Copeland Motorsports has taken its first TCR pole position of the season at this weekend’s Michelin Pilot Challenge round at Lime Rock.
Having posted one banker lap aboard the #27 Hyundai Veloster N TCR, Tyler Gonzalez then set a blistering 54.724s on his second run, a time the Floridian driver would improve upon by more than half a second the next time by.
Gonzalez’ 54.206s would go unbeaten for the remainder of the 15-minute session, securing Copelands’ best qualifying of the year since the #27 Hyundai started on the front row for round two at Sebring. Impressively, Gonzalez also completed only six laps in total, half that of his closest pursuers.
Falling just 0.133s short of the top spot, Rory van der Steur locked out an all-Hyundai front row at Lime Rock aboard the #19 VAN DER STEUR RACING Veloster N TCR, marking the first time all season that a Honda has not qualified inside the top two. Admittedly the Japanese marque’s nearest contender – the #84 Atlanta Speedwerks Civic Type-R, which took victory last time out at Watkins Glen and qualified on pole of the opening four rounds of the 2021 season – will still line up 3rd for tomorrow’s two-hour race courtesy of Brian Henderson.
Ryan Norman, who teams up once again with TCR championship contender Parker Chase this weekend after a one-race hiatus, secured a second row starting spot for the #98 Bryan Herta Autosport w/ Curb-Agajanian Elantra. Despite Gonzalez’s pace at front, the top four were split by less than four-tenths of a second at Lime Rock.
Impressive pace from Chris Miller aboard the #17 Audi RS 3 LMS meant Unitronic JDC-Miller MotorSports will start from 5th on the TCR grid, just ahead of the second Bryan Herta Hyundai of Mark Wilkins and Harry Gottsacker (#33). The latter secured pole position last time out at Watkins Glen and looked on course to secure at least a podium spot before fuel pump issues stymied the team’s chances of a top five finish.
TCR championship leaders Michael Lewis and Taylor Hagler had their most promising qualifying performance of the season aboard the #77 Bryan Herta Autosport Veloster when Hagler posted the 7th fastest time of the session, bettering the pair’s previous best – 9th – at both Sebring and the previous round at Watkins Glen. In an incredible run so far this year, the duo have finished on the TCR podium at every race this season bar the Daytona opener, but have not yet made it to victory road in 2021. The #77 Hyundai shares the fourth row with the #5 KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce.
Victor Gonzalez and Karl Wittmer are reunited at the wheel of the #88 VGMC Racing, LLC Honda Civic Type-R this weekend after a one-round break, and rounded out the overall top 10 in TCR qualifying just behind the second Copeland Motorsports Hyundai (#51).
Having spent the early part of the session at the sharp end of qualifying, the #61 Road Shagger Racing Audi, winner of the second round at Sebring, will start 11th ahead of Michael Johnson Racing (#54) and CB Motorsports (#81).
The second Atlanta Speedwerks Honda Civic meanwhile was a shock no-show during qualifying following an incident for Scott Smithson, who once again teams with TCR title contender Ryan Eversley, during the second free practice session. The heavily damaged #94 Honda will be replaced by the team’s spare car for tomorrow’s race.
Eversley and Atlanta Speedwerks team owner Todd Lamb were victorious at the first of two back-to-back rounds at Watkins Glen, but the Georgia native has now slipped 130 points behind Michael Lewis and Taylor Hagler in the TCR standings after the Civic Type-R was found to be underweight during post-race inspections at the second event. The subsequent post-race penalty ended up costing Eversley and Smithson 2nd place overall.
Ironically, this weekend’s polesitter Copeland Motorsport (#27) was also found to be underweight after Watkins Glen and was similarly penalized post-race from 4th.