LEEDS, Ala. – Nick Mancuso and Jack Baldwin set the fastest laps in Friday’s qualifying session for the Pirelli World Challenge race at Barber Motorsports Park.
For Mancuso, it’s his first career Pirelli World Challenge pole, and as a GT-A designated driver, an additional accomplishment to be starting at the front of the GT field. The pole for Baldwin, his fifth in Pirelli World Challenge, is also significant given his GTSport Racing team’s considerable challenge of rebuilding his No. 73 Porsche Cayman S from the tub up over the last two weeks after it sustained heavy damage in an early crash at Long Beach (Calif.).
In GT, it’s an all-Ferrari front row. Mancuso, in the No. 16 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia took the pole on the strength of a 1:23.865. Mancuso’s teammate Anthony Lazzaro, of Atlanta, Ga., in the No. 61 R. Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia will start second after posting a 1:24.121.
“I’m shaking! It was hair-raising the whole time. I almost crashed three times,” Mancuso said. “The most tense part though was when I hit the fastest lap and then came in and sat, and they gave me the countdown. Five minutes left, four minutes left…and three, two … then they say checkered and I’m like ‘Who’s out on the final lap!’ I was shaking in the car – I wanted it so bad!
“To do this for Remo and the R. Ferri guys, this is what they came here to do. It’s validation for our entire team and entire program. All drivers are kind of cocky but honestly I didn’t think I could get the pole today. I was hoping for a top-five, and thought a top-three would be great. But then I did a lap, and they told me on the radio I was just seven tenths down – I was like, ‘What?’ – then I just threw down.”
Starting third in GT is Mike Skeen of Charlotte, N.C., in the No. 2 Hawk Performance Audi R8 LMS Ultra (1:24.258). Rounding out the top five in GT are Robert Thorne of Littleton, Col., in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3 (1:24.354) and Andrew Palmer of Chicago, in the No. 21 Global Motorsports Group Audi R8 Ultra (1:24.442).
Jason Saini, Shea Holbrook and Johan Schwartz were the three fastest qualifiers in TC, TCA and TCB for Round 1 of their Pirelli World Challenge seasons, the race at Barber Motorsports Park Presented by RECARO.
However, following a post-qualifying technical inspection, Saini’s TC pole time was disallowed, promoting Michael DiMeo to his first class pole position.