Guy Smith puts Mazda on pole at Mazda Raceway
It also is the first pole position for isobutanol, which is powering the Lola-Mazda coupe that Smith will drive in Saturday’s six-hour race with Chris Dyson and Andy Meyrick. Smith was quickest in Friday’s two practice sessions as the Dyson squad captured its first overall pole position since Butch Leitzinger’s FQ at Portland in 2006. This also marked the first overall pole position for Dunlop in the Series.
Three manufacturers filled the top three spots in LMP qualifying. After Graf – who will drive Muscle Milk’s Porsche RS Spyder with Sascha Maassen and Memo Gidley – was Intersport Racing’s Clint Field with a 1:15.208 (107.127 mph). He will drive Intersport’s Lola B06/10-AER with father Jon and Nikolas Konstant.
Dyson Racing hadn’t been on pole position at Mazda Raceway since 2003. Coincidentally, that was also the last time the team won at the circuit. While a lot can happen in six hours, Smith is hoping it doesn’t.
“Tomorrow, we are looking for a very boring race. We want to just drive around, drive our own race, not make any mistakes,” he said. “The Dunlop tires are really good. We've never run them here; it was a bit of the unknown. We knew they'd be good, but they have exceeded my expectations. Dunlop worked hard in the winter, and worked hard with the Europeans. It's great to show we can battle with the Michelins and the Yokohamas. It's really good competition.”
Jaime Melo took pole in GT for Risi Competizione and Ferrari, just as he did at Mazda Raceway in 2007. His best lap of 1:22.752 (97.361 mph) in the Ferrari F430 GT that he will drive with Gianmaria Bruni was 0.315 seconds quicker than Johannes van Overbeek in the first of Extreme Speed Motorsports’ Ferraris.
“I didn’t expect to be that fast, to be honest,” Melo said. “We were struggling with under steer in the practices and we tried many things and got it right just at the end. We have always been close to pole here, but only managed to get it once before so it feels good to get it today.”
Corvettes swept the second row in class, led by Oliver Gavin’s lap of 1:23.482 (96.952 mph) in the Corvette C6.R he will drive with Olivier Beretta. The top eight were within 0.732 seconds, another tight battle in the Series’ toughest class.
Melo and Bruni are the class championship co-leaders with the Flying Lizard Motorsports duo of Patrick Long and Jörg Bergmeister. Their Porsche 911 GT3 RSR qualified eighth. With the extended length of the race, an additional five points are up for grabs in the race; the next bonus race is the season-ending Petit Le Mans in October.
“We want to be in good shape and consistent for the race,” Melo said. “I did the maximum for sure. You don’t think too much. You focus on your racing line and don’t make any mistakes.”
Johnny Mowlem won his first American Le Mans Series pole with the fastest lap in LMPC Challenge. He drove PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports’ ORECA FLM09 to a lap of 1:17.800 (103.558 mph) and a scant 0.171-second advantage over Gunnar Jeannette in G-Oil’s Green Earth Team Gunnar entry.
The PR1/Mathiasen team debuted in the Series at the previous round at Long Beach. Mowlem crashed the car in qualifying, and the team completed just three laps before retiring in the race. Friday was a complete reversal.
“I'm delighted to deliver for the team,” said Mowlem, who is teaming with Tom Papadopoulous and Ryan Lewis. “I messed up for them at Long Beach and went from a hero to a zero. The team did a great job of putting everything back together this weekend to give us a great job this race.”
As was the case in GT, qualifying in LMPC was just as close with the fastest four cars with 0.456 seconds. Christophe Bouchut was third in class at 1:18.212 (103.012 mph) for Level 5 Motorsports. He and Scott Tucker are tied in the championship with Jeannette and Elton Julian.
“The car felt very nicely balanced. I think on the old tires it does better than on newer tires,” Mowlem said. “As you push more the tires can begin to grip and I think that's what brought in the time for the pole.”
Black Swan Racing captured its first Series pole position thanks to Jeroen Bleekemolen’s lap of 1:26.934 (92.677 mph). He will drive BSR’s Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry with brother Sebastiaan and team owner Tim Pappas. Jeroen Bleekemolen bested Alex Job Racing’s Butch Leitzinger by 0.669 seconds.
“We had the free practices earlier with some small problems and I didn’t do many laps,” said Bleekemolen, who set foot at Mazda Raceway for the first time this weekend. “I did 20-25 minutes of the last practice and got some time in the car. Then everything went right in qualifying.”
The former Porsche Supercup champion and LMP2 winner for Porsche at the Le Mans 24 Hours is taken with the circuit.
“The Corkscrew is a lot of fun. The elevation is so high that you feel it in your stomach. We don’t have anything like this in Europe. But right now we think of it as another race track.
Andy Lally qualified third for TRG at 1:27.797 (91.766 mph). He will drive with Rene Villeneuve and Henri Richard.
The American Le Mans Series Monterey presented by Patr¢n from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is a six-hour endurance race set for 2:30 p.m. PT on Saturday, May 22. The full race will be streamed live online at americanlemans.com starting at 5:30 p.m. ET in partnership with TodoCast.tv. CBS Sports will broadcast the event from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 29. Live radio coverage will be available on American Le Mans Radio presented by Porsche – a production of Radio Show Limited – as well as Sirius Channel 127 and XM Channel 242. Visit the Series’ schedule page for ticket and accommodation information. Live Timing and Scoring, track schedule, entry list and much, much more will be available on Racehub at americanlemans.com.
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