Fastest in Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series GS Practice Friday at New Jersey
Californian also fast in Rolex Series; APR’s Baas quickest in Street Tuner practice
Bill Auberlen and Ian Baas were the fastest drivers in their respective Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series classes Friday at Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park, and look for their cars to run up front again in Saturday morning's qualifying session. Auberlen set a lap of 1:27.540 (92.529 mph) late in the second session in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 to best 27 other Grand Sport (GS) competitors, while Baas's time of 1:30.622 (89.382 mph) paced 40 Street Tuner (ST) competitors.
The teams will return to action Saturday for 15-minute qualifying sessions, beginning at 10:25 a.m.
Auberlen was also fast in his No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Riley, setting the second fastest time of the day, second only to co-driver Joey Hand. In GS, Auberlen drives with Matthew Alhadeff; the pair is still looking for their first victory of 2008.
"I like the track a lot," Auberlen said. "We've been in our Daytona Prototype car, we're quickest every session; GS car, quickest every session. That's been rare that we've pulled a clean sweep like that - so far so good. Nobody knows how this place presents itself for a long race and that's going to be the trick. A lot of these corners bend in, so it forces a car ahead of you to bend in before you get in; I see a lot of contact coming and I don't know how to get out of that just yet. We're trying to come up with a strategy and a plan to win the race."
Auberlen said the 2.25-mile, 12-turn track was not conducive to running alone.
"There's no running by yourself on this track," Auberlen said. "You never ever get a clear lap. Every one of these laps that I'm doing is in traffic. In both Daytona Prototype and GS we have a great car. It's just a coincidence that for some reason here we are with two great cars that do great things. I'm quite happy."
Second was Andy Lally in the No. 80 Kinetic Motorsports BMW M3 (1:27.457; 92.617 mph), followed by Darren Law in the No. 21 Motorsport Technology Group Porsche 997 (1:27.956; 92.092 mph), Kris Wilson in the No. 25 C-MAX/Unitech Racing Porsche 997 (1:28.011; 92.034 mph) and Billy Johnson in the No. 18 Motorsport Technology Group BMW Z4 (1:28.180; 91.858 mph). Point co-leaders Jep Thornton and Jeff Segal were 14th in the No. 09 Automatic Racing BMW M3, one spot behind Bret Seafuse and James Gue in the No. 37 JBS Motorsports Trumansburg Shursave Ford Mustang GT. Thornton and Segal lead Seafuse and Gue by 10 points (190-180).
Baas co-drives the No. 171 APR Motorsport BBS/APR Volkswagen GTI with Dion von Moltke. The pair are looking for their first top-10 finish of the season.
"We had a good car right off the trailer," Baas said. "We've done the same setup at Watkins Glen where we were on pole. Watkins Glen shares the similar high speed longer corners as this place. It definitely suits our cars; our cars tend not to like very tight corners. The stability of the front-wheel drive in the really fast stuff is, I think, a big advantage when you're not worried about the car coming up from underneath you. This team has been working so hard. Anything but a top-10 finish at this point is not going to make me happy. We've got a win coming and I think this weekend is going to be ours.
"The hardest thing at this track with the surroundings and all the dust you can't count on that next turn being the same from lap to lap," Baas continued. "There's a bit of blind faith you have to exercise around this track. I'm enjoying the track. I think this place is going to learn a lot and it's going to be a great race track in the future."
Andrew Carbonell, fastest in the first session, and co-driver Tom Long were second overall after Long set a time of 1:30.657 (89.348 mph) in the No. 146 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5. Lawson Aschenbach and point leader Jamie Holtom were credited with third at 1:30.913 (89.096 mph) in the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS, followed by Nick Wittmer at 1:31.105 (88.908 mph) in the No. 31 i-MOTO Racing Acura RSX and Ken Wilden at 1:31.233 (88.784 mph) in the No. 75 Compass360 Racing Acura TSX.
Holtom's closest competitor in the standings (two points; 185-183), Kristian Skavnes, was eighth on the charts, while Kuno Wittmer - seven points in arrears of Holtom (178) - was 16th with Peter Cunningham in the No. 32 i-MOTO Racing Acura TSX.
Qualifying begins at 10:25 a.m. Saturday for ST, with GS qualifying scheduled for 10:50 a.m.