Aaron Telitz Scores Fourth Motul Pole Award in No. 14 Lexus while Patrick Long Tops Points-Paying Qualifying
By Mark Robinson
LEXINGTON, Ohio – The No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 will start from the GT Daytona (GTD) pole in Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge Presented by the TLX Type S, thanks to Aaron Telitz. But Patrick Long was able to stretch the season points lead for the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R.
Under the GTD qualifying format introduced this season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, two 15-minute sessions are held. The first session, limited to a Bronze- or Silver-rated driver, determines the race starting position for each car. That’s when Telitz put in a last-minute flyer in the No. 14 Lexus to take the Motul Pole Award with a lap of 1 minute, 20.529 seconds (100.942 mph) around Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
For the second GTD qualifying session, teams must change drivers. Like Telitz, Long saved his best for last, rolling off a 1:20.083 (101.504 mph) lap in the No. 16 Porsche to collect the maximum 35 points available toward the season-long WeatherTech Championship as well as the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup that kicks off this weekend.
Telitz was delighted to put his car at the front of the grid, at a track where Lexus has dominated. The marque has won three straight GTD races at Mid-Ohio. Vasser Sullivan has fielded the last two winners, including a 2020 victory from Telitz and co-driver Jack Hawksworth in the No. 14.
“The track changed a bit from (practice) this morning to this afternoon for qualifying,” Telitz said after earning his fourth career pole. “Just figuring out what the car needed a little bit differently in qualifying there and it took a little bit longer for the tires to come in than I was expecting. Normally, we do a (fast) lap a little earlier in the Lexus, the tires come in a little quicker, so it was kind of strange to do the lap on the last lap. But I’m glad to get it done, glad to be up for pole position for Vasser Sullivan and Lexus.”
Robby Foley qualified the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 second, just 0.006 seconds shy of Telitz’s pole-winning effort. Daniel Morad drove the No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 to the third starting spot for the second straight race this season. They all seem to be chasing the Lexuses, however, which perform well at Mid-Ohio.
“Mid-Ohio has a lot of high-speed and medium-speed corners, and that is what the Lexus likes the most,” Telitz said. “Just the fact there’s only two really slow corners really helps us. It flows a lot; the sections flow together. That just suits our car so that’s why we’ve been doing so well the last four years here.”
Long, meanwhile, was eager to show what the Ohio-based Wright Motorsports Porsche could do in the points-paying session after co-driver Ryan Hardwick qualified a disappointing 11th in the grid-deciding portion. Long’s fast lap was 0.126 seconds better than Zach Veach in the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus.
“Ryan was pretty unhappy with his performance and with the car and with the circuit,” Long said. “He sort of gave me a pat on the back and his few tips and wished me the best. We were able to time it perfectly, roll the dice a little bit and come out of the pits later than everybody by a couple of laps. So that’s a testament to the team and their strategy.”
With the 35 points earned, Long expanded his provisional season points lead to 50 over the nearest full-season GTD competitors, Zacharie Robichon and Laurens Vanthoor of the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche.
“Based on last year, coming up one or two points short of the championship, we know that every single point is going to count,” Long said.
The competitiveness of the GTD class was on display in both sessions. The fastest nine cars in each were separated by less than a second on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course. Long, though, feels confident the No. 16 Porsche can be a threat, even starting near the back.
“It’s going to be a very dicey race with multiple classes,” Long said. “It’s very dirty off-line so it’s hard to make passes. There’s going to be a lack of patience between different classes. Other than that, there’s going to be a pretty tight strategy on fuel in the GTD class. Plenty to play for, lots of racing, strategy, at least two pit stops. We’re feeling OK. Starting position isn’t a big deal.”
Sunday’s race is the first sprint event on the 2021 schedule, with a race length of two hours, 40 minutes. Live coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and IMSA Radio.