SEBRING, Fla. – Don’t look now, but the defending IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge champions are back on top.
Owen Trinkler delivered the first Motul Pole Award for Team TGM driving the No. 46 Mercedes-AMG GT4 on Thursday evening, recording a best lap time of two minutes, 10.521 seconds (102.066 mph) in the Grand Sport class.
The Nashville native, who is defending his GS title alongside his 2018 co-driver Hugh Plumb, will lead the 43-car field to green on Friday at Sebring Int’l Raceway.
Not only was this the first Motul Pole Award for Trinkler since 2009 – being a rare starting driver over the years – this was also the second pole position for the Mercedes-AMG GT4 in the Pilot Challenge. Additionally, Friday’s race will mark Trinkler’s 150th start in the series.
“We worked all weekend so far in our practices on long runs, but we made a change right before qualifying to make it look quick for one lap,” said Trinkler. “I told the guys, ‘Give me one lap and if it’s a clear lap, we’ve got a good shot at the pole.’ I’m so happy for these guys at TGM and Ted (Giovanis) and Joe (Varde) and Hugh and everybody on this team to get our first pole. It means a lot.
“I mean the AMG GT4, man, that’s a beautiful car. It’s an awesome car and I’m so happy to be in that product and AMG Mercedes, what they do for us. We’ll have some fun tomorrow and see what we can do.”
The GS qualifying session was red flagged with five minutes remaining due to an incident and did not resume. Kuno Wittmer will start second in the No. 75 Compass Racing McLaren GT4 that he shares with Paul Holton and with whom he also won the first race of the season at Daytona. Starting third will be Tyler McQuarrie in the No. 39 Audi R8 GT4 for Carbahn Motorsports with co-driver Jeff Westphal.
In The TCR class, if the No. 17 JDC-Miller Motorsports Audi RS3 LMS TCR wasn’t already a threat to win the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 before Thursday, they sure are now.
After his co-driver Mikey Taylor posted the fastest laps in the first two practice sessions, Britt Casey Jr. earned the Motul Pole Award with the quickest lap time of the 15-car TCR field at two minutes, 13.751 seconds (99.601 mph). This is the second consecutive Motul Pole Award at Sebring and fourth Pilot Challenge pole in Casey, Jr.’s career.
“We’re sitting on pole, two years in a row at Sebring,” said Casey. “One of my favorite tracks to be honest. It’s brutal on the drivers, it’s brutal on the cars and I think it really matters taking care of your equipment so hey, we’re here now and we’re clicking pretty good going into tomorrow.”
Lined up outside the front row for the team’s second Pilot Challenge start is the No. 84 Atlanta Speedwerks Honda Civic with starting driver Brian Henderson and team owner Todd Lamb sharing driving duties. Making it three different manufacturers in the top three starting spots is the No. 98 Hyundai Veloster N for Bryan Herta Autosport and with qualifying driver Mark Wilkins and Tom Dyer.