David Brabham puts Patron Acura on pole
Brabhamâ€™s lap of 46.696 (115.642 mph) came on his final flying lap around the new 1.51-mile, 10-turn layout as Acura swept the front row with its ARX-01b entries. Brabhamâ€™s second overall pole with Acura came at the expense of Simon Pagenaud, driving de Ferran Motorsportsâ€™ entry with team owner Gil de Ferran. The young Frenchman turned a time of 47.082 (114.694 mph).
As hard as it might be to believe, qualifying at Lime Rock was closer than the previous round of qualifying at Salt Lake City. Friday saw just 0.843 seconds separating the top nine cars.
â€śI told the team Iâ€™m sorry it took so long, but I just wanted to make them sweat it out,â€ť said Brabham, who will drive Saturdayâ€™s race with Scott Sharp. â€śI put together a great lap and finally got one for the team. Itâ€™s nice to do it on what we call our home track. We have more than 200 guests coming this weekend, and itâ€™s great to put on a great show and show them what weâ€™re all about.â€ť
Brabham and Sharp already have a victory to their credit, a thrilling win at the Tequila PatrÂ˘n American Le Mans at Long Beach. The duo also were runners-up in LMP2 at St. Petersburg in just their second race together. With Acuras holding three of the top four qualifying positions, the ARX-01bs are putting more and more pressure on Porsche and Audi for overall race honors.
â€śLast year, there were certain objectives Acura wanted to achieve,â€ť Brabham said. â€śThey got a win early on in their first start and all three cars finished Sebring. Next was a pole which Dario (Franchitti) got and then I got another soon after. They then focused a lot on what the car could do this year. So every time we go out we are still learning and gaining more knowledge. But hats off to Acura and HPD for bringing us a great car last year and the improvements weâ€™ve been making since the start. This is a very serious program so everyone has to be at a very high level. As a driver itâ€™s great to have lots of people around you that are focused on winning.â€ť
The top seven cars were the lighter, more nimble P2 cars that were able to maneuver around Lime Rock more efficiently than the bigger LMP1 entries. Audiâ€™s Emanuele Pirro qualified on the P1 pole in the Audi R10 TDI that he will drive with Dindo Capello. Pirroâ€™s lap of 47.403 (113.917 mph) was 0.136 seconds better than Lucas Luhr in the other diesel-powered Audi. Luhr will drive with Marco Werner, the pairing that leads the class championship and have won the last three LMP1 races.
This week marks Pirroâ€™s first Series race with Capello despite both coming to Audi 15 years ago.
â€śWeâ€™ve been here before and done a lot of rental car sharing, but never a race car,â€ť Pirro said. â€śI have a lot of memories with Frank Biela and those will never fade, but I am really excited to finally drive with Dindo. When we started with Audi together, he was an up-and-comer and I was a little more established. Now he is a very established driver and itâ€™s great to bring the two of us together.â€ť
Audi comes to Lime Rock a month after taking its ninth overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 10 years. Capello won with Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen. But the wide-open length of Le Mans is a stark contrast to the tightness at Lime Rock.
â€śThe surface is very soft, but it is holding up nicely,â€ť Pirro said. â€śThe new chicanes have made the track very hard for us because our cars are not made for such slow changes in direction. They are also so tight that all the cars have to take the same line so it makes it impossible to pass anyone. But for me personally, I am really happy to be here. I was really pleased to come here and get those feelings back and remember why I love driving race cars so much.â€ť
Corvette Racingâ€™s Oliver Gavin took his first career Lime Rock pole position but 15th of his career. Gavinâ€™s lap of 52.792 (102.288 mph) was 0.247 seconds ahead of Jan Magnussen in the sister Corvette C6.R. Lime Rock has been good to Gavin and teammate Olivier Beretta over the years. The duo has won three times in four starts since 2004.
Gavin and Beretta are chasing Magnussen and Johnny Oâ€™Connell for the GT1 championship lead. After four races, Oâ€™Connell and Magnussen led by eight points having won three times to open the season. But Gavin and Beretta have had a habit of coming on strong in the second half. Since 2004, they have recorded 16 victories post-Le Mans, an average of four per season.
â€śUsually we have come off a good result at Le Mans,â€ť said Gavin, who was third in class with Beretta and Max Papis this year. â€śBut we are all ready to put that behind us. We just had some rough luck and a rough run for the first half of the season. Putting that behind us, this is the best way to start.â€ť
Bell Motorsportsâ€™ Aston Martin DBR9, returning to competition for the first time since a crash at St. Petersburg in April, did not qualify after a crash in Fridayâ€™s second practice session.
Werner gave Farnbacher Loles its first pole position in the American Le Mans Series with a lap of 54.154 (99.716 mph) in the teamâ€™s Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Werner will team with Richard Westbrook for the first time this weekend, which already has gotten off to a fantastic start.
The Porsche qualified 0.566 seconds ahead of Risi Competizioneâ€™s Mika Salo in the best of the Ferrari F430 GTs. Salo and Jaime Melo are coming off a class victory at Le Mans with Gianmaria Bruni. Next was Tafel Racingâ€™s lead Ferrari of Dirk Mueller at 54.824 (98.497 mph) in the entry he will drive with Dominik Farnbacher.
â€śI think you like the track anytime you get a good result,â€ť Werner said. â€śThe track has changed even since I drove it before this year. The surface is so smooth and very slippery. Itâ€™s very different from all the other tracks we have driven. It was a bit of guessing on the setup for qualifying. The team did a very good job of preparing the car under these conditions. Iâ€™m very happy that we could prove the performance of the car and the team.â€ť
It has been a tough-luck season so far for Farnbacher Loles, which like PatrÂ˘n Highcroft has its corporate headquarters in nearby Danbury. Werner, Marc Basseng and Bryce Miller were running second at Sebring before crashing just before the halfway mark. Werner and Basseng were third at St. Petersburg, fifth at Long Beach and were excluded after a fourth-place effort at Salt Lake City after the fuel cell was deemed too big.
So maybe a bit of home-cooking is what the team needs. Of course it depends on the traffic and patience of the drivers.
â€śIt will be very difficult to stay out of trouble,â€ť Werner said. â€śThe overtaking opportunities have gotten better, I think, because there are so many hard-braking zones. This will be very difficult for the GT cars and LMP cars to find who has the right to go through first. The prototypes will be very aggressive and it is their race too. You have to have a good car to race to the end and go for a good result. I think there will be a lot of yellows so there wonâ€™t be a need to race very hard.â€ť
The American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix is race is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 12 at Lime Rock Park. SPEED will televise the race from noon to 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 13. XM Satellite Radio will air the event live on XM Sports Nation Channel 144. Additional live coverage from American Le Mans Radio and IMSAâ€™s Live Timing & Scoring also will be available at americanlemans.com.
1. Scott Sharp, Jupiter, FL; David Brabham, Australia; Acura ARX-01B (P2), 46.696, 115.64
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