By Mark Robinson
SEBRING, Fla. – Tyler McQuarrie made an emphatic statement on Thursday that CarBahn with Peregrine Racing won’t surrender its IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge championship without a fight.
In Motul Pole Award qualifying for the season finale, the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring International Raceway, McQuarrie covered the field by nearly a full second to earn the first starting position in Friday’s two-hour race. He and Jeff Westphal face an uphill battle in the No. 39 Audi R8 GT4 – trailing championship leaders Nate Stacy and Kyle Marcelli by 15 points in the Grand Sport (GS) class – but they refuse to concede anything.
"Our car is really good here at Sebring," McQuarrie said after clocking a lap of 2 minutes, 10.744 seconds (102.979 mph). "We’ve won here two years in a row, that’s the second pole in a row here and we’ve had three poles in a row in the last three races (this season). I think we’ve just hit our stride at the end of the year, and we’re really putting everything out on the table to try and win the championship."
Cameron Lawrence was second fastest in the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 (2:11.729, 102.209 mph). Lawrence was a last-minute replacement in the No. 95 for Bill Auberlen, who remained home this week after potentially being exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Stacy qualified the No. 60 KohR Motorsports Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in fifth position. A finish of 10th or better nets him and Marcelli the GS championship. McQuarrie said it is full steam ahead for the No. 39 Audi as he and Westphal try to defend their crown.
"We have to win; it’s all or nothing," McQuarrie said. "We have second (in the championship) locked up so if we crash trying to win this thing, so be it. We’re going to lay it all out there. Starting on pole is a great way to stay out of trouble, keep the car up front and just give it to Jeff, and hopefully he can bring it home for the win."
In the Touring Car (TCR) class, Harry Gottsacker collected the Motul Pole Award with a lap of 2:16.110 (98.919 mph) in the No. 21 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Veloster N TCR. Gottsacker’s lap was 0.115 seconds better than teammate Ryan Norman in the No. 33 BHA Hyundai, with Roy Block putting the No. 5 KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering Alfo Romeo Giulietta TCR in third, 0.352 seconds off the pole.
"It’s a good start to the weekend, for sure, but it’s not over yet," Gottsacker said. "There’s a long one tomorrow. Really thankful for Bryan Herta Autosport and everybody at Hyundai giving me such a great race car today. Me and my engineer Hunter really kind of nailed that setup and it worked out really great for us."
Norman and No. 33 Hyundai co-driver Gabby Chaves have a four-point lead in the TCR standings over No. 98 BHA teammates Michael Lewis and Mason Filippi, who qualified fourth. Gavin Ernstone and Jon Morley (No. 61 Road Shagger Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR) are 12 points from the lead, with Gottsacker and co-driver Mark Wilkins 14 points back.
Friday’s race is available live starting at noon ET on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.