Richard Westbrook and Jack Hawksworth claim pole positions in topsy turvy Virginia qualifying weather
While the GT classes don’t have the added competition from the Prototype class this weekend at Virginia International Raceway, they had to put up the fight of their lives against mother nature. Richard Westbrook claimed pole in GTLM, while Jack Hawksworth took pole in GTD on Saturday for the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR.
GTLM inherited a heavy rain from the tail end of the GTD session. While the Porches and BMWs took to the track quickly after the rain stopped, the Fords and Corvettes remained on pit road.
Both BMWs faced the consequences of rushing onto a wet track, locking up in corners and running off course. Earl Bamber faced the same fate in the #912 Porche, locking up in Turn 3 and running straight off.
Tommy Milner took to the track late in the #4 Corvette, holding off for dryer conditions to make an immediate fast out lap. However, it was the Fords that best adapted to the conditions and put Richard Westbrook on pole.
“It was great fun,” Westbrook said “We left it late, but we thought there was no need to panic… I think it was [dry] at the end, and we could have gone on slicks, but it didn’t matter in the end. First time going around here in the wet, and it was a lot of fun.”
“Thoroughly enjoyable. At this stage in the season, I would say this is an important pole. Honestly I think I would prefer a dry race, but if it’s raining we have a good car as we proved today.”
GTD took to a gloomy, but dry, track to start their session. As light rain began to sprinkle on the dry course, teams had to push despite not having the time to get comfortable with the cars and the track. Jeroen Bleekemolen was the first to make a major push, claiming P1 on an uncharacteristically early quick flying lap.
Pat Long, class winner at Road America, caught a slippery corner in his Wright Motorsports Porsche and went off. This signalled a last push for teams as the rain began to fall heavier and heavier on the track.
Jack Hawksworth, having missed out at Road America, took P1 and left the track. Bleekemolen stayed out, hoping the rain would clear. However, the rain only got more intense as the session came to a close, handing the pole to Hawksworth.
“In these conditions, anything can happen,” Hawksworth said. “When I saw it starting to sprinkle, thought it was time to push.”