At last a pole at Road America for de Ferran
The team owner and teammate Simon Pagenaud will go for their record fifth straight overall victory in the American Le Mans Series on Sunday. De Ferran out-qualified Patr¢n Highcroft Racing’s David Brabham by 0.823 seconds.
De Ferran, who announced last week that he will retire as a driver at the end of the season, has been fastest in each session this week.
“We really had a great run here since we unloaded the car,” de Ferran said. “It has been pretty good. The credit for the pole position has to go to the engineers, though. They have done a lot of work - analyzing the track, looking at the mistakes we made last year. They have come up with a setup that has been pretty good. We have been playing with it, making small adjustments.”
After failing to record points in the season-opening race at Sebring and not finishing at St. Petersburg, de Ferran and Pagenaud have been on a tear. Their first victory came at Long Beach in April and they haven’t lost since. They also have pulled to within nine points of Brabham and Scott Sharp for the P1 championship lead.
“For me, this is one of my favorite race tracks that I have been to in my whole career,” said de Ferran, who was third in 1997’s CART race at the circuit. “To be here on pole for the last time I will be driving at Road America is great. They don’t make race tacks like this anymore. It is a very long laps. All sorts of different corners. It goes uphill and goes downhill. There are bumpy corners and smooth corners. For a driver it is a great challenge.”
Autocon Motorsports’ Chris McMurry qualified third in class and seventh overall. He turned in a best time of 1:53.649 (128.226 mph) in the Lola B06/10-AER that he will drive with Bryan Willman.
In LMP2, Marino Franchitti gave Dyson Racing its first LMP2 pole position and the first in the American Le Mans Series. The Scottish star broke Lowe’s Fernandez Racing’s six-race streak of pole starts with a lap of 1:51.010 (131.275 mph) in the Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupe that he will drive with Butch Leitzinger. The two already have a victory to their credit this season, two rounds ago at Lime Rock Park.
He bested Adrian Fernandez and the Mexican star’s Acura ARX-01b by 0.212 seconds. Fernandez and Luis Diaz, however, still have a lead on Franchitti and Leitzinger in the class championship by 51 points; 20 go to the class winners of Sunday’s race.
Franchitti’s best lap was his first flying lap, and the time stood for the full 20 minutes.
“I think I used the front tires - overdrove on a few corners - on the first run,” said Franchitti, whose only other pole position came at Sebring in 2004 driving a Nissan-powered Lola P2. “In the second run, I almost did the same thing. There have a been a lot of close laps. It is a great competition out there.”
The top four cars in LMP2 on Saturday were within 0.912 seconds. Dyson teammate Guy Smith, who suffered a broken suspension on his Mazda-powered Lola, qualified third at 1:51.832 (130.310 mph) in the car that he will drive with Chris Dyson.
The first year of the Dyson-Mazda partnership has been improving steadily throughout the season. It’s a good thing considering the strength of the Lowe’s Fernandez Acura and the recent addition of Team Cytosport’s Porsche RS Spyder, which Klaus Graf qualified sixth overall Saturday.
“After Sebring, it was a turning point, as we were in the infancy of our program,” Franchitti said. “We got a fast lap in St. Pete and finally the win at Lime Rock, but really we are taking it step-by-step.”
Joey Hand gave BMW its first American Le Mans Series pole position in eight years as BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team locked out the front row in GT2 with its new BMW M3s. Hand, driving with Bill Auberlen, set a fastest lap of 2:06.950 for a 0.123-second gap to teammate Dirk Mueller.
“I told my wife before I flew out that something just felt good about coming here,” he said. “I was really good in Atlantics and ran well here with Bill in 2006. It comes down to preparation and testing we’ve done. The Dunlop guys have been working really well with us. We’ve rolled out of the truck very fast. I’m personally very excited.”
Hand and Auberlen were GT2 runners-up the last time BMW raced at Road America during the 2006 season. Hand led Flying Lizard Motorsports’ Jörg Bergmeister late before the Porsche pulled away with its power on the long straights. The progression on the M3 motor since then has been significant although the strong point still remains its handling through corners - of which there are 14 at Road America.
