Christopher Haase Laguna Seca-poleman for the second time running
Top-10 cars separated by less than half a second
Kenny Habul best of the Bronze drivers on the starting grid
At the wheel of the #29 Audi Sport Team Land car Christopher Haase claimed a second consecutive pole position for the California 8 Hours, final round of the 2018 Intercontinental GT Challenge. At the end of the 15-minute Pole Shootout title contender Haase proved to be 0,068 of a second quicker than Raffaele Marciello in the #43 Mercedes-AMG Team Strakka Racing car. Dries Vanthoor (#19 Audi Sport Team WRT R8) was third fastest. The top ten cars competing in the Pole Shootout were separated by less than half a second.
Sunny and hot conditions for the Qualifying and Pole Shootout sessions today. As expected the fifteen spots for the Pole Shootout were taken by fifteen GT3 cars, with all title contenders among them.
It was immediately clear that the pole position for the 2018 season decider would be a close fought affair. Halfway through the 15-minute session, the top-7 cars were separated by under two tenths of a second.
For most of the session it looked like Raffaele Marciello or Dries Vanthoor would claim the best starting position for tomorrow's California 8 Hours, but Christopher Haase had something else in mind. He left his qualifying run very late, and after a first lap he was only in eleventh. With most of the other competitors already parked in pitlane, Haase took his Audi Sport Team Land by the scruff of the neck and produced an amazing 1'23,660. Not only three tenths of a second quicker than last year's pole – also set by Haase in an Audi Sport Team Land R8 – but more importantly 0,068 of a second quicker that the lap time of title rival Raffaele Marciello.
“I don't know if it was really our plan to leave it that late”, a grinning Haase had to admit. “I left it to the team to make the decision. Once I got on track, I knew what pace was needed to get to the front, so that helped. As this is an 8-hour race, pole position is not that important. But as we saw last year, when we were also on pole, it is much more comfortable during the opening hours of the race. It is quite tricky to overtake on the Laguna Seca Raceway, so to start at the sharp end of the pack makes our lives easier.”
With the #19 Audi Sport Team WRT of Markus Winkelhock (driven by codriver Vanthoor in the Pole Shootout) in third and the #175 Mercedes-AMG Team SunEnergy 1 Racing car of Tristan Vautier in sixth, all Intercontinental GT Challenge contenders will start the season decider at the front of the grid.
In the battle for the Bronze Drivers' title, Kenny Habul and Tim Pappas left the Pole Shootout obligations to their respective co-drivers Luca Stolz and Jeroen Bleekemolen. The former beat the Dutchman to fourth on the overall grid, with only 0,007 of a second in hand.
With the Pole Shootout an exclusive GT3 affair, pole positions in the other categories were decided during the three Qualifying Sessions on Saturday morning. In GTC the #6 US RaceTronics Lamborghini was quickest, GT4 pole position went to the #51 Team Panoz Racing Avezzano, while TCR honours were taken by the #99 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai.