The gradual climb of the Mazda RX-8 to the top of the Grand Am Rolex Series pecking order continued at Laguna Seca on Friday as Nick Ham put his SpeedSource prepped machine on pole position for Saturday's stand-alone GT race at the classic Californian track.
Looking for their third win of the still-young season, Ham and co-driver Sylvain Tremblay will lead the 22 strong GT field to the green flag for Saturday's two and a half hour race at the track that bears the name of the Japanese manufacturer.
Ham took pole with a last-lap flyer that stopped the clocks at 1min 29.052secs, just a tenth faster than teenage Porsche driver Eric Lux.
“It took until the last lap to get it,” Ham said. “It was really important for us and for Mazda. This is their home track. With the whole programme this year, it was just something we really wanted to do. It wasn't easy. I had to work at it. I kept catching traffic or I made a mistake on my other good lap. That last lap was a really good lap. I didn't leave anything on the table, and luckily we got it in just in time.”
Ham's late surge relegated Lux's #74 Tafel Racing Porsche GT3 to the outside of the front row. Lux posted a best lap of 1min 29.185secs in the car he shares this weekend with Ian James, and goes into Saturday's race still looking for his first Grand Am victory.
“Qualifying went pretty well until that last lap when the Mazda snatched it for me,” Lux said. “We had an off in my last practice and the crew worked their butts off to get the car back to where it should be for qualifying. Like I guess you can see by the results, the car is excellent. Hopefully, we'll have a good race tomorrow and the tyres will stay underneath us.”
The returning Craig Stanton qualified third in the #85 Porsche, the 2005 Grand Am GT Champion replacing Dominik Farnbacher in the Farnbacher Loles Motorsports team alongside Leh Keen.
“I was with them at Daytona for the 24-hour, and I'm just really pleased to be back with them,” Stanton said. “I've been part of the organisation all year doing a lot of their coaching and testing and whatnot. American road racing is pretty busy this weekend so I'm taking Dominik's spot with Leh, so Leh and I again are teammates. I'm happy to be back with him and his family, and the Farnbacher family, and Greg Loles is nothing but gracious whenever I come around. We're looking for a great finish here.”
Paul Edwards put the #07 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R fourth on the grid. Edwards and co-driver Kelly Collins have finished inside the top 10 in all four races thus far, but have yet to claim a victory this season and head into the race as SpeedSource's closest rivals in the standings