Mid-Ohio: Gil de Ferran wins ALMS pole
De Ferran turned a fastest lap of 1:09.443 (117.057 mph) in the XM Acura ARX-02a that he has driven to victory the last three races with teammate Simon Pagenaud. The Brazilian legend was a slim 0.069 seconds and less than 0.1 mph faster than David Brabham in Patr¢n Highcroft Racing’s Acura.
De Ferran and Pagenaud trail Brabham and Scott Sharp by just 13 points in the P1 championship.
It was a dramatic session for the two-time CART champion and 2003 Indy 500 winner. He didn’t record his first flying lap until halfway through the 20-minute session.
“We had a big vibration and my radio was not working. I was concerned that we had a wheel loose,” de Ferran said. “So we took the wheels off but we couldn't change the tires in qualifying. It was very hard to see what was wrong but went back out there.”
It was a good thing. De Ferran topped Brabham on his fourth lap for his first pole position of the season. Now the focus shifts to turning that into his first victory at the circuit in any series. He was second in CART twice and was leading last year before a mid-race retirement.
“Mid-Ohio has been such a big part of my career,” said de Ferran, who also announced he will retire as a driver at season’s end. “It is a track that I enjoy tremendously. It is extremely challenging. The grip conditions this weekend is very poor. The track is very, very low on grip but it is changing rapidly as we keep running. It is going to be peddle-to-the-metal this weekend.”
Luis Diaz earned his third pole position of the season in LMP2 as the Lowe’s Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b stayed perfect in qualifying this season. Diaz was third overall at 1:10.464 (115.361 mph) in the car that he will share with Adrian Fernandez.
The duo have won four of five class races this year, having lost out to Dyson Racing three weeks ago at Lime Rock Park.
“I’m very happy to be here and get the pole for Acura,” Diaz said. “It is a very special race for the whole company. We worked very hard after our last race at Lime Rock. We were expecting a close race with the Dyson team and that was the way it was. It was good to put some good laps together. We are expecting a tough race tomorrow but hope to be there in the end and earn some points.”
Diaz had to chase down and pass Chris Dyson in one of Dyson Racing’s Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupes about midway through the session. The two teams have gone back and forth the last four rounds. This week saw the addition of Team Cytosport’s Porsche RS Spyder, where Klaus Graf qualified fourth in class. He was just a tick behind Dyson Racing’s second prototype of Butch Leitzinger, who won at Lime Rock with Marino Franchitti.
“After the last race, we worked hard to fix the problem,” Diaz said. “That is what is good about Acura. We are working hard to fix the problems and improve. Everyone did a great job; we had to push very hard to get the pole. I am very happy.”
Flying Lizard Motorsports’ Jörg Bergmeister captured his second GT2 pole position of the season with a lap of 1:21.022 (100.328 mph). The German factory Porsche driver is on pole at Mid-Ohio for the first time and is seeking his fifth straight victory of the season with teammate Patrick Long.
“We made a change right before qualifying and were fighting understeer on new tires,” the three-time GT2 champion said. “We found a setup that helped on the front end. The biggest challenge will be to anticipate what the track will be like after the IndyCars put rubber down, but we still have the warmup to do and time to work on the car.”
Bergmeister was 0.265 seconds ahead of Jaime Melo in Risi Competizione’s Ferrari F430 GT. Melo and teammate Pierre Kaffer are second to the Flying Lizard duo in the class championship standing but have won at Sebring and Le Mans this season.
Jan Magnussen qualified third in class for Corvette Racing, debuting its new GT2 Corvette C6.R this weekend.
“They might be sandbagging. We’ll see what they do in the race,” Bergmeister said. “It’s been impressive so far seeing them close to the top. We have to stay out of the fight with those guys and stay ahead. We’ve had some luck the last couple of races. Tomorrow is when it counts. We have to do what we have been doing to give ourselves the best chance.”
Guy Cosmo earned his first pole position in the Challenge class with a lap of 1:27.070 in the ORBIT Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. Cosmo was 0.133 seconds faster than Shane Lewis in the Velox Motorsport Porsche, making its first start in the Series.
A former LMP2 winner at Mid-Ohio in 2005, Cosmo is driving with John Baker for the third straight race.
“It was a lot of fun; it always is at Mid-Ohio,” said Cosmo, who won with a Mazda-powered Courage four years ago. “We had no issues with the car. We didn’t make qualifying at Lime Rock as the starter wasn’t working. I was relieved when it fired up here and it was really good all session.”
Bill Sweedler qualified ORBIT’s second Porsche entry third in the class with a lap of 1:28.247. He is driving with Ed Brown.
“There is a lot of good competition in this new class,” Cosmo said. “The whole session was a lot of fun. The track is fabulous. Mid-Ohio has always been my favorite. You can charge and attack this course but you have to think about it. The grip may not be as strong after having it repaved a couple of years ago but it’s still a good circuit.”
The Acura Sports Car Challenge from Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. EDT on Saturday, August 8 and will air at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 9 on NBC. American Le Mans Radio presented by Porsche and Live Timing & Scoring will be available at Racehub on americanlemans.com. Radio coverage also will air live on Sirius Channel 126 and XM Channel 242. You also can follow the Series on Twitter (almsnotes).
GIL DE FERRAN (#66 XM Radio de Ferran Acura ARX-02a): “Throughout my career, I’ve always been driven by challenges. While I’ve enjoyed my time behind the wheel of the No. 66 XM Radio DFM Acura ARX-02a, my main focus moving forward is to continue to build our team into a world-class motorsports organization. I feel that by returning to the cockpit for the past year, I have been competitive and added value to our team as a driver. Overall, I also feel we succeeded in developing this program to a point where I can now step down and dedicate 100 percent of my time to expanding our team. This is my fourth straight pole at Mid-Ohio. This place is very special to me. It felt great to win the pole in my final driving appearance here.”
DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Patr¢n Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a): “That was close for the pole. We have improved our Acura throughout the weekend, and it felt good. I knew Gil would have a strong time in qualifying. He is always good here. I went out on the last two laps and I thought I had a chance for the pole. But the car just understeered a little too much to get under Gil’s speed. Overall, I feel good about the car for the race. Traffic will be a factor in the race and we need a car to pass anywhere on the track. I think we’ll be right there on Saturday.."
LUIS DIAZ (#15 Lowe’s Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): ”It was very close with the Mazda for the pole. It feels great to win a sixth pole position with the Lowe’s Acura. But we know we’ll have a very tough race in LMP2 on Saturday. We had some mechanical trouble last race at Lime Rock, and the Lowe’s team has done a great job just getting everything ready for this weekend.“
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