JR Hildebrand earned his second pole of the Firestone Indy Lights season by posting the fastest time in qualifying for the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The AFS/Andretti Green driver - who also sat on the pole for round one of the series in St Petersburg a fortnight ago - turned in a best lap of 1min 15.2696secs around the eleven-turn Californian street course to put himself in prime position to erase memories of his fade to third after leading 22 laps in Florida.
“The boys have done a great job, and we've got a really good car, so that makes my job a lot easier," Hildebrand commented after topping the second qualifying group, "[The session] was a tough one - we had a lot of breaks, and only had a couple of laps on the tyres. We were just getting rolling, but the team said the time was coming down, so I had to get one in.
“I was getting concerned because we don't have a lot of time to start with. We do these split groups, which is great because we get a lot of track time, but it shortens our session. The guys did a great job in the pits getting the stop done and getting us out there to get the lap, so I owe it to them today. The Firehawks were right up to speed and I was able to take advantage of it. It worked out really well.”
columnist James Hinchcliffe continued his rapid acclimatisation to the Indy Lights series by qualifying second, and fastest in group one, bettering his fifth-place effort for the opening race in St Petersburg.
“It was a good session for us, but we thought we had pole there right up until the last lap," the Canadian admitted, "We had a yellow flag on that last lap, which would have been a little bit quicker, so it's one of those tough deals. But it's racing, especially street racing.
"Huge credit has to go to the Sam Schmidt Motorsports boys for putting in the effort overnight, because yesterday we really weren't happy with the set-up. They made sure everything got better for this morning and noe we've just got to be smart tomorrow and try to pick our way up.”
Stefan Wilson showed no lag in his move from FIRST Motorsport to Walker Racing, the younger brother of IndyCar Series driver Justin qualifying a best-yet third, ahead of Richard Philippe and Jonathan Summerton, both of whom also posted their best quaifying results.
“I'm really pleased, but a little disappointed at the same time," Wilson confirmed, "It's good to be starting on row two, but it's just unfortunate how the yellow turned out. I was on a really, really good lap coming into turn nine when they threw the yellow, so I had to back off. But we have a good starting position, so let's see what we do in the race.”
Another Briton, Martin Plowman, continued his march up the order with sixth place, putting the best of the Panther Racing entries ahead of the more experienced Ana Beatriz and latecomer Jonathan Bomarito. Ali Jackson and James Davison completed the top ten, while St Pete double winner Junior Strous had to settle for twelfth.