After a near-miss in last year’s race at Road America, Klaus Graf took pole position Friday for the Time Warner Cable Road Race Showcase. The German driver set a lap of 1:51.828 (130.314 mph) in qualifying for Saturday’s sixth round of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n.
Graf, in Muscle Milk’s Lola-Aston Martin, outpaced Oryx Dyson Racing’s Steven Kane by 0.364 seconds over the famed four-mile layout. Graf will team with Lucas Luhr in Saturday’s four-hour enduro.
“I think we have a good shot at it,” said Graf, who led until the next-to-last turn in the 2010 race driving a Porsche RS Spyder. “We were so close last year, two corners from the end. It's very difficult on the drivers (racing here) and you really have to challenge yourself. I've worked hard with Lucas to get the car setup well.”
Kane’s best lap was a 1:52.192 (129.892 mph) in the Lola-Mazda coupe he will drive with Humaid Al Masaood. Chris Dyson was third at 1:52.401 (129.650 mph) in Dyson Racing’s Lola-Mazda that he will drive with Guy Smith.
Muscle Milk and Dyson Racing are locked in the LMP1 championship with Dyson leading by 22 points. Saturday’s class winners receive 25 points due to the length of the race.
“This race is a bit different with the four-hour duration, so it will be a bit of a different strategy (than a standard two-hour, 45-minute race),” Graf said. “We have to go flat out for 2:45s but this we might have to back off just a bit. You can lose a lot of time coming up on long straights getting out of corners. We just focus on having fun and trying to get the win. We'll see several pit stops and that will be a key part and stay focused for the full four hours.”
Dirk Müller took his second class pole position at Road America in record-breaking fashion with a lap of 2:05.447 (116.167 mph) in the BMW M3 GT that he will share with BMW Team RLL teammate Joey Hand. The German needed every millisecond; Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen was just 0.005 seconds adrift in the Corvette C6.R that he will share with Oliver Gavin.
The BMW M3 GT and Müller/Hand driving combo are seeking a second straight class victory at Road America on Saturday.
“It shows the BMW is a driving machine,” Müller said of the four-mile Wisconsin circuit. “It’s a hell of a track, one of my favorites worldwide. Being European, its very Spa-like, but also a bit of Nordschleife which is the best track in the world in my opinion. The Dunlop tires are really working well here. I hope we can continue our success tomorrow.”
As has been standard, GT qualifying was extremely tight. The top five cars were within 0.932 seconds and featured four auto manufacturers. Toni Vilander qualified third for Risi Competizione at 2:05.687 (115.945 mph). He will drive Risi’s Ferrari F458 Italia with Jaime Melo.
Müller and Hand lead the GT drivers championship, as does BMW Team RLL (team) and Dunlop (tire manufacturer). They won the first three races of the year, and given past performances – along with Friday’s – things are looking up for the team.
“You can’t win all the races,” he said. “We had some tough luck (at Mosport and Mid-Ohio). This is our fifth pole position in a row, which we weren't focusing on after our low point yesterday. We really struggled, but we pulled together as a team.”
Christophe Bouchut set the fastest LMP2 qualifying time in Level 5 Motorsports’ Lola-Honda. The Frenchman set a lap of 1:56.664 (124.913 mph) in the entry he will share with team owner Scott Tucker and Luis Diaz.
Bouchut turned seven laps in the session and improved on each one of them. It was a good showing for the team, based about 90 minutes away in Madison.
“I was pushing very hard and on the limit,” Bouchut said. “If I had to fight I could have gotten the pole position, but I tried to keep pushing as hard as I could nonetheless. I challenged myself. Road America is a really nice track; it's a big one. It's more close to European tracks than all the other American tracks.”
Butch Leitzinger returned to prototype racing in an appropriate way with a last-lap run to pole position in LMP Challenge. Leitzinger turned a lap of 1:59.262 (122.191 mph) for PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports in the ORECA FLM09 that he will drive with Rudy Junco. Leitzinger, a four-time podium finisher in the ALMS at Road America, was 0.095 seconds better than CORE autosport’s Gunnar Jeannette.
