Grand AM » 31 August 2008
Wilkins seizes New Jersey pole for AIM Autosport.
Mark Wilkins saved his best 'til last at New Jersey Motorsports Park by storming to pole position for the Supercar Life 250, the penultimate of 14 rounds on the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series calendar.
Wilkins tamed the 2.25-mile, twelve-turn Thunderbolt Raceway layout with a lap time of 1m11.761s (112.875mph) late on in the 15-minute session, and that time would prove good enough to capture his second pole position of the season, following his top spot from Daytona last month. Co-driver Brian Frisselle did likewise at Watkins Glen International earlier this month.
“It's going to be very difficult,” stressed Wilkins, despite his dominance behind the wheel of the #61 Ford Riley. “There's no question about that. It's a very narrow track, so there are not a lot of opportunities to get by.
“It's going to be very critical to set up the passes early, to get good runs out of the corners and ultimately ensure that you're in the right gear and that you're looking well down the track so you can set up your passes. This is going to be a very difficult place to pass, and it's going to be about staying out of trouble and not getting involved in an incident with the GT cars.
“The first half of the track is very fast, and then it's tight in the last section. That's a very critical section; you need to get a good run straightaway, because one of the key passing zones is into turn one. It's imperative that really you get the car to work well out of turn ten, which is the left-hander before coming down the long front straight.
“You have to be good in the high-speed too, because that's were you can make up some time and hopefully get a gap over some of these guys. This track likes to have some wing. Over the course of the testing our car responded better with more downforce.”
Just under three tenths of a second and 0.4mph slower over the lap was three-time 2008 pole-winner Michael Valiante, who triumphed in the most recent Rolex Series event, the Armed Forces 250 at Infineon Raceway last weekend.
“The car kept getting better,” remarked Valiante, who will share the front row of the grid with Wilkins in the #10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara. “We kept going quicker and quicker. On both of my fastest laps I was passing cars, so it's great that we're starting on the front row, but I definitely think we had a pole car because I didn't get the most out of it, catching traffic.
“The car was really consistent like it was in qualifying at Sonoma. I think we have a really good race car again, but it really would have been nice to have been on the pole again.
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