Rain Silences ALMS' Roar By The Shore
An unusual rainy day in southern California washed away qualifying for the Tequila Patr¢n American Le Mans Series at Long Beach. That left Dyson Racing’s Mazda-powered Lola coupe on pole position for Saturday’s second round of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron.
As a result of the inclement weather, championship points set the grid for the Saturday’s two-hour race on the 1.968-mile Long Beach street circuit. Thanks to their P1 victory in the season-opener at Sebring, Guy Smith and Chris Dyson will start on the inside of the front row. Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s Honda Performance Development ARX-03a of Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr will start second.
Smith was the overall pole-winner at Long Beach last year, but Graf and Luhr won the race. Saturday’s race will be a challenge to the extreme; the only group to have any dry track time was the GT Challenge class in its 15-minute qualifying session.
“Obviously the situation is not ideal, but historically Long Beach has been good for the Dyson team and myself,” said Smith, who was second with Dyson behind the Muscle Milk car. “This is a new car so we'd like to have more time to get it ready but I know with our experience we'll be able to still be successful tomorrow. So it should make for a good race. We saw in Sebring the Muscle Milk car is working really well.”
Defending GT champions and Long Beach GT race winners Joey Hand and Dirk Müller will start first in class again at Long Beach. The pair are coming into Long Beach off win in the season opener at Sebring. A light drizzle began falling just as the GT session started with the rain getting progressively worse.
“(The team order) was pretty much go fast at the beginning. But to be honest it was already slippery; we were far off the GTC times,” Müller said. “The main key was not to make a silly mistake and not push too hard and kiss the wall.”
Corvette Racing’s pair of Corvette C6.Rs will start second and third in GT. The car of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia lead the Corvette charge following their runner-up class finish at Sebring behind the BMW.
“I think you're gonna see the same thing as last year, excitement,” Hand said. “This is a unique street race where you can pass here. You don't have to start from the pole to have a shot. The BMW RLR team is always good here. I love this place, this is my favorite venue in all the world. Last year we had a great setup and had great times. Being fast at the end of the race last year bodes well for tomorrow’s race.”
Level 5 Motorsports’ HPD ARX-03b will start first among the P2 runners. Scott Tucker and Christophe Bouchut will team in the Sebring-winning Level 5 entry ahead of Black Swan Racing’s Lola-Honda coupe of Tim Pappas and Jeroen Bleekemolen. Conquest Endurance’s duo of Martin Plowman and David Heinemeier Hansson will start third in class with their Morgan-Nissan.
CORE autosport’s Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel are on the Prototype Challenge pole. Popow, part of CORE’s Sebring-winning trio, is racing at Long Beach for the first time.
“It is a strange feeling to be on pole without even racing on the track,” said Popow, who turned four laps in Friday morning’s wet session. “I'll have to get used to the track tomorrow and learn as I go.”
“It’s strange, I've been here for 10 years now and I've never seen rain,” Dalziel said. “All credit to the organizers and stewards for making the decision. Having the GTCs in the front and prototypes in the back would have been dangerous. We have to do our homework and avoid some of the drivers who are fresh at the race.”
Leh Keen and Cooper MacNeil will start on the GTC pole for Alex Job Racing with their Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. Keen had qualified second in the class behind JDX Racing’s Michael Valiante but the red flag and subsequent cancellation of the entire qualifying session erased the GTC order.
“The car was pretty jerky the first we drove it in the dry,” Keen said. “We had no data from this morning, but we had a lot (in the dry) from last year. I'm excited to get the car out there tomorrow and go for the win. The track will rubber in tomorrow if it stays dry. We know Alex Job always has good setups.”
MacNeil – like Popow – also is racing for the first time at Long Beach.
“I'm hoping for a dry race. Leh did a great job in qualifying,” MacNeil said. “I'm going to try and keep it between the walls, not on the walls. It's not my first time in a street course, so I just want to have a clean race and go for the win.”
The Tequila Patr¢n American Le Mans Series at Long Beach is the second round of the 10-race ALMS championship. ESPN2 will air Saturday’s race live from the world famous Long Beach street circuit just outside Los Angeles starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. The race will be carried simultaneously on ESPN3.
Viewers outside the U.S. can watch races live on ALMS.com. The Series’ website offers additional content such as live in-car cameras, and timing and scoring for all users around the world.
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