Olly had just ten laps of practice under his belt before this afternoon’s 15-minute qualifying session but that made no difference at all to the British driver. In an outstanding display of confident driving, the former ALMS champion laid down his claim for pole position right from the outset.
His best time of 1:29.945, set on the fourth of seven laps was good enough for pole position by 0.382 seconds, and Olly was the only driver to go under 90 seconds in qualifying. It is his 20th class pole in the ALMS, but his first of the 2012 season.
The performance was even more impressive considering that he had been an innocent party in an incident with the No.16 Dyson in the final stages of practice, just 20 minutes before GT qualifying. The damage to the right side of the No.4 Corvette C6.R was primarily to the exhaust system and bodywork, and there were up to 10 team members working furiously on the car in order to get it repaired in time, including team boss Gary Pratt.
“The car was just great, fantastic,” said a delighted Olly. “Chuck, our engineer, and Tommy have been working away to make sure we’ve got a good car and I’m delighted with the set up. I managed to throw down some good laps at the start of the session. It’s always tough round a street circuit but I love the challenge and the fact there’s grip in some places and not others, and the car is leaping in the air and jumping around!
“It’s very satisfying to be on pole, and to nail it on a street circuit, and this is definitely one for the guys after they worked so hard to get the car repaired and back out in time. You have to take a deep breath to get a quick lap here but I really relish giving it a go, and the new chicane added an extra element of the unknown into it all.”
It was a day of delayed, curtailed and disrupted practice sessions at Baltimore, primarily due to a very bumpy section on the front straight of the 2-mile temporary street track which required attention. After much discussion amongst both the Indycar and ALMS drivers and officials (as in 2011, the ALMS is sharing the billing here at Baltimore with Indycar), a temporary tyre chicane was placed on the front straight to reduce the chance of cars taking off over the railroad tracks. A more permanent chicane is due to be built overnight.
Tomorrow’s two-hour race is due to start at 4:30pm local time (9:30 pm BST).