On its first visit to the scenic Virginia International Raceway, known to all as VIR, the American Le Mans Series GT qualifying session once again had everyone jumping up and down in excitement. Olly – making his 100th ALMS start tomorrow – will be starting from the second row of the intensely competitive grid, after recording the third fastest lap in today’s 15-minute session.
The British driver, who with his team mate Tommy Milner in the No.4 Corvette C6.R, is holding a 28 point lead in the GT Drivers’ Championship title chase, will line up behind the pole-winning Extreme Speed Ferrari of Johannes van Overbeek and the BMW of Dirk Muller. Olly’s time of 1:46.409 was just 0.05s behind Muller.
Tomorrow’s four-hour VIR 240 race will be critical for drivers, teams and manufacturers in terms of ALMS championships as additional points are on the line for each finishing position. However, Olly is trying not to think ahead and will be approaching the race the same as any other, and said after qualifying: “I went pretty well but didn’t get a lap fully together. I think I could have maybe gone a couple of tenths quicker and sneaked into second but the Ferrari was bit too quick for us today.
“It’s a shame we couldn’t be on the front row but we’re at the sharp end and fighting with all the usual suspects as we have all season long. The way it’s turned out so far is that they seem to qualify well but fade during their race stints so we’ll see if that’s the case tomorrow. It’s going to be all about managing tyres and the traffic and we’ll see tomorrow if this circuit is kind to people’s tyres.”
Olly is one of the 63 drivers present for this weekend’s ALMS race who has prior experience from another series of the 3.27-mile, 17-turn Virginia road course, and despite it being challenging, he’s a fan of the venue. “It’s fantastic. The circuit is a bit narrow in parts but it’s a lot of fun. There are a lot of high-speed corners, and the Esses up the hill are a real challenge. With the slow-speed stuff, you have to use a bit of curb here and there, but you have to be careful how much you use. The surface is a little bit slick in places, but overall our car seems to be performing really well here.
“The circuit has a nice rhythm to it and at the moment I’m really encouraged by it. I like the track a lot, and I think the thing that’s really going to shape the race is the traffic. The circuit’s so narrow and there are some pretty big speed differentials in the corners. Between the five classes, I think there are going to be some places where you could lose some significant time and that’s an area we’re going to have to work hard to overcome tomorrow.”
The next round of the ALMS championship is the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón VIR 240 from Virginia International Raceway. The four-hour race is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 15. ESPN2’s broadcast begins at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 16. Full, live coverage starts at 2:15 p.m. ET on ESPN3.