Detroit: Brabham puts Highcroft Acura on pole
Brabham put in a quick lap of 1:13.483 (101.411 mph) in the Patr¢n Highcroft Acura ARX-01b. He and Scott Sharp will start first overall for the first time since Lime Rock Park, where the duo captured the first overall victory for Acura.
“This tops it off today with the P1 announcement,” Brabham said. “For me personally, it’s the first time in a long time that I’ve had a package like this with the sort of people we are working with. That inspires you to dig deeper and go around quicker. Scott is doing a fantastic job every time he gets in the car. The whole chemistry is working well together.”
Brabham went 0.177 seconds faster than Simon Pagenaud in the de Ferran Motorsports Acura. The quickest Porsche was Guy Smith in Dyson Racing’s No. 16 entry at 1:14.209 (100.419 mph). Many teams were unsure of the proper setup after rain pelted the circuit in the morning and afternoon practice sessions. The circuit dried out in the racing line for qualifying with all teams qualifying on slick tires.
The Sharp-Brabham pairing has won three of the last four rounds in LMP2 including the last two races at Road America and a week ago at Mosport. Sharp and Brabham finished second in P2 at St. Petersburg and won in class at Long Beach, both street circuits.
They trail Penske Racing’s Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas by just 10 points in the class drivers championship chase with three rounds (and 75 points) to go.
“We were fast at Long Beach and fast at St. Petersburg,” Brabham said. “There has been a lot of progress since then and I was confident coming in here that we had a fast car. We’ve got a strong package, and our goal is to win the next three races and snatch the championship from Penske.”
Lucas Luhr earned another class pole position for Audi Sport North America with a lap of 1:15.879. He qualified the Audi that he will share with Marco Werner eighth overall and 2.396 seconds behind Brabham. The second Audi of Emanuele Pirro and Marcel Fässler was another 0.44 seconds back.
“It’s really tough here for us and we really didn’t have the best opportunity in qualifying,” said Luhr, who is driving with Marco Werner. “I didn’t take 100 percent of what the car has in it. It’s very tough for us here. The layout is not so bad here. What hurts us are the bumps because of our weight. We could have been a little closer but it’s an impressive gap to the Acura.”
Werner and Luhr have been on a tear in P1 with seven consecutive class victories starting at St. Petersburg. They won overall there and at Long Beach, where they started sixth overall. Luhr himself has won eight times in nine starts in Series street events. And with a 66-point championship lead, there isn’t really a need to push for more points. Then again, that probably won’t matter when the green flag drops.
“A big benefit for us was Michelin bringing the new street soft tires for this year,” Luhr said of the Audi’s street success. “We are a lot slower since last year so I think it says we did not use the whole potential. We just need to go forward. We didn’t have a lot of bite under braking. I was struggling to slow the car down. That’s not a good feeling. Normally I don’t have a problem with that. I like street circuits a lot. We just have to do some work.”
Jan Magnussen took the GT1 pole position at Detroit for the second straight season in his Corvette C6.R. Corvette Racing’s title contender qualified at 1:24.351 to beat out the sister car of Oliver Gavin by 1.024 seconds. Magnussen and Johnny O’Connell are the defending class winners at Detroit and also lead the class championship standings.
“I think it’s a good omen,” Magnussen said. “Last year we had an excellent race, staring from pole and built a good gap to the other car. We caught a break with the safety car and gained nearly a whole lap. I don’t think we’ll get that lucky again this year.”
Entering the weekend, they have won seven times in eight rounds and haven’t lost since St. Petersburg at the end of March. Magnussen’s last pole position was another street race - Long Beach in mid-April. He and O’Connell started their current six-race class win streak that weekend.
Terry Borcheller qualified the Bell Motorsports Aston Martin DBR9 third in GT1 at 1:26.676.
“We’re still not as fast we were last year,” Magnussen said, “and we’re not as fast as we should be. Because of the very few laps we’ve done, we’re forced to use the setup from last year. Last year the car was great and we hope it is just as good last year.”
Flying Lizard Motorsports’ Wolf Henzler took his first GT2 pole position since winning the Utah Grand Prix in May at Miller Motorsports Park. Saturday’s lap was a 1:24.941 in his Porsche 911 GT3 RSR that outpaced Risi Competizione’s Jaime Melo by a mere 0.037 seconds.
“I didn’t drive a lot here last year,” said Henzler, who drove a Tafel Racing Porsche in 2007. “We had an accident in the first practice and again in the race so I didn’t have much experience. Then it rained this morning and this afternoon so I didn’t get much experience in the dry. The team found the right setup and that was good enough for pole position though.”
Despite the slim gap Friday, it wasn’t the closest battle between Henzler and Melo. Henzler’s pole time at Utah was exactly the same as Melo but the Porsche was awarded the top spot because Henzler posted his time first.
Henzler and Jörg Bergmeister have won three times in class this season and own a 10-point championship lead over Tafel Racing’s Dirk Mueller and Dominik Farnbacher. Mueller qualified third in class at 1:25.270 in the Tafel Ferrari F430 GT.
“It’s good to be ahead and it shows that it is good competition between us and the Ferrari teams,” Henzler said. “When you lead the championship and you start first on a track like this. It’s not easy to overtake here. Hopefully it will be like this tomorrow.”
The Detroit Sports Car Challenge presented by Bosch from Belle Isle is scheduled for 2:35 p.m. ET on Saturday, August 30. SPEED will broadcast the race live, and XM will air it from 5 to 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 31. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage of all on-track sessions at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA’s Live Timing & Scoring.
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