Jeff Kingsley warned how difficult the tight Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street course is heading into the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama weekend, but the series points leader made it look easy in qualifying for the first of two races.
Kingsley strung together three successively faster laps early in the 15-minute session Friday afternoon, the best topping out at an impressive 1 minute, 14.976 seconds (86.427 mph) on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary circuit. It put the No. 16 Kelly-Moss Road and Race Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car on the pole with nearly a half-second to spare on the field.
“It’s definitely not easy. It may have looked like it but definitely not,” Kingsley said, adding he was surprised by his pole-winning time following just a pair of practices earlier in the day.
“I didn’t even feel like we were that quick,” he said. “The team wasn’t saying much on the radio, so I assumed maybe we were OK, otherwise they’d tell me to get my act together. Awesome good. It was a bit quicker than I would’ve thought but the track’s cooling off. I’m learning every single lap, so I’m definitely not complaining.”
Kingsley will start first for the seventh time this season in Saturday’s 45-minute race (1:55 p.m. ET, live stream on IMSA.com). The second race of the St. Pete weekend rolls off at 12:40 p.m. Sunday.
TJ Fischer, who made his season debut last week in the tripleheader at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, ran a strong second in qualifying, with a lap of 1:15.451 (85.883 mph) in the No. 58 Topp Racing Porsche. Riley Dickinson, who trails Kingsley by 25 points in the standings, qualified third in the No. 53 Moorespeed Porsche at 1:15.542 (85.780 mph).
It was a tough day for Alan Metni, leader of the Platinum Masters class for drivers 45 and older. Metni had incidents in both practices that damaged his No. 99 Kelly-Moss/AM Motorsports Porsche and he didn’t participate in the qualifying session.
Efrin Castro was fastest in Gold Cup for Porsche GT3 Cup cars built between 2014 and 2016. He turned a best lap of 1:17.644 (83.617 mph) in the No. 65 TPC Racing Porsche. Castro trails Gold Cup points leader Curt Swearingin by 18 points with four races remaining – two this weekend and two at the final round Nov. 12-14 at Sebring International Raceway.
“I love these street tracks,” Castro said. “This is the first one that I’ve been to, and I just love the risk that we have to take to go fast. It makes me want to push harder. I’m up to the challenge and it’s working out for me. These are the type of courses that I like – high-risk, fast courses.”