“This is a place that has long straightaways but there are corners that lead to those,” Hand said. “If I can be two mph quicker than the competition, then that’s our advantage. We’re strong rolling through the corners and release it through the exit. We’re trying to take advantage of that.”
Bergmeister was the fastest non-BMW and sat third with a lap of 2:07.362. He and Long, winners here in 2005 and 2006, have won five straight races in class and can set a record (six) with a win on Sunday.
Guy Cosmo earned his second straight pole position in the Challenge class with a lap of 2:16.098 for ORBIT Racing. Cosmo, who won at Road America in Star Mazda during the 2002 season, is driving the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry with John Baker.
“It was hairy out there and pretty exciting,” said Cosmo, a former LMP2 winner in the Series and Challenge pole-sitter last week at Mid-Ohio. “I don’t want to say I’m not well-versed with GT cars but when I try to push I’m still used to doing it in a prototype. I got off a little at the Kink but managed not to wad it up. The ORBIT guys did a great job of preparing the car. It’s nice to qualify the car and be fastest again.”
Martin Snow put Snow Racing’s Porsche second on the grid with a lap of 2:17.202 in the car that he will share with wife Melanie. The Snows have won two of three Challenge races this year and as a result hold the championship lead. The final race for the class is in two weeks at Mosport.
Bill Sweedler qualified ORBIT Racing’s second Porsche third in class at 2:18.289. He will drive with Ed Brown.
Road America is by far the fastest circuit on which the Challenge cars have competed. The speed differentials - particularly in the corners - are more drastic than the field has seen.
“Unlike Mid-Ohio and Lime Rock, there is more room for other cars to get around us and still not get in the marbles,” Cosmo said. “We’re looking to stay clean and bring the car home. (The GT2 cars) have more torque but there are some times when I’ll actually have to lift at the end of a straight to keep from running into the back of the GT2 cars. It’s pretty surprising.”
The Time Warner Cable Road Race Showcase is set for 2 p.m. CT on Sunday, August 16 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. 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. Radio coverage also will air live on Sirius Channel 126 and XM Channel 242. You also can follow the Series on Twitter (almsnotes).
The race also will mark the seventh round of the 2009 MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge. Tickets are available at americanlemans.com and roadamerica.com.
2. Scott Sharp, Jupiter, FL; David Brabham, Australia; Acura ARX-02a (P1), 1:49.039, 133.648
3. Butch Leitzinger, State College, PA; Marino
5. Chris Dyson, Pleasant Valley, NY; Guy Smith,
6. Greg Pickett, Alamo, CA; Klaus Graf, Germany; Porsche RS Spyder (P2), 1:51.922, 130.205
7. Bryan Willman, Kirkland, WA; Chris McMurry, Phoenix, AZ; Lola B06/10 AER (P1), 1:53.649, 128.226
8. Clint Field, Dublin, OH; Jon Field, Dublin, OH; Lola B06/10 AER (P1), 1:55.209, 126.490
9. Bill Auberlen, Hermosa Beach, CA; Joey Hand, Sacramento, CA; BMW E92 M3 (GT2), 2:06.950, 114.792
10. Tom Milner, Leesburg, VA; Dirk
14. Bryce Miller,
16. David Murry, Cumming, GA; David Robertson, Ray, MI; Andrea Robertson, Ray, MI; Doran Ford GT MK 7 (GT2), 2:08.188, 113.683
18. Joel Feinberg, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Chris Hall, Daytona, FL; Dodge Viper Comp Coupe (GT2), 2:08.822, 113.124
19. Seth Neiman,
20. John Baker, New York, NY; Guy Cosmo, Long Island, NY; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (C), 2:16.098, 107.076
21. Melanie Snow, Pleasant Grove, UT; Martin Snow, Pleasant Grove, UT; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (C), 2:17.202, 106.214
22. Ed Brown, Las Vegas, NV; Bill Sweedler, Westport, CT; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (C), 2:18.289, 105.379
23. Wesley Hoagland, Tustin, CA; Bob Faieta, Tujunga, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (C), 2:18.970, 104.863
24. Donald Pickering, Reno, NV; Nick Parker, Seattle, WA; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (C), 2:20.554, 103.681
26. Brett Curtis, Valencia, CA; James Sofronas, Newport Beach, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (C), No Time.
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