“I'm really impressed (with the LMPC cars),” said Leitzinger, who has driven in six different prototype classes in his ALMS career. “I've had friends - Andy Wallace and Luis Diaz - drive them last year. They all talk about how great the chassis is. We pulled the car off the truck and we've been really competitive.
“I'm really impressed with the class,” he added. “No one can get a huge advantage. It comes down to who can work the best as a team and make the least amount of changes.”
Leitzinger’s last race at Road America was a runner-up showing with Dyson Racing in 2009. He was the fastest overall qualifier in 2004 and posted the fastest LMP675 race lap in 2003. That made Friday’s pole run that much more special.
“Being away from Road America for a year is especially difficult,” he admitted. “I watched everyone on the TV last year. The track has such a flavor to it. The fans are great, you see the same people every year.”
In GT Challenge, Sean Edwards scored his first ALMS fastest qualifier in just his second start. The young British ace set a GTC record qualifying lap of 2:14.067 (108.698 mph) in NGT Motorsport’s Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. He was just 0.059 seconds ahead of Jeroen Bleekemolen, who shares the Black Swan Racing Porsche with Tim Pappas. The duo won last year’s race in class.
The Black Swan car was promoted to pole position when it was determined that not all of the NGT drivers participated in at least one official practice session. The rule violation displaces the No. 30 car to the back of the grid.
“Obviously its my first time here,” said Edwards, who leads the Porsche Supercup championship in Europe. “We only had practice on the iRacing game. (The track is) a lot like Spa-Francorchamps. I'm really happy with the pole. I was not expecting that.”
You guessed it… the class featured yet another tight fight. Four cars were within 0.833 seconds, and third-place Spencer Pumpelly was just 0.153 seconds off pole position for TRG.
NGT is the only GTC team that has three drivers entered for the four-hour race. Staying fresh should help the team’s efforts, Edwards said. Plus he continues to adjust to the 911 GT3 Cup, a slightly different car than he drives in Europe.
“The three drivers will be good,” Edwards said. “It won't be so hot. We do have some different dampeners and parts. We have a lot of power and are running about the same speed in the straights as the GTs. But we really have to be hard on the brakes and they should be able to out-do us in the corners.”.
1. Lucas Luhr, Monte Carlo, Monaco; Klaus Graf, Dornham, Germany; AMR/ Lola Coupe B08 62 (LMP1), 1:51.828, 130.314
2. Steven Kane, Newtownards, Ireland; Humaid Al Masaood, Abu Dhabi, UAE; Lola B09/86 Mazda (LMP1), 1:52.192, 129.892
3. Chris Dyson, Pleasant Valley, New York; Guy Smith, Bracken, Yorkshire, UK; Lola B09 86/Mazda (LMP1), 1:52.401, 129.650
4. Tony Burgess, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Chris McMurry, Phoenix, Ariz.; Michael Lewis, San Diego, Calif.; Lola B06/10 (LMP1), 1:56.344, 125.256
5. Scott Tucker, Leawood, Kan.; Christophe Bouchut, Paris, France; Luis Diaz, Mexico City, Mexico; Lola-Honda (LMP2), 1:56.664, 124.913
6. Butch Leitzinger, Rebersburg, Pa.; Rudy Junco Jr., Monterrey, Mexico; Oreca FLM09 (LMPC), 1:59.262, 122.191
