Pagenaud snares pole in Utah
Pagenaud, who won the race last year with Gil de Ferran, outpaced Drayson Racingâ€™s Jonny Cocker and his Lola B09/60-Judd coupe by 0.536 seconds. In last yearâ€™s race, Pagenaud won the race, pole position and set the fastest race lap.
Yep, he likes it here.
â€śItâ€™s great to be back. This is a very beautiful track,â€ť said Pagenaud, who shares the LMP championship lead with teammate Brabham after victories in the last two races. â€śI just love how the car reacts here in the high-speed corners and the chicane. I love pretty much everything about this track. I don't know why I am so quick here.â€ť
It ultimately doesnâ€™t matter as long as it keeps up. The pole position may have come as a bit of surprise as the high altitude at Miller Motorsports Park puts the normally aspirated cars such as the PatrÂ˘n Highcroft HPD ARX-01c at a slight disadvantage compared to the turbo-powered prototypes. The lack of pressure means air canâ€™t be forced as quickly into the engine of the non-turbo cars.
But thatâ€™s why they hold qualifying, as the saying goes. Despite the slight disadvantage, non-turbo cars qualified first, second and fourth on the grid with turbos third and fifth.
After the Drayson Lola which Cocker will share with 2006 overall race-winner Emanuele Pirro, Dyson Racingâ€™s Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupe was third fastest thanks to Chris Dysonâ€™s lap of 1:34.909 (115.614 mph). He will drive with Guy Smith.
â€śWe tried to run a no-downforce setup to keep up with the Dysonâ€™s top speed,â€ť Pagenaud said. â€śWe are usually so quick in the corners and we had to give some of that up. In just a few hours, we've made such a big improvement. Hats of to the team, we showed up with a completely different package and had to adjust.
â€śWe won't be P1 in the corner at the start, I can tell you that right now,â€ť he added. â€śBut weâ€™ll spend the least amount of time in the pits and rely on our team, crew and David to keep going quicker and quicker. Our strategy and fuel saving will be the key because the start will be dramatic.â€ť
GETG and Level 5 sit 1-2 in the class championship with Level 5 winning two races to GETGâ€™s one. But Jeannette leads the class with two pole positions.
â€śThis is fantastic. If I could pick two tracks I wanted to be on pole it would be Sebring and here,â€ť Jeannette said. â€śThis is my backyard so Iâ€™m ecstatic to be on pole. So far so good!â€ť
Jeannette has been the quickest driver in class in all four sessions so far â€“ Fridayâ€™s test, and Saturdayâ€™s two practices and qualifying. He said his familiarity with the circuit certainly didnâ€™t hurt, especially as the LMPC cars are racing at Utah for the first time.
â€śWe've been struggling for grip all weekend,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s really tricky in a prototype; you sit very low and even with just a bit of elevation changes itâ€™s kind of hard to see. On such a race thatâ€™s only two hours, 45 minutes, the farther up you are the better off you'll be. Some of the sections are tough to get by the GTs or GTCs because our top speeds are so similar. So if we donâ€™t get a good run on them, it's very difficult.â€ť
Alex Figge qualified third in the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry that he will drive with Max Hyatt. The carâ€™s best lap was a 1:43.115 (106.413 mph).
â€śThis track is very, very good,â€ť said Bruni, who has never raced at MMP before. â€śI started driving here last week with the two days testing. I'm really comfortable with the track. We've been really good from yesterday to qualifying. It was a mess getting caught with some GTCs, but you wait and you can get the good clear road. I was hoping for more of a gap but for sure it will make for a really good race tomorrow.â€ť
Especially if the race pace is as close as the qualifying pace. The top eight cars in class were within 0.883 seconds, quite remarkable given the expansive circuit layout.
â€śFerrari brought me here with Jamie to battle with all of the other manufacturers,â€ť Bruni said. â€ś We're fighting against all the other cars and putting in a lot of effort. If you win, you win. If you lose, you learn how to improve. Itâ€™s the best drivers, best teams and best manufactures. Iâ€™m so happy to be here.â€ť
All four of the Ferraris are running on cellulosic E85 for the first time this weekend. In all, the top eight cars were all running on the biofuel.
In GT Challenge, Jeroen Bleekemolen earned his second straight pole position in class with a lap of 1:54.641 (95.714 mph) in Black Swan Racingâ€™s Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. Bleekemolen and team owner Tim Pappas led for the entire six-hour round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the Seriesâ€™ last race.
â€śItâ€™s all about learning new tracks since they are all new to me,â€ť Bleekemolen said. â€śWe struggled a bit. The other cars did a two-day test here but it was really good. I can't complain. This place is really nice, very fast. There is a lot of room for errors which makes you push really hard but you can get away with it.â€ť
Bleekemolen, a former Porsche Supercup champion and LMP2 champion at the Le Mans 24 Hours, was only 0.312 seconds better than Orbit Racingâ€™s Bryce Miller who was quickest in Saturday morningâ€™s practice and Fridayâ€™s test session. Alex Job Racingâ€™s Luis Diaz was only 0.001 seconds behind Miller. Much like in GT, the gap between the top cars was small. Only 0.975 seconds separated the eight fastest cars.
â€śA few mistakes can cost you two- or three-tenths with our cars,â€ť he said. â€śYou have to be focused the whole time. By not making mistakes is what gives you the best time.â€ť
The American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila PatrÂ˘n field is ready to kick off the summer stint with the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park. The two-hour, 45-minute race will begin at 2:35 p.m. MT on Sunday, July 11, with coverage beginning on SPEED at 4:30 p.m. ET. Live radio coverage will be available on American Le Mans Radio presented by Porsche â€“ a production of Radio Show Limited â€“ as well as Sirius Channel 127 and XM Channel 242. Visit the Seriesâ€™ 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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