One last pole for de Ferran
De Ferran announced in August that he is stepping out of the cockpit to focus on strengthening and growing the scope of the team. But there is still one more race to go. He will close his career by teaming with Simon Pagenaud in the four-hour season finale for the American Le Mans Series.
“It's no secret this will be my last race,” de Ferran said. “There is a lot of ‘last this’ and ‘last that’, so there are all kinds of emotions. When you’re strapped in the car, you’re not thinking about ‘This is the last time’; you think about going quicker and keeping your eye on the ball. At times it’s not easy but I have a job to do and that’s to extract the best out of the car.”
He extracted just enough, nipping Brabham by 0.092 seconds in one of the tightest qualifying sessions of the year. Brabham - who qualified at 1:11.298 (113.002 mph) - and teammate Scott Sharp lead the LMP1 championship by 21 points heading into the weekend. Class winners earn 25 points, and the Brabham/Sharp pairing needs to complete 70 percent of the overall winner’s distance Saturday to score points and clinch the title.
Jonny Cocker qualified the Drayson Racing Lola B09/60-Judd third in class and fifth overall at 1:12.745 (110.754 mph).
De Ferran retired from open-wheel competition with a pole position at Texas in 2003. He went on to win the race and would like nothing more to end his sports car career on a similar note.
“I have to admit it was tough. We've been struggling with the handling of the Acura. We've made a lot of changes going one way or going back the other. We had a good setup for qualifying. I still don't think the car is as good as it can be. The car had a bit of an under steer so I was throwing the car into the corners like a go-cart and it was fun. I'm glad we came out with the pole, there were some anxious moments.
“I won my last IndyCar race at Texas in 2003. I was also on pole there; so far I’m keeping my record intact,” he added. “I need to stop thinking in those terms though. This is anybody’s race and we need to execute. I should drive no different. I pride myself for being a rational person and if you're racing for a million dollars or 10 cents you should drive the same way. That’s the way I have to approach it for tomorrow.”
Lowe’s Fernandez Racing’s Luis Diaz qualified first in LMP2 – his fourth class pole of the year – and third overall in the team’s Acura ARX-01b that he will drive with Adrian Fernandez. Diaz’s best lap was a 1:11.310 (112.983 mph) that held the top spot overall for the majority of the session’s first half.
Diaz and Fernandez are seeking their record-tying eighth P2 victory of the season, and they already wrapped up the class driver championship at Mosport in August. Lowe’s Fernandez also clinched the team title two weeks ago at Road Atlanta and Petit Le Mans.
“The car was fantastic. It has been fantastic since the first day,” Diaz said. “It’s a very special weekend for the whole team. We expected to be competitive because the Acura was very competitive here last year. And with a few adjustments and the great Michelin tires, the car was fantastic. I knew Gil was a talented driver so it was nice to be up there for a while, even if it was for a moment.”
Diaz was 0.741 seconds quicker than Dyson Racing’s Butch Leitzinger, who turned in a best lap of 1:12.051 (111.821 mph). Leitzinger will drive the Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupe with Marino Franchitti. The two are the only drivers to beat the Lowe’s Fernandez duo this year. The car also was the class pole-sitter the last three events.
“Our engine and package is hurting us big time on the straights at this track,” Diaz said. “But this track doesn’t have as many straights and we expected to be more competitive. We beat what the computer predicted so we're showing what this team is all about.”
Klaus Graf qualified Team Cytosport’s Porsche RS Spyder third on the P2 grid with a lap of 1:14.492 (108.157 mph). He will drive with team owner Greg Pickett.
Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen won his third consecutive pole position at Mazda Raceway but his first in GT2. The flying Dane posted a lap of 1:23.053 (97.008 mph) in the Corvette C6.R that he is driving with Johnny O’Connell. Magnussen also was the GTS pole-winner in 2003 driving a Ferrari.
The pole also was the first for the GT2 version of the Corvette, which made its race debut in August at Mid-Ohio. Magnussen and O’Connell drove the car to a victory at Mosport in just its third race.
“It’s my favorite race track. I always do well here,” Magnussen said of Mazda Raceway. “Unfortunately I’ve only turned one of those poles into a win. Hopefully we can change that. The car has been fantastic in practice but I didn’t expect to be fighting for pole. Everything worked really well. I kept going faster and faster. The Michelins came in really fast, and I think I only had one lap to back off because traffic was slower.
“I like the layout and way it flows,” he added. “It’s not a high-grip surface. There will be a lot of dust on the track not very far into the race. This is the car with the least amount of downforce that I’ve driven here. You can allow it to get a lot more out of shape and slide it around a lot more than the GT1 cars and the Panoz prototype.”
Pierre Kaffer sat second in GT2 with a lap of 1:23.220 (96.813 mph) for Risi Competizione, two weeks removed from another endurance victory at Road Atlanta and Petit Le Mans. He will drive with Jaime Melo with the Risi squad gunning for its third class win at the circuit in four years. The pairing also is still alive in the GT2 championship, needing at least a runner-up finish to have a chance at overtaking the Flying Lizard duo of Patrick Long and Jörg Bergmeister in their Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Bergmeister qualified fifth Friday.
Oliver Gavin was third in qualifying in the second Corvette entry. He turned a lap of 1:23.283.
ORBIT Racing’s Guy Cosmo won his fourth consecutive pole in the first-year Challenge class. He posted a lap of 1:29.546 (89.974 mph) in the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car that he will drive with John Baker.
“Qualifying was pretty tame and calm the first few laps for us,” Cosmo said. “You figure that those are the ones where our tires will be at their best. But that’s also the time when the GT2 guys are trying to get their laps. So the race will be pretty exciting. The speed difference around here isn’t all the great so that makes it even busier.”
Cosmo outpaced Galen Bieker’s lap of 1:29.844 (89.675 mph) in the P7 Racing that he will share with Robert Rodriquez. Bob Faieta was a further 0.043 seconds back in the Gruppe Orange Porsche that he will drive with Wesley Hoaglund.
A season-high total of eight cars are entered in the class for Saturday’s race
“There are some really fast drivers in this class this week. It will be tough,” Cosmo said. “My margin of lap time was much smaller than it has been previously. It will be a lot for four hours. We’ll make sure John has a really good stint, then I’ll get in and hopefully not look back.”
The final race in the 2009 American Le Mans Series is the four-hour Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. The green flag is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. PT on Saturday, October 10. The race will air on SPEED from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, October 11. Live coverage will be available via American Le Mans Radio presented by Porsche via americanlemans.com, which also will feature Live Timing & Scoring on Racehub. Live coverage also can be heard on Sirius 126 and XM 242. You can follow the Series on Twitter (almsnotes) and on our Facebook page.
The race will also mark the 10th and final round of the 2009 MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge. Tickets are available by calling (800) 327-7322.
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