Mid-Ohio World Challenge Race 1 Qualifying Interviews

Sofronas, Cunningham and Saini Take Mid-Ohio World Challenge Poles

LEXINGTON, Ohio – James Sofronas, of Newport Beach, Calif., edged Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C., by just 0.003-second to capture the overall and GT class pole position for this weekend’s Optima Batteries Mid-Ohio Grand Prix Presented by GameStreamer World Challenge doubleheader. Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., and Jason Saini, of Fort Worth, Texas, won the GTS and Touring Car poles, respectively.

Driving the No. 14 Global Motorsports Group Porsche 911 GT3, Sofronas turned a fastest lap of 1:26.701 (93.756 mph) on his first flying tour of the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course circuit. The lap nipped Skeen’s time of 1:26.704 (93.753 mph) in the No. 2 Carlisle Companies/Cragar Chevrolet Corvette, wrestling the pole away from the Rookie in his debut World Challenge race.

The lap was twice as important for Sofronas, as today’s qualifying session will count for both Rounds Eight (Saturday) and Nine (Sunday), representing his third and fourth career pole positions.

“This was really great, especially because I didn’t know it was a double-pole session until I was done,” Sofronas said. “I’m obviously very excited because this is a busy weekend. I’ll probably have 10 hours total in a car this weekend including the ALMS race. It’s just a testament to the GMG guys, they’re really working overtime here. I’m really proud of Aki Fuchigama and Todd Ketcham, who spent the long hours to get my car perfect. It’s as fast as it can go right now, we maxed it out. We know we have a good race set-up because we’ve been running on used tires, and running good times. I’m really excited about our set-up and with Stoptech I know we can out-brake anyone at the end of the race.”

Skeen, who has run a handful of Trans-Am Series races and is best known for winning the show “Setup” in 2008, makes his World Challenge debut in the car that Ron Fellows took to back-to-back wins at Mosport and Watkins Glen.

“Obviously, this is a great place to be,” Skeen said after qualifying. “Being on the front row with the Porsche and Volvos around us is going to be difficult. There’s some pressure being here with CRP Racing, filling Ron’s shoes are some big shoes to fill. He’s done great things for this team getting the car up to speed, and I just had to hop in and do some laps.”

Boca Raton, Florida’s Andy Pilgrim, who led practice in the No. 8 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60, was third, with a lap of 1:26.743 (93.711 mph), meaning the top three qualifiers were separated by just 0.042-second.

Patrick Lindsey, of Santa Barbara, Calif., will start fourth in the No. 57 Horton/Sloan Securities Porsche 911 GT3, turning a best time of 1:26.830 (93.617 mph), followed by point leader and six-time 2010 polesitter Randy Pobst’s No. 6 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60, with a 1:26.865 (93.579 mph). The top five were separated by 0.164-second.

Dominant in the GTS class all year long, Cunningham earned his record-extending 38th and 39th career World Challenge poles. Cunningham’s lap of 1:33.579 (86.865 mph) on the No. 43 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX eclipsed teammate Nick Esayian’s lap of 1:34.608 (85.920 mph) in the No. 34 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX.

“It’s great to be on pole because there’s going to be a lot of Honda and Acura fans here this weekend,” Cunningham said. “Yesterday we were at Honda R&D, and got the whole tour. A lot of those folks and other Honda associates from around Ohio will be here this weekend. We certainly want to do well for them, as well as all of the other folks who like to see Acuras go fast at Mid-Ohio. Our race set-up is tried and true, so we’re happy. I’d like to see the track rubber in a little more, but we’ll go for another pair of wins and see what happens.”

Ernie Jakubowski, of Oakville, Ontario, was third fastest in GTS, turning a 1:36.956 (83.840 mph) in the No. 91 Fuchs/CDOC/Forgeline Porsche Cayman S. Ben Crosland (No. 25 RP Motorsports Ford Mustang FR500 and Devin Cates (No. 68 Cates Engineering Ford Mustang FR500) completed the top five.

Saini, who grew up just outside of Cleveland, returned to his home track and the series in which he won the 2008 Rookie of the Year honor this weekend and took the first-ever pole position for the MAZDASPEED3 in World Challenge Touring Car competition. Driving the No. 03 Team MER/Sparco/SafeRacer MAZDASPEED3, Saini earned his third and fourth-career pole positions with a fastest lap of 1:37.788 (83.126 mph).

“We built the car with Team MER for a different series and weren’t running as often as we like,” Defending Mid-Ohio Touring Car winner Saini said. “Autobarn Mazda of Countryside came on board and we wanted to do something to showcase the car. We got in touch with the folks at SCCA Pro Racing and World Challenge, and it fit great in Touring Car. It all came together over the last 10 days or so. It was very last minute, but we do the car was capable. I didn’t expect pole, but we’re proud to put it there.”

Robb Holland, of Denver, Colo., will start second after turning a 1:38.272 (82.717 mph) in his No. 22 303 Motorsports/Track Pro/Emich VW Volkswagen GTI. Series newcomer Ryan Eversley, of Atlanta, Ga., was third fastest, turning a 1:38.465 (82.555 mph) in the No. 20 Maxwell Paper Products Mazda RX-8.

Toronto race winner Nick Wittmer, of Montreal, Quebec, will start fourth in the No. 93 HPD/Honda Racing/RealTime Honda Civic Si, followed by newcomer Jeff Mosing, in the No. 08 Franks International Mazda RX-8.

Friday’s qualifying session sets the grid for both the Saturday and Sunday races. Saturday’s race makes its standing start Saturday at 10:15 a.m. (Eastern).

For more information on the SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge Championships, please visit www.world-challenge.com. Follow the series on Twitter @WCRacing.

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