Cocker puts Drayson Lola on pole in Mid-Ohio
In doing so, Cocker became the sixth driver to qualify on pole position in as many races this year. He will drive Drayson’s Lola B09/60-Judd with team owner Paul Drayson. All it took was a deal between Cocker and engineer Graham Moore.
“I asked my engineer very nicely for a clean screen for qualifying and he said he would remove the tear-off if I got pole,” Cocker explained. “So I got what I wanted and so did he!”
Cocker made extra-good on his end of the bargain with the three fastest qualifying laps. He was 0.932 seconds quicker than Chris Dyson in Dyson Racing’s Mazda-powered Lola coupe that he will share with Guy Smith. Patr¢n Highcroft Racing’s Simon Pagenaud – the overall winner last year at Mid-Ohio with Gil de Ferran – qualified third Friday at 1:11.360. He will split time in the team’s HPD ARX-01c with championship co-leader David Brabham.
The Drayson Lola-Judd has led significant portions of the last two races – Utah and Lime Rock – in its first full season of competition.
“It’s been plain to see that Drayson Racing has been making big improvements every time out,” Cocker said. “We’ve had our issues throughout the year but have been consistently fast. We were fastest in both practices and quickest in qualifying is a fantastic result. I’d like to take a little bit of credit myself! Just kidding but we have made some adjustments and it’s showing.”
Now the trick will be managing the traffic in Saturday’s race that will feature the largest grid for a Series race at Mid-Ohio: 33 cars. Cocker and Drayson raced at Mid-Ohio two years ago in an Aston Martin GT2 car, and that gives some valuable and additional insight into what the slower cars may do when the LMPs come flying toward them.
“You have to work together with the other classes,” he said. “I have experience in the GT class and can appreciate what the GT cars are facing. You need to push but at the same time be safe every lap. There are a lot of cars in the championship and it’s a bit tight in pitlane. We found that out at Long Beach. Certainly that aspect is something we are aware of.”
Level 5 Motorsports’ Christophe Bouchut took his third LMP Challenge pole of the season and second consecutive. His lap of 1:15.906 (107.090 mph) in the ORECA FLM09 that he will drive with team owner Scott Tucker was just enough to squeeze past PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports’ Luis Diaz.
Bouchut was 0.235 seconds better than last year’s LMP2 race-winner in a session that saw the top four cars swap the fastest lap 10 times in 20 minutes. Diaz’s best lap was a 1:16.141 (106.760 mph) pass in the car that he will share with Ricardo Gonzalez. The duo is making its first start in the class.
“It is a nice feeling again to be on pole position,” Bouchut said. The car is running very well today and thanks to Level 5 for the hard work. After what happened at Lime Rock, I have to come back with a winning attitude.”
“What happened” was a crash during the race-day warm-up that cracked the ORECA’s tub, and Bouchut didn’t make the race. He came back with vengeance Friday. It’s a good thing because the top four cars were within 0.667 seconds of each other. Intersport Racing’s Kyle Marcelli qualified third in class at 1:16.681 (106.180 mph). He will drive with Brian Wong.
As will be the case with the faster LMP cars, the LMPC field also will have to manage the massive amounts of traffic.
“The traffic in the US is very hard to predict,” the former Le Mans 24 Hours winner said. “I’ve driven in many different classes and know that is very hard for everyone. It’s very difficult for us to overtake and that is a challenge at each circuit. It’s important not to make mistakes when you try to overtake.”
In GT, Toni Vilander nabbed his second career Series pole position with a 1:19.682 to lead a Risi Competizione sweep of the class front row. The Finnish star, driving one of the red Ferrari F430 GTs with Giancarlo Fisichella, was just 0.077 seconds quicker than Gianmaria Bruni in the sister Ferrari. Bruni will drive with Jaime Melo.
Vilander’s first pole in the Series came at Lime Rock in 2006. This is his first race at Mid-Ohio.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect here because it is completely new to me,” Vilander said. “We are relying on Risi’s experience with Jaime and Gimmi. We had their data and it helped in qualifying. It’s going to be a big battle with the traffic with some yellows I’m sure.”
Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin qualified third in class with a 1:20.019 lap. He will drive the first of the team’s two Corvette C6.Rs with Olivier Beretta. Corvette debuted the GT2 version of the C6.R a year ago at Mid-Ohio.
As has been the case all year, the spread in the class is nearly microscopic. The top eight cars were within 0.930 seconds of each other. The group consisted of four manufacturers and five entrants. So it’s even more amazing that Vilander was on top of the timing page in GT. Staying there throughout the race will be more difficult given the traffic and four classes.
“We started the weekend with similar setups on both cars, then Giancarlo and I would take turns making small changes to the setup,” Vilander said. “From then you can compare those to previous race data. Having the other car with experience is a tremendous advantage. We can overtake the slower cars at Turn 1 and Turn 2 but after that it is very difficult. So you have to be patient. Traffic in pitlane is another area where I don’t have much experience. Races can be decided in the pits too. You have to be smart everywhere.”
Black Swan Racing’s Jeroen Bleekemolen qualified on the GT Challenge pole for the fourth consecutive race with a lap of 1:24.954 (95.685 mph) in the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry that he will drive with team owner Tim Pappas. The pairing won at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Utah before finishing second two weeks ago at Lime Rock Park.
They stand third in the class championship, trailing TRG’s Andy Lally and Henri Richard by 11 points. Class winners receive 20 points this weekend.
“We missed the first race, and the second race we were still fighting it a bit,” said Bleekemolen, a two-time champion of the Porsche Supercup series and LMP2 winner for Porsche at the Le Mans 24 Hours. “We were on pole at Long Beach but had it taken away but now we’re on it. When I go out, the balance of the car is already there and we only have to make small changes. This is a very nice track, and people said it was going to be one of the very best road courses we have and I agree. We will be overtaken a lot so it stands to be a very busy day tomorrow.”
Bleekemolen was 0.306 seconds quicker than Bryce Miller for ORBIT Racing. The young American is driving with Luke Hines; the Black Swan and ORBIT entries have been neck-and-neck in every session so far this week.
James Sofronas qualified third for GMG Racing in the entry he will share with Bret Curtis. His best lap was a 1:25.729 (94.820 mph), just 0.775 seconds behind Bleekemolen.
“One thing that is nice here is that we can change shocks and springs more than you could do in Supercup in Europe,” Bleekemolen said. “It’s quite different to jump from Supercup to here. You can work much more on the car and that is what we have done here. You can make adjustments and improve and improve.”
This year’s Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge – Round 6 of the 2010 championship – is set for 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, August 7. Live race and video will be streamed online at americanlemans.com – race coverage will start at 2:10 p.m. ET on Saturday. 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. The race will be broadcast at 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 15 on CBS Sports. 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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