Bryan Herta Autosport w/ Curb-Agajanian has taken its first pole position of the Michelin Pilot Challenge season for the series’ second consecutive event at Watkins Glen this weekend, bringing an end to the four-race run of poles for the #84 Atlanta Speedwerks Honda.
BHA’s Harry Gottsacker was immediately in the mix in a refreshingly close bout for pole, the Texan’s first flying lap – a 1m 59.032s – pulling the #33 Hyundai Elantra N a full eight-tenths clear of the field halfway through the 15-minute session. Teammate Parker Chase would briefly relinquish Gottsacker of provisional pole position in the sister #98 Hyundai with just three minutes of the session left to run, but the #33 Hyundai was quickly back on-top with the first of only three laps to dip below 1m 57s.
An incredibly close battle for pole position saw the top five split by less than half a second at Watkins Glen.
Last weekend’s Michelin Pilot Challenge polesitter, Atlanta Speedwerks (#84), was the loan Honda Civic in a Hyundai-rich battle for the top spot, and while Brian Henderson was unable to keep the team’s 2021 pole position streak alive, a 1m 57.605s ensured the #84 starts its fifth race event of the year from the front row.
In a reversal of fortunes, the sister #94 Honda Civic Type-R, last weekend’s Michelin Pilot Challenge winner at Watkins Glen, will start 10th for tomorrow’s two-hour race. Admittedly, Scott Smithson, teammate this weekend to TCR championship leader Ryan Eversley, did an impressive job to post a 1m 58.280s on his first race weekend at Watkins Glen.
Parker Chase, who last week secured 3rd place from the very back of the grid together with teammate Ryan Norman, later posted a 1m 57.614 to pip the #27 Copeland Motorsports Hyundai Veloster N to 3rd on the grid, the #98 Hyundai falling an astonishing 0.09s short of a front row starting point.
VAN DER STEUR RACING (#19) continued its strong qualifying form in 2021 by securing its third top five starting point in four races at Watkins Glen, just ahead of the KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce (#5). In contrast to the Honda Civic 1-2-3 lockout on the grid last weekend, the #19 Veloster N is the fourth Hyundai in the top five for this weekend’s event.
A last-grasp lap from Michel Johnson vaulted the Michigan native’s eponymous entry up to 7th in the closing seconds of qualifying, the #54 Hyundai pipping Daytona winner Unitronic JDC-Miller MotorSports (#17) in the process. Fittingly, Sebring winner Road Shagger Racing (#61) will start 9th, both Audis looking for improved fortunes after hitting trouble early last weekend.
Despite worrying the frontrunners in the very early going, the VGMC Racing, LLC Honda (#88) slowly slipped back through the pack during qualifying and will start just behind the Atlanta Speedwerks Honda (#94) in 11th. Brutal bad luck saw the #88 Civic Type-R suffer front left suspension failure as last weekend in the closing three minutes, robbing the team of a hard-earned 2nd place in the process. CB Motorsports (#81), the returning Rockwell Autosport Development (#15), and the second Copeland Motorsports Hyundai (#51) will start 12th, 13th and 14th respectively.
Championship contenders Michael Lewis and Taylor Hagler (#77), however, will take tomorrow’s start from the very back of the TCR grid having failed to post even a single hot lap during qualifying. This marks the second weekend in a row that a Bryan Herta Autosport w/ Curb-Agajanian Hyundai has been started from the very back of the IMSA MPC grid at Watkins Glen following front splitter issues for Parker Chase and Ryan Norman (#98) last weekend.
Lewis and Hagler lie just 10 points adrift of championship leader Ryan Everlsey in the TCR standings.