Guy Smith wins ALMS pole for Dyson
Smith was 0.165 seconds better than Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing’s Klaus Graf in his Lola-Aston Martin coupe.
Smith and Chris Dyson were overall winners at the circuit in 2010, and their Mazda-powered Lola coupe was fastest in three of the first four sessions of the weekend. Last year’s victory was the first for both Smith and Dyson, as well as for tire partner Dunlop and for an ALMS car running on isobutanol.
Through two days, it looks as if the Dyson duo isn’t exactly eager to settle for anything short of a repeat.
“I wish it was that easy,” Smith said. “We struggled quite badly with the setup and we pretty much threw everything at it but the kitchen sink. Qualifying was a wild ride with the car sideways a lot of the time. It was a good lap and I’m very happy with it.”
Smith didn’t post his first flying lap until nearly the halfway point of the 15-minute session. He felt a misfire in the Lola-Mazda on his outlap, but the Dyson squad sorted the issue about five minutes later. It took Smith four laps to post his pole-winning time.
“It’s a real challenge,” Smith said of the circuit. “You go somewhere like Mosport and its high-speed and a challenge in a different way. Here you have times where the car is getting air, time where you have to use the curbs. This is one of those circuits where you can be 23/100s of seconds off but can suck it up and find some time. When you get a good time it’s very rewarding.”
Graf’s best lap was a 1:12.892 (111.518 mph) in the car he drives with Lucas Luhr. Steven Kane qualified third at 1:13.607 (110.435 mph) in the Oryx Dyson Racing Lola-Mazda he drives with Humaid Al Masaood. Smith and Dyson entered Mid-Ohio leading the LMP1 championship over the duo of Graf/Luhr.
“For them, you give nothing. Those guys are so good and they are both great drivers,” Smith said. “It’s a difficult track to pass on so if you lose the lead then it is difficult to recover. You get some GT cars between us and it would be fantastic. But it never works like that. Those guys put up a good fight.”
Just another in GT, right Joey?
“This is a track that puts on one of the best shows of the year,” said Hand, who saw BMW Team RLL’s three-race win streak end at Mosport. “I lived in Cleveland for awhile and have some track knowledge. The talent in our class is so deep. That’s why having pole here is big. You’re definitely throwing down every lap. A proper qualifying lap is where you got to let it all hang out.”
Risi Competizione’s Jaime Melo sat behind the two white M3s in qualifying. Last year’s GT race-winner sat a lap of 1:20.745 (100.672 mph) on Friday in the Ferrari F458 Italia that he shares with Toni Vilander. With so many teams and manufacturers within such a small interval, Hand is more than aware of how “on it” he, Müller and BMW Team RLL need to be in order to get back on the winning track.
“There is a lot of back-and-forth here. It’s right-left-right-left,” Hand said. “Our cars are famous for being agile and stopping well. If you get a car with good balance then you’ll be really good. If you get a car without balance then you’ll struggle. The strength of this team is that everyone works together and brings it. Today we took a car that wasn’t that great out of the trailer and worked on it to where it was comfy for me.”
Gunnar Jeannette earned his second LMP Challenge pole of the year and fourth of his career. He set a lap of 1:17.281 (105.185 mph) in the CORE autosport ORECA FLM09 that he will share with Ricardo Gonzalez. The pairing leads the class championship and led a CORE 1-2 class finish at Mosport.
Kyle Marcelli qualified second for Intersport Racing, just 0.051 seconds back in the ORECA FLM09 that he drives with Tomy Drissi. That gap from first to second was the second-closest on the day, and Jeannette partly attributed it to dirt and debris coming onto the track during the practice and qualifying sessions.
“There was a lot of dirt on the track for those boys who seem to use this Ohio red orange dirt for grip,” Jeannette said. “That made it difficult for us guys whose cars are lower. It’s pretty fun to watch Joey and those guys go sailing over the dirt and say ‘that’s cool’ till the rocks hit you. The track was a bit dirty but we’re on a different tire this year so I think that helped too.”
Jon Field in the second Intersport ORECA FLM09 qualified third at 1:17.670 (104.658 mph). He is driving with son Clint, who led overall last year for the first 81 laps in an LMP1 Lola.
“The competition is steep. Just like GTC its Pro-Am, generally there’s a pro guy and amateur of some level,” Jeannette said. “I’ve got the best driver in the series in Ricardo. He’s raced in Europe and he’s done it all. He’s fantastic, kind of makes my job too easy at times.
“There is going to be a lot of pit strategy,” he added. “We’re pretty tight on our fuel window just like at Mosport. We are probably going to push it on fuel. It’s such a challenge, but it's rewarding when you get it right.”
Spencer Pumpelly took his first ALMS pole position with a lap of 1:26.602 (93.864 mph) for TRG. His Porsche 911 GT3 Cup led a spirited battle with Alex Job Racing’s Leh Keen and Black Swan Racing’s Jeroen Bleekemolen. The top three cars were within 0.139 seconds, with Pumpelly squeezing out a 0.012-second advantage over Keen.
It was a surprising result, Pumpelly said, given he thought his best lap in the afternoon practice was better than his pole-winning lap less than 30 minutes later.
“If you ask Leh or Jeroen, they'll tell you that they were going hard but there was so much dirt on the track,” said Pumpelly, who is driving with Duncan Ende. “I thought Mosport was going to be a cakewalk because we were quick in the practices. Here I didn't think we had a chance because it was 0.4 off practice. I thought it was a good P5 lap but the guys kept saying P1. I told them they had to be wrong.”
TRG is seeking its third straight 1-2 finish in class. Pumpelly and Ende won two weeks ago at Mosport, and Dion von Moltke won with Mike Piera at Lime Rock. It has allowed TRG to move into the lead for the team championship over Black Swan.
“It’s extremely difficult,” Pumpelly said. “You just have to really be in your game. We have a lot of strong guys – some that aren’t always with us, but are really strong.”
The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, August 6 with ESPN2 airing the race starting at 10 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 7. Live video coverage on race day will be available at 3:15 p.m. ET on ESPN3.com in the US, and americanlemans.com for international viewers. Canadian fans may also watch live coverage on Rogers Sportsnet. Worldwide radio coverage will be available on American Le Mans Radio at americanlemans.com. For more information on the broadcasts, go to americanlemans.com/tv.
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