Graf gives Muscle Milk car pole in Mosport
Graf outpaced Dyson Racing’s Chris Dyson – driving the Mazda-powered Lola coupe he will share with Guy Smith – by 0.186 seconds in another incredibly close qualifying battle. Patr¢n Highcroft Racing’s Simon Pagenaud was third in the HPD ARX-01c he will drive with David Brabham at 1:07.228 (131.677 mph).
The top four cars were within 0.526 seconds. Needless to say, the margin for error was razor-thin.
“This is very special to be (on pole),” Graf said following his first career Fast Qualifier honor. “Congrats to all the guys. In any class driving at this place is quite challenging and difficult. In the LMP cars, it’s unbelievable. Some of the corners you go through - it’s like a roller coaster. To put it all together and get a good lap and be overall pole here at Mosport is unbelievable.”
The Muscle Milk squad remains in the thick of the LMP championship despite missing the Mid-Ohio round. Team owner Greg Pickett was injured in a testing crash earlier that week and is out for the rest of the season. Graf and Pickett were winners at Lime Rock, and Timo Bernhard joined Graf with the two finishing second last weekend at Road America.
“It's a fantastic car, not just at this place, but everywhere,” Graf said. “So we are happy right now and we'll get a good sleep tonight, but the big thing will be tomorrow. We had a good pace setup right away. We weren't always happy; we tried a lot of things. We were trying for the sweet spot. We didn't make any big steps this morning, but we did in the second practice. Those things were crucial.”
Given how close race finishes have been the last few weekends, any adjustment the right way is critical. The last two Series races – at Mid-Ohio and Road America – have been nail-biters with a combined winning margin of 0.779 seconds. There have been three finishes of less than a second in overall races and a total of seven finishes of less than two seconds in all classes.
Risi Competizione’s drama-filled day ended on a high thanks to Gianmaria Bruni’s third career GT pole position. The Italian turned a lap of 1:17.160 (114.728 mph) on his third of five laps in the Ferrari F430 GT that he will drive with Toni Vilander. Bruni was to team with full-season partner Jaime Melo but he was pulled from the lineup with a stomach virus Saturday afternoon.
Vilander originally was in a second Risi entry but it was withdrawn following a vicious crash with Pierre Kaffer at the wheel Saturday morning. Kaffer went hard into the outside wall between turns 1 and 2 with heavy impact on the front end. He was transported to a local hospital but released a few hours later. Because Vilander was moved to Bruni’s car following the first practice, the car will start Sunday’s race from the back of the field.
“Wherever we finish – first, second or third – it will come from a clean good race,” said Bruni, the pole-winner at Utah. “Right now I’m not thinking points or championships. I'm just thinking how I can get by all the cars tomorrow. We'll see how it ends up tomorrow and see how it goes.”
“When the accident happened this morning, although I was fast I was not on the limit,” Kaffer said. “Everything was under control. At the exit from the corner which enters the little short straight between Turns 1 and 2, the rear floor of the car hit the ground and the car got upset and snapped into the barriers. It was quite harsh and very sudden. I didn’t expect it at that point as the car was really good as our lap times would have showed.”
Bruni’s best qualifying lap was 0.301 seconds better than Flying Lizard Motorsports’ Jörg Bergmeister in the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR he will drive with Patrick Long. He turned a lap of 1:17.461 (114.282 mph) in the class championship-leading Porsche. Four manufacturers and five entrants filled the top-five with BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team’s Tommy Milner third at 1:17.491 (114.238 mph). Those two cars will start on the front row in class.
As has been the case all year, more than half the field were bunched insanely close. Only 0.681 seconds separated the top-seven in GT. The championship standings reflect the class’ competitiveness. Risi is third in the team standings and only 14 points behind Flying Lizard.
“We are fighting for the championship with the (Flying Lizard) Porsche so we made the change to keep going,” said Bruni, a runner-up in class in 2007 at Mosport. “I enjoy this track here. It’s more of a driver track than any parts of America. You have to have a good car and a good setup more than anything. It's a great job for the team; they’ve worked so hard this weekend.”
In LMP Challenge, Luis Diaz claimed his second straight class pole with a lap of 1:11.455 (123.888 mph). He will make his third start with Ricardo Gonzalez in PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports’ ORECA FLM09.
Diaz was 0.558 seconds clear of Genoa Racing’s Frankie Montecalvo, who put in an impressive effort for 1:12.013 (122.928 mph).
“For us it’s been a dream really. Ricardo and I fit perfectly in this team,” Diaz said. “The car has been fantastic since we got here Wednesday. It was kind of weird but boring. I didn't know what to ask the engineers. To have the pole is nice, we love it. But Mosport is Mosport. The race is going to be very, very tough tomorrow. We know we have the speed but it will come with strategy too.”
The Mexican star won the LMP2 class last year at Mosport and shared the Series’ class championship with Adrian Fernandez. So he has some prototype experience and data to share.
“Basically in the P2, we had a lot more downforce through turns 1 and 2, and in Turn 8 we were flat out,” Diaz said. “It’s really a pleasure with the LMPC because you have to really think about corners and braking and driving the car. I remember last year when I was driving I told Adrian, ‘You will get to drive lots tomorrow. This is too dangerous!’ But the LMPC is perfect for this track. It’s just a great challenge to keep it fun but advanced too. “
Gunnar Jeannette qualified third at 1:12.073 (122.825 mph) in the Green Earth Team Gunnar entry he will drive with Elton Julian. The top four cars in the class were within 0.805 seconds.
Bryce Miller broke Jeroen Bleekemolen’s stranglehold on GT Challenge pole positions with his first career Fast Qualifier in the ORBIT/Paul Miller Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry. The young American set a lap of 1:22.495 (107.308 mph) in the car he will share with Luke Hines, good enough for a 0.103-second gap back to Bleekemolen in the Black Swan Racing entry.
“I really enjoy this circuit. It’s a great circuit with a lot of character,” said Miller, a GT2 race-winner with Farnbacher Loles Racing at Road America in 2008. “It's exciting to be in the qualifying position at this track and pull a great lap here. It can be an unforgiving track. It’s great for the team; the car has been technically sound but we just really had the luck come our way.”
Bleekemolen, who posted a lap of 1:22.598 (107.175 mph) and Tim Pappas lead the class championship after four wins in five races. But Miller has been one of the few drivers in class to match the speed of Bleekemolen. Like Risi in GT, the ORBIT squad had to overcome a little weekend drama of its own; the Porsche’s engine let go early in Friday’s test session.
Shane Lewis was next in class for Velox Motorsports at 1:22.911 (106.770 mph). He will drive with Lawson Aschenbach, the duo seeking Velox’s third podium finish in four races.
Miller has raced a variety of cars at Mosport, and his father Paul was a Trans-Am winner at the circuit in 1985. So the younger Miller knows Mosport’s risks and rewards.
“It’s incredible to look at the data and realize the speed you’re carrying around here. All the corners are really fast, which is a strength for me. I like fast corners. It's really exciting, the laps really count a lot here because the track can be unforgiving. You have to have a lot of confidence here. Hopefully I can also finish up with a result.”
Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport is set for 3:05 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 29 from Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. SPEED will air the race in its entirety starting at 4 p.m. ET with live radio coverage 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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