Audi on top in California

Christopher Haase (#29 Audi Sport Team Land R8) confirmed the speed of his car by taking pole position for the inaugural Mazda Raceway California 8 Hours, by lapping the Laguna Seca Circuit in 1’23.961.

He beat Markus Winkelhock (#44 Audi Sport Team Magnus R8) by less than two tenths of a second. The top eight cars were separated by less than a second.

For most of the Pole Shootout session it looked like Markus Winkelhock would take pole position for the tomorrow’s Mazda Raceway California 8 Hours, but a couple of minutes before the end of the session the lap time of the Audi Sport Team Magnus driver was beaten by Christopher Haase, current leader in the Intercontinental GT Challenge driver standings.

At the wheel of the #29 Audi Sport Team Land R8, a car that has been among the frontrunners for the whole weekend, Haase was the only driver to break the 1’24 barrier with a lap of 1’23.961.

The second row of the grid will be shared by the #58 Porsche Motorsport North America by Wright Motorsport 911 and the #11 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8, driven in the Pole Shootout by Patrick Long and Robin Frijns respectively.

Fastest of the Pro-Am cars was the #54 Black Swan Racing Porsche, with Jeroen Bleekemolen at the wheel. The Dutchman drove the car to seventh overall. In GT4 the #07 TRG Aston Martin of Brandon Davis was the only car to compete in the Pole Shootout. The TRG crew managed to repair the car just in time, after a suspension problem in the qualifying session this morning.

The fraternal duel between the MARC Cars Mazdas in the Invitational Class was won by Australian Jake Camilleri in the #193 car.

Tomorrow’s Mazda Raceway California 8 Hours starts at 9.15 local time and will be streamed live on the website and Facebook-page of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.

Christopher Haase (#29 Audi Sport Team Land R8): “My car was spot on for one lap. We expected the track to bit a little more slippery because of the heat and adapted the car accordingly. I expect a very fast race tomorrow. I don’t think there will be many cautions, which means that every driver will have to do very fast stints.”

Jeroen Bleekemolen (#54 Black Swan Racing Porsche): “We hoped to be a little bit further up overall in the Pole Shootout, but we had some little issues. But generally speaking things are going very well. This car has not run since exactly one year, at this track as well. We are getting there with the set-up, we are not that far behind the Porsche of Long and Bergmeister. For the race, it’s not the aim to beat them, for we have a Pro-Am driver combination. But you will never know, racing in the States always brings up a surprise or two.”

Brandon Davis (#07 TRG Aston Martin): “We were already fastest in qualifying this morning, but were very disappointed to have an issue with one of the uprights. The crew did a really great job to get the car back on track, so we were able to roll out mid-session. It’s a nice way to end the Saturday, but now we will focus on the race.”

Jake Camilleri (#193 MARC Cars Mazda): “It’s been a bit tough for us to set our car up, but now we are pretty happy with the way it behaves. It will be pretty close in the race, the strategy will be crucial. It should be a good day.”