For the third time in the 2022 Fanatec GT World Challenge America season, qualifying ended with the all-black #1 K-PAX Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo of Michele Beretta and Andrea Caldarelli starting on pole for Race 1, and the black and white #6 US Racetronics Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Steven Aghakhani and Loris Spinelli starting on pole for Race 2.
Beretta and Spinelli set the fastest times in their respective qualifying sessions this morning at Watkins Glen International.
The first segment of qualifying began as scheduled at 9:00 AM local time. It was a beautiful, relatively cool summer morning near the Seneca Lakes, with ambient temperatures around 25°C, and track temperatures of 22°C.
Beretta got out of the blocks early on with a benchmark time of 1’45.521 aboard the #1 K-PAX Lamborghini. But Aghakhani, who was quickest in Practice 2 yesterday afternoon, wasn’t backing down from the challenge, and he soon went to provisional pole with a 1’45.395 followed by a 1’45.387.
Then, with less than five minutes left in the session, Beretta fired back, cracking the 1’45 barrier with a time of 1’44.950 to take back the provisional pole. Russell Ward in the returning #33 Winward Racing AMG GT3 leapt to second place on a 1’45.177.
But the first stage of qualifying ended abruptly when the black and red #91 Zelus Motorsports Lamborghini of Jeff Burton lost control through turn nine and crashed into the SAFER barriers. Burton was able to get out of the car safely and uninjured. However, the car itself was far too damaged to make a run in the second stage – and to add a little extra insult, Burton’s time was deleted for causing a red flag, which moves him and Corey Lewis to the back row of the grid.
The session did not resume, and Beretta ended Qualifying 1 with his third consecutive pole position since joining K-PAX Racing in GT World Challenge America, with Ward in second, and Aghakhani in third.
“It makes a huge difference,” Beretta said, after winning pole position for today’s race. “Having a free track in front of you gives you a little more comfort, because you don’t have to worry about everything going on in the middle of the field behind you. We can just focus on our pace. It’s all about your pace in the end. When you can have a clear start, then it’s about being as consistent as you can. It makes your life a little bit easier. Let’s try to do what we have done in past races – pull a gap in the beginning from pole.”
George Kurtz was fourth in the #04 CrowdStrike with Riley Motorsports AMG GT3, taking the Pro-Am Cup pole just an hour after he qualified on pole for today’s GT America race. Michael Dinan in the #96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 was fifth, ahead of Misha Goikhberg in the #3 K-PAX Lamborghini, and Chandler Hull – who had a spin at the Bus Stop chicane, but brought his #94 BimmerWorld M4 to seventh overall.
The #08 DXDT Racing AMG GT3 (Scott Smithson) was eighth, ahead of Onofrio Triarsi in the sole Am Cup entry, the #23 Triarsi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo. Ashton Harrison completed the top ten aboard the #93 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX GT3 Evo22.
After a brief delay to clear up the debris left behind by Burton’s accident, the second phase of qualifying began at 9:23 AM, with the Pro drivers now aboard their respective Pro-Am cars.
Following up where Beretta left off in the #1 car, Jordan Pepper took over the #3 K-PAX Lamborghini and set the early benchmark with a fastest time of 1’43.581.
But he was soon displaced by the #6 US Racetronics AMG GT3 of Spinelli, who had won pole at Sonoma and NOLA, and was eager to put his team on pole for tomorrow’s Race 2. He did just that with a blistering time of 1’42.937, being the first – and the only – driver to break the 1’43 barrier.
Pepper will line up alongside Spinelli on the front row for Race 2, holding onto second place at the end of the session.
The #33 Winward Racing AMG GT3 of Philip Ellis and the #13 Triarsi Ferrari of Ryan Dalziel traded third position over the final minutes of the session. Ultimately, the inside of row two went to Ellis, who was third-fastest.
Dalziel, in fourth, led the Pro-Am field during the second phase of qualifying, ahead of Colin Braun in the #04 CrowdStrike/Riley AMG GT3 in fifth, the #45 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3-R of Jan Heylen in sifth, and the #08 DXDT Racing AMG GT3 of Bryan Sellers in seventh.
Mario Farnbacher was eighth in the #93 Racers Edge NSX, while Andrea Caldarelli struggled to ninth place in the #1 K-PAX Lamborghini. But, all throughout this season, the K-PAX #1 team have been able to overcome struggles during qualifying to win the Sunday races – and they’ll need to in order to keep their winning streak going across another weekend.
Robby Foley completes the top ten from Qualifying 2 in the #96 Turner BMW.
With just 15 minutes of GT America qualifying serving as the only running time for the #00 Team Hardpoint Porsche (PJ Hyett/Gunnar Jeannette), the GTWC America newcomers qualified 16th in both stages. They’ll avoid starting last on the grid in Race 1 because of a ten-place grid penalty for the #43 RealTime Racing NSX (Erin Vogel/Michael Cooper) to be served after Race 2 in VIR.
Along with the incident that befell the #91 Zelus Lamborghini, the #12 Ian Lacy Racing Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 (Frank Gannett/Drew Staveley) was a scratch from qualifying after a fuel leak was discovered in the fuel tank.
Meanwhile, the #91 Zelus crew will change chassis and use their GT America car for the rest of the weekend.
Coverage of GT World Challenge America Race 2 begins today at 2:00 PM EDT (local time) and the start is scheduled for 2:15 PM.
Feature image © Bob Chapman / K-PAX Racing
Additional images © Chapman, Brian Cleary / SRO Motorsports Group AmericaThe post K-PAX, US Racetronics Share Pole Positions In Watkins Glen first appeared on dailysportscar.com.