Ricky Taylor beat Scott Pruett to pole position for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race on the streets of Long Beach, outduelling the veteran driver to give Wayne Taylor Racing their first pole position in 17 races, a drought that extends back into the final season of Rolex Series competition.
Taylor, who will share the #10 Konica Minolta sponsored Corvette DP with younger brother Jordan, lapped the two mile street circuit in 1:14.790 in the final moments of the qualifying session, taking pole from Pruett, who failed to improve from his 1:15.048 on his own final circuit.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had a pole,” admitted Taylor. “We were really quick and I was fastest in the final practice before qualifying by a little bit. I was making excuses for everyone else saying that we were the only ones on new tires. ‘The car felt good but we were on new tires,’ just making excuses. Then the car was even better in qualifying and on low fuel. It just got better and better, which really bodes well for the race. It’s all very good and very positive.”
As the 15 minute session began the battle for pole position was between Taylor and Christian Fittipaldi in Action Express Racing’s #5 Corvette DP, however Taylor and Pruett – qualifying the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford-Riley – stole the show exchanging the top spot four times in the matter of minutes.
Pruett’s lap record – set in qualifying last year – was brushed aside, the fastest three ending the session below his 1:15.325 marker, but it was in the final laps that Pruett was beaten this year, Taylor moving the target time under the 1:15 marker to 1:14.907. Pruett, who will share the #01 entry with Joey Hand in the one hour, 40 minute race, was unable to respond, leaving Taylor to stamp his authority on the session, setting a new record as he passed beneath the checkered flag.
Fittipaldi was third fastest, with the second of the Action Express Racing entries fifth fastest, the two cars sandwiching the similar Corvette DP of VisitFlorida.com Racing in fourth.
The Tequila Patron SportsCar Showcase is the first event of the 2015 TUDOR Championship season where the four classes of the series fragment with only the Prototype and GT Le Mans classes in action.
The GT pack will be led to the green flag by the pair of BMW Team RLL Z4. Bill Auberlen’s 1:17.268 was nearly three tenths faster than John Edwards in the sister car, the gap large enough to fit both the DeltaWing and the Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 between them.
“People say the words Daytona, Sebring, Le Mans…this is my crown jewel,” said Auberlen, “This is in front of my family and friends and it makes it all the more special. I’ve been in this race a lot; I’ve been second a ton of times, I’ve been third tons of times. It’s a very difficult one to win.”
Giancarlo Fisichella was the third fastest, the Italian and the Risi Competizione team bouncing back from an accident at the end of the final practice session. The pair of Corvette Racing C7.R, qualified by Jan Magnussen (#3) and Oliver Gavin (#4), both held the provisional pole in the early minutes of the session, but ended the session fourth and fifth.