Pagenaud captures Lime Rock pole for de Ferran
Pagenaud set a P1 record with a lap of 46.971 (114.965 mph) in de Ferranâ€™s XM Acura. His time was just good enough to edge out PatrÂ˘n Highcroft Racingâ€™s David Brabham by 0.374 seconds.
â€śToday was a good day for me,â€ť said Pagenaud, who just lost out to Brabham in Lime Rock qualifying last year. â€śIn the first few laps I was trying to get good heat in the tires. I was concerned with the red flag but once it went green, I went out there and it was a good lap.â€ť
Pagenaud and teammate and team owner de Ferran have won the last two rounds on two different types of tracks - the short and narrow streets of Long Beach and the wide-open spaces at Utah. So itâ€™s obvious that they feel comfortable no matter the layout.
That may be bad news for the rest of the field, even Brabham and the rest of PatrÂ˘n Highcroft Racing. Brabham and Scott Sharp were overall winners here last year, the first overall win for Danbury, Conn.-based team and also for Acura.
Corsa Motorsportsâ€™ Ginetta-Zytek 09HS hybrid prototype of Johnny Mowlem and Stefan Johannson will start third in P1 and sixth overall. Mowlem turned in a best lap of 49.464 (109.170 mph).
Usually drivers will say that starting out front isnâ€™t a particularly huge advantage. But given the tight and twisty nature of the Lime Rock layout, Pagenaud said being out front means a better chance of staying out of trouble.
â€śThere will be major issues with the traffic in the race,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s important to be on the inside of the first corner here. It is a lot quicker than you think. This track can be dirty on the outside line, so it is quite an advantage to be on the inside. You are almost better off being third and on the inside than second and on the outside. Because it is a very short track, there is a very short time to breathe. You see the car up front and you are already up behind him. It is very difficult to think about it and you have to go on instinct.â€ť
Fernandez set a time of 48.281 (111.845 mph) in the Acura ARX-01b that he will share with Luis Diaz. Lime Rock will make the fourth straight race that Acuras swept prototype pole positions and will start 1-2-3. The Mexican racing legend went 0.196 seconds faster than Dyson Racingâ€™s Marino Franchitti in one of the teamâ€™s Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupes
â€śDyson is getting closer. They were two-tenths away,â€ť said Fernandez, who owns a commanding 45-point championship lead with Diaz in P2. â€śThey were a little slower in practice but they always seem to do better in qualifying. Our cars work well with cold tires. So we new we had to leave the pits fast to get heat in them as quickly as possible.â€ť
It has been a remarkable season for Fernandez and Diaz, who had more near-misses last year than most teams do in a career. But their luck has gone a full 180 degrees this season.
â€śItâ€™s nice to get another pole. It is good for the team,â€ť Fernandez said. â€śIt has been a long break and it feels good to get back in the car and continue the momentum we have from the start of the season.â€ť
Chris Dyson qualified the second Dyson Lola-Mazda third in class at 48.661 (110.972 mph). He will drive with Guy Smith.
Jaime Melo snagged the GT2 pole position for Risi Competizione and Ferrari, the first at Lime Rock for the Italian marque since 2004. Melo and Flying Lizard Motorsportsâ€™ Patrick Long went back-and-forth for the top spot, and Melo re-entered the track after Long set his fastest lap. He outpaced his Porsche rival by 0.064 seconds.
Meloâ€™s time of 54.665 (98.783 mph) came a month after he, Lime Rock teammate Pierre Kaffer and Mika Salo won for the second straight year at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The trio also won the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring to start the season, but Risi hasnâ€™t won in the Series since.
â€śI had a good run, especially the second run. Maybe I was a little over the edge,â€ť Melo said. â€śWe had some brake issues in the second practice and we didnâ€™t know how competitive we would be in qualifying. After my first fast lap I came in to check the tire pressure and see how things were shaking out. It was unbelievable. I didnâ€™t expect to go faster than 44.7, especially when I missed the first chicane. The car has really good balance.â€ť
Long, whose best lap was a 54.729 (98.668 mph), just missed his first Lime Rock pole since 2006. He and JĂ¶rg Bergmeister are on a three-race winning streak in GT2. Bergmeister has won at Lime Rock every year since 2006, all in Porsches.
Farnbacher Loles Racing, also from Danbury, qualified its Porsche 911 GT3 RSR third in class with Porsche factory driver Wolf Henzler turning a lap of 55.026 (98.135 mph).
â€śThe track is better for us than longer ones because the straights arenâ€™t very long,â€ť Melo said. â€śFerraris are a little slower on the straight line than the other cars. This is a track where Ferrari can show better than other circuits. Itâ€™s completely different strategy than longer tracks. Starting on pole here is very important. I believe we can be there at the end of the race.
Bob Faieta won the Challenge class pole for Gruppe Orange. The class, in its second race, features Yokohama-shod Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entries. Faietaâ€™s best lap of 59.618 (90.577 mph) was 0.353 seconds better than Martin Snow in the Snow Racing entry.
Faieta will team with Wesley Hoaglund.
â€śI expect there to be a lot of tough competition within our class,â€ť Faieta said. â€śIâ€™ve got a good partner in Wesley and a great team in Gruppe Orange. Iâ€™ve known Wes for awhile but we just recently started driving together.â€ť
Snow qualified 0.488 seconds ahead of ORBIT Racingâ€™s first entry of Ed Brown and Bill Sweedler. Snow and wife Melanie were winners in the first Challenge class race at the 3.06-mile Miller Motorsports Park layout just outside of Salt Lake City. Lime Rock is much smaller and much tighter but Faieta isnâ€™t worried about traffic.
â€śI enjoyed running with the bigger, faster cars at Utah,â€ť he said. â€śEveryone is such a good driver that traffic doesnâ€™t seem to be an issue. I like the track. Itâ€™s tight and technical, and it reminds me of a karting track which I like.â€ť
The American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn, is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. EDT on Saturday, July 18. The race will air live on SPEED. American Le Mans Radio presented by Porsche and Live Timing & Scoring will be available at Racehub on americanlemans.com. You also can follow the Series on Twitter.
The race also will mark the fifth round of the MICHELINÂ® Green XÂ® Challenge. Tickets are available at americanlemans.com and limerock.com.
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