. We thought we could put a couple of good laps together. It's going to be hard to keep that pace up with the heavier cars. It's a very tight, twisty track, but hey, we're starting up front. That's not bad. It's really good. I'm really happy. Cadillac did well."
GT points leader O'Connell starts third on the strength of a lap at 1:22.124 (86.270 mph) in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V. Dave Welch, of Bothell, Wash., qualified fourth in the No. 77 GoPro/StopTech/Eibach/425 Motorsports Ferrari F430 GT.
Lawson Aschenbach, of Darnestown, Md., starts fifth in the No. 1 Privacy Star/Entrust Porsche 911 GT3. Aschenbach – who was quickest in Saturday practice and heads into the race this afternoon looking for his second straight GT victory after winning Race 2 at St. Pete – posted a best lap at 1:22.464 (85.914 mph).
In GTS, Cunningham led both of the weekend's practice sessions and kept his perfect record intact in qualifying this morning. The nine-time SCCA Pro Racing champion logged a best lap at 1:29.269 (79.365 mph) in the No. 42 RealTime Racing/Acura/HPD Acura TSX to earn the catbird seat on the GTS grid.
"We gave 'er hell," Cunningham, said. "We thought that the track would be a lot better this morning, plus, being on sticker tires, we thought that the times would be improved, but for whatever reason for us, it was not really feeling faster. I was pushing very hard and tried to improve my time from yesterday, which we managed to do. We ended up hanging on for the pole, so it's a great job for Acura, HPD and RealTime. We've got a lot of friends from Eibach, Red Line Oil here this weekend and our newest sponsor, BuyBrakes.com, so I couldn't be happier for them, but this afternoon is the big prize."
Veteran racer Jack Baldwin, of Marietta, Ga., will start alongside Cunningham following a best qualifying lap at 1:29.562 (79.105 mph) in the No. 68 Hot Wheels/Invoice Prep Porsche Cayman S. Baldwin's performance backs up his performance from Saturday morning, when he also posted the second-quickest time.
"(Cunningham is) awful fast on the straightaway," Baldwin said. "The car is faster than my car down the straightaway, so I think the chances of beating him down into Turn 1 is probably not going to happen, but we're on the front row and we're going to give it the best shot. We're working hard and we're gaining ground and the guys are doing just an awesome job here at the track and also back at Napleton Porsche. I've got a really good team effort here. We've still got some ground to go, but I'm really happy, really thrilled. I'm just so happy to be part of this situation and part of this team, the opportunity, Long Beach, World Challenge, I mean, the whole thing is just great."
Colin Braun, of Charlotte, N.C., starts third in GTS owing to a best lap at 1:29.591 (79.079 mph) in the No. 38 Infinity Audio/Kia Motors America Kia Optima. He will be joined on the second GTS row by teammate Michael Galati, of Olmstead, Ohio, who posted a best lap at 1:30.096 (78.636 mph) in the No. 36 Infinity Audio/Kia Motors America Kia Optima.
Justin Bell, of Los Angeles, Calif., won both GTS races at the season-opening doubleheader at St. Pete three weeks ago and will go for his third straight win from fifth on the class grid. His best lap was a 1:30.099 (78.634 mph) in the No. 50 eBay Motors Ford Mustang Boss 302S.
Today's Pirelli World Challenge Long Beach Grand Prix presented by StopTech can be seen live beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET on www.world-challengetv.com. NBC Sports Network will televise the race at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 29.
1. GT, (6), Randy Pobst, Gainesville, Ga., Volvo S60, 1:21.304, 87.139.
2. GT, (8), Andy Pilgrim, Marina Del Rey, Fla., Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, 1:22.017, 86.382.
3. GT, (3), Johnny O'Connell, Flowery Branch, Ga., Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, 1:22.124, 86.269.
4. GT, (77), David Welch, Bothell, Wash., Ferrari F430 GT, 1:22.149, 86.243.
5. GT, (1), Lawson Aschenbach, Darnestown, Md., Porsche 911 GT3, 1:22.464, 85.913.
6. GT, (9), Alex Figge, Denver, Colo., Volvo S60 AWD, 1:22.503, 85.873.
7. GT, (4), Dino Crescentini, Manhattan Beach, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 1:22.655, 85.715.
8. GT, (14), James Sofronas, Newport Beach, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 1:22.777, 85.589.
9. GT, (46), Justin Marks, Davidson, N.C., Porsche 911 GT3, 1:23.018, 85.340.
10. GT, (85), Steve Ott, Houston, Texas, Porsche 911 GT3, 1:23.127, 85.228.
11. GT, (47), Tomy Drissi, Hollywood, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 1:23.246, 85.106.
12. GT, (02), Brian Kubinski, Charlotte, N.C., Corvette Z06, 1:23.308, 85.043.
13. GT, (99), Jeff Courtney, Milwaukee, Wis., Porsche 911 GT3, 1:24.101, 84.241.
14. GT, (40), Anders Hainer, Hidden Hills, Calif., Audi R8 LMS, 1:24.885, 83.463.
15. GT, (11), Tony Gaples, Lincolnshire, Ill., Chevrolet Corvette, 1:25.492, 82.871.
16. GT, (44), Brent Holden, Newport Beach, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 1:26.181, 82.208.
17. GT, (2), Mike Skeen, Charlotte, N.C., Nissan GTR, 1:28.091, 80.426.
18. GT, (12), Jason Daskalos, Albuquerque, N.M., Nissan GTR, 1:28.151, 80.371.
19. GTS, (42), Peter Cunningham, Milwaukee, Wis., Acura TSX, 1:29.269, 79.364.
20. GTS, (68), Jack Baldwin, Marietta, Ga., Porsche Cayman S, 1:29.562, 79.105.
21. GTS, (38), Colin Braun, Charlotte, N.C., Kia Optima, 1:29.591, 79.079.
22. GTS, (36), Michael Galati, Olmstead Falls, Ohio, Kia Optima 2000cc, 1:30.096, 78.636.
23. GTS, (50), Justin Bell, Los Angeles, Calif., Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:30.099, 78.633.
24. GTS, (20), Andy Lee(R), Colorado Springs, Colo., Chevrolet Camaro, 1:30.172, 78.569.
25. GTS, (28), Lou Gigliotti, Dallas, Texas, Chevrolet Camaro, 1:30.382, 78.387.
26. GTS, (34), Nick Esayian, San Diego, Calif., Acura TSX, 1:30.847, 77.986.
27. GTS, (26), Alfonso Perri(R), Brooklyn, N.Y., Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:31.822, 77.158.
28. GTS, (07), Brian Kleeman(R), Towson, Md., Nissan 370 Z, 1:32.352, 76.715.
29. GTS, (29), Harry Curtin(R), Buffalo, N.Y., Chevrolet Camaro, 1:32.949, 76.222.
30. GTS, (96), Brad Adams, New Orleans, La., Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:33.372, 75.877.
31. GTS, (95), Bill Ziegler, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Mitsubishi EVO, 1:33.867, 75.477.
32. GTS, (23), Roger Miller(R), Salt Lake City, Utah, Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:34.348, 75.092.
33. GTS, (52), Greg Shaffer, Harrisonburg, Va., Nissan 370 Z, 1:34.811, 74.725.
34. GTS, (51), Ric Bushey, Virginia Beach, Va., Nissan 370 Z, 1:35.856, 73.910.
35. GTS, (01), Don Istook, River Oaks, Texas, Audi TT RX, 2:13.086, 53.234