Friday morning in Homestead, FL, dawned clear and cool with a forecast high of 78 degrees and windy conditions. At 9:00 a.m., the combined GS and ST field of car rolled out from the paddock for practice on the 11 turn, 2.3-mile circuit. Another combined practice will start just before noon and run for 45 minutes.
Qualifying will run this afternoon, beginning at 4:35 for the GS crowd and at 5:05 for the ST cars. One more 30-minute practice will be available on Saturday morning for the combined group. The 2.5-hour Continental Tire Challenge Race will begin around 4:15 pm on Saturday. It sounds like a lot of hurry up and wait, but when you’re on a team, there is never enough time before the race arrives.
The space on the Homestead circuit will be appreciated this weekend, as 31 GS entrants will share the track with 35 ST cars. Changes in the series have opened the GS class up to more makes – a refreshing update, as the series had devolved into a battle between Porsche 997, BMW M3 and Ford Mustang GT entrants. This weekend will see the grid population include the usual suspects along with Camaro GS.R, Porsche Cayman S, Subaru WRX-STI, Audi S4, Dodge Challenger and, of course, the Mustang Boss 302R.
Twelve minutes into the first practice session, the top 5 positions were split among three M3 coupes and the Boss 302R Mustangs driven by Billy Johnson (ROUSH Performance) and Joe Foster (Multimatic Motorsports). Foster’s best time of 1:27.23 trailed that of Johnson by just over a second.
Eric Curran, in the #9 CKS Motorsport Camaro GS.R was back in ninth place with a best lap just over 1.41. Midway through the session, Todd Snyder challenged and passed Joe Foster for fifth spot. The Frederick Motorsports’ Mustang GT just kept getting faster as it went, turning in a 1:26.608 lap its fifth time around.
Twenty minutes into the session, cars remaining in the pits were #6 Camaro of Stout/ Bucknum, the Magnus Racing #44 Cayman S of Potter/ Stanton and the TPN Racing/Blackforest Racing #5 Dodge Challenger of James and Nastasi. Shortly after, the track went yellow. At this point, the Top Ten spots were held, in order, by three M3s, four Mustangs, a Subaru, a Camaro and another M3. The top five lap times were spread by just 1.2 seconds.
At 25:36 into the session, the track went green again. After a driver change, Paul Dalla Lana turned up the wick with a 1:25.494 lap in the #96 Turner Motorsports M3. Scott Panzer took over the #21 Frederik MOtorsports car and quickly posted a 1:26.608 lap, while Scott Maxwell jumped into the Multimatic Boss 302R and laid down a 1:27.050. Rob Finlay in the #50 Boss 302R crept into tenth spot with a 1:27.050 just before the session ended.
The second practice session saw Jack Roush Jr. step out in front, posting a 1:25.866 the first time around, that lasted through the entire session. He was the only one to break into the 25′s this time. Joey Atterbury, driving the #62 Mitchum Motorsports Camaro GS.R, posted the next fastest lap time, at 1:26.512. Three BMW M3 entries followed within a half second from that pace.
A short-lived yellow flag stalled the session 40 minutes in, but was quickly cleaned up. With a minute left in the session, Joe Foster pulled out a surprise lap, posting a 1:26.663, and grabbed fourth rung on the results ladder. The TPN Racing/Blackforest Dodge Challenger and the #44 Magnus Racing Porsche Cayman S did not post any practice laps.
BMW Takes Pole, Mustangs 3 of Top Five
The afternoon’s qualifying session went well for some and not so much for others. The skies had cleared earlier in the day and the tempersture was hovering around 76* when it came time to do the deed. The 15-minute session leaves little room for anything but full throttle maneuvering.
Before you could say “Wait a minute…” the results were in. Nick Longhi took pole in the #13 M3 with a 1:25.994 lap. Jack Roush Jr. will start beside him, after tripping the beam just 1/25 of a second slower. Matt Bell will start in third, driving the #9 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GS.R with Joe Foster beside him in the #15 Musang Boss 302R. Fifth place also went to a Boss 302R, this one the #50 driven by Steve Cameron. By Grand Am rules, the driver that qualified the car must be the one to star the race.
Stay tuned for the return of some of the best racing this continent has seen since the days of Trans Am. The top 10 GS qualifiers are seperated by less than one second on their lap times. The Kia 200, second race in the Continental Tire Challenge will run on Saturday, March 5, starting at 4:15 p.m. ET. The race will run for 200 miles or 2.5 hours, whichever comes first.