7. Gunnar Jeannette, Salt Lake City, Utah; Ricardo Gonzalez, Monterrey, Mexico; Oreca FLM09 (LMPC), 1:59.357, 122.094
8. Anthony Nicolosi, Palm Beach, Fla.; Jarrett Boon, Phoenix, Ariz.; Kyle Marcelli, Barrie, Ontario, Canada; Oreca FLM09 (LMPC), 1:59.379, 122.072
9. Eric Lux, Jacksonville, Fla.; Christian Zugel, Holmdel, New Jersey; Elton Julian, Santa Monica, Calif.; Oreca FLM09 (LMPC), 1:59.400, 122.050
10. Jon Field, Dublin, Ohio; James French, Sheboygan, Wis.; Michael Marsal, Bedford, New York; Oreca FLM09 (LMPC), 2:00.106, 121.333
11. Jon Bennett, Fort Mill, South Carolina; Frankie Montecalvo, Highlands, New Jersey; Oreca FLM09 (LMPC), 2:02.592, 118.872
12. Clint Field, Dublin, Ohio; Chapman Ducote, Miami Beach, Fla.; David Ducote, Houston, Texas; Oreca FLM09 (LMPC), 2:03.727, 117.782
13. Dirk Mueller, Monte Carlo, Monaco; Joey Hand, Sacramento, Calif.; BMW M3 GT (GT), 2:05.447, 116.167
14. Oliver Gavin, Yardley Hastings, UK; Jan Magnussen, Roskilde, Denmark; Chevrolet Corvette C6.R (GT), 2:05.452, 116.162
15. Jaime Melo, Cascavel, Brazil; Toni Vilander, Kankaanpaa, Finland; Ferrari F458 Italia (GT), 2:05.687, 115.945
16. Bill Auberlen, Redondo Beach, Calif.; Dirk Werner, Kissenbruck, Germany; BMW M3 GT (GT), 2:06.245, 115.433
17. Joerg Bergmeister, Langenfield, Germany; Patrick Long, Bellaire, Fla.; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT), 2:06.379, 115.310
18. Olivier Beretta, Monte Carlo, Monaco; Tommy Milner, Leesburg, Va.; Chevrolet Corvette C6.R (GT), 2:06.585, 115.123
19. Scott Sharp, Jupiter, Fla.; Johannes van Overbeek, San Francisco, Calif.; Ferrari F458 Italia (GT), 2:06.730, 114.991
20. Bruno Junqueira, Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Kenny Wilden, Oakville, Ontario, Canada; Jaguar XKR (GT), 2:06.812, 114.917
21. Seth Neiman, San Francisco, Calif.; Marco Holzer, Bavaria, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT), 2:06.838, 114.893
22. Bryan Sellers, Braselton, Ga.; Wolf Henzler, Nuertingen, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT), 2:06.921, 114.818
23. Ed Brown, Las Vegas, Nevada; Guy Cosmo, West Palm Beach, Fla.; Ferrari F458 Italia (GT), 2:06.936, 114.804
24. David Murry, Atlanta, Ga.; Anthony Lazzaro, Atlanta, Ga.; Doran Ford GT (GT), 2:07.861, 113.974
25. Bryce Miller, Summit, New Jersey; Sascha Maassen, Lontzen, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT), 2:10.098, 112.014
26. Andrea Robertson, Ray, Mich.; Melanie Snow, Pleasant Grove, Utah; Doran Ford GT/Elan (GT), 2:11.806, 110.562
27. Sean Edwards, London, England; Carlos Kauffmann, Miami, Fla.; Henrique Cisneros, Miami, Fla.; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (GTC), 2:14.067, 108.698
28. Tim Pappas, Boston, Mass.; Jeroen Bleekemolen, Monte Carlo, Monaco; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (GTC), 2:14.126, 108.650
29. Spencer Pumpelly, Mason Neck, Va.; Duncan Ende, Los Angeles, Calif.; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (GTC), 2:14.220, 108.574
30. Peter Lesaffre, Rye, New Hampshire; Jaap van Lagen, Ede, Netherlands; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (GTC), 2:14.900, 108.027
31. Nick Ham, Evergreen, Colo.; Chris Thompson, Englewood, Colo.; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (GTC), 2:15.239, 107.756