Briscoe gives Penske team ALMS pole If Ryan Briscoe felt any pressure Friday under the watchful eye of Roger Penske, he didn’t show it. The young Aussie captured his first pole in the American Le Mans Series as Penske Motorsports swept the front row in qualifying for the Detroit Sports Car Challenge presented by Bosch. Briscoe turned in a stellar time of 1:13.357 in the Porsche RS Spyder he will share with Sascha Maassen.
The Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix weekend is the creation of Penske, who has brought auto racing back to Detroit and revitalized Belle Isle. Briscoe showed his appreciation with a lap time that was 0.246 seconds ahead of Timo Bernhard in the other Penske Porsche. The factory entries are on a seven-race overall winning streak in the American Le Mans Series.
“It’s great racing for Roger every race whether it’s his own track or anywhere else, especially when he is on the pit stand watching every move,” said Briscoe, who has three LMP2 victories this year - two of which have been overall wins. “We have to go out there and do what we have been doing at the other races this year: make no mistakes and stay out of trouble.”
Penske Motorsports already has clinched the P2 team championship thanks to a win Sunday at Mosport by Bernhard and Romain Dumas. Next up is clinching the manufacturer crown for Porsche, which the German marque can do with a class victory.
The first-year Acura program will provide a stern challenge as evidenced by Friday’s qualifying. Bryan Herta put Andretti Green Racing’s Acura ARX third overall, just 0.411 seconds behind Briscoe. In all, the first five cars were within 0.653 seconds of each other and the first six cars were the lighter, more nimble P2s.
“These are some of the most amazing cars to drive in the corners. They are fantastic,” Briscoe said. “We have to make clean pit stops and have good driver exchanges. It will be good starting from the front row. We need to find a rhythm. Our car has been good over the duration and on used tires. It’s a matter of getting away cleanly and having a good race.”
The best of the LMP1 cars was Audi Sport North America’s No. 1 Audi R10 TDI of Allan McNish and Dindo Capello. McNish qualified the car first in P1 but seventh overall at 1:15.320, which was 1.7 seconds quicker than his best time from the first two practice sessions.
McNish outqualified Marco Werner in the sister diesel-powered Audi. Werner’s time was 1:15.370 in the No. 2 car he will share with Emanuele Pirro.
“The LMP2s are very fast on this type of circuit,” McNish said. “It’s nothing having to do with one team or the other. They are just very quick here. We knew before we got here how things will go. I don’t think we’ll have much of a chance for an overall win.”
That is something Audi hasn’t had in the Series since St. Petersburg in late March. After starting its Series career with nine straight overall wins, with two crowns at the last two editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Audi is in the unfamiliar position of trying to play catch-up. The tight quarters of a street circuit don’t help much, McNish said. But with a heavier car, the Audis are more capable of winning a battle of attrition.
“It’s a case of survival of the fittest,” McNish said. “The P2 cars are pretty much quicker everywhere. Where we gain time is at the end of the straights, which are pretty short. We don’t gain much on the frontstretch but we do in the last few hundred yards on the backstretch. But then there still is a difference of two seconds.”
Jan Magnussen returned to Belle Isle for the first time in eight years and put Corvette Racing’s No. 3 Corvette C6.R on the GT1 pole for the second time this season. The Dane turned a lap of 1:21.057 to edge out teammate Olivier Beretta by 0.332 seconds.
“I’ve always been a fan of street circuits,” said Magnussen, who will drive with Johnny O’Connell. “We have been a little bit behind the other car this year. The track suits both me and Johnny. We didn’t have much time to learn the track so you just had to go out and do it.”
Magnussen and O’Connell are coming off a class win at Mosport and will shoot for their third win of the season Saturday. Their first win this year came on the street circuit at Houston, and he also won the Washington DC street circuit in 2002 with Panoz Motor Sports. He also was second at Miami in 2003 in GTS and turned in the fastest race lap. In the 1999 CART race, he finished 18th at Belle Isle.
“A lot of stuff has changed,” Magnussen said. “The track is different. There are some areas that haven’t changed. The Champ Car was a little rough over the bumps and the Corvette is more stable.”
Gianmaria Bruni captured his first career Series pole in only his fourth race as he led a GT2 front-row sweep for Risi Competizione. Bruni turned in a time of 1:24.586 in the No. 61 Ferrari F430 GT he will share with Eric Helary and qualified 0.015 seconds ahead of teammate Mika Salo in the No. 62 Risi entry.
“It was a very good qualifying session. We had a very good car,” said Bruni, a former Formula 1 pilot with Minardi. “Since the first practice session I was able to be (first) and in the qualifying session I was able to go faster. For me it is my first street circuit with the Ferrari but it doesn’t feel like a street circuit. It’s a fantastic facility and has a feel like Montreal - very well organized.”
The Risi Ferraris swept the GT2 front row at Mosport and went on to finish first and second in the race. Ferraris held the top three qualifying positions with Dirk Muller in the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing entry third Friday at 1:25.030. The fastest Porsche was Flying Lizard Motorsports’ No. 44 car of Patrick Long.
“The team has been very good,” said Bruni, who will be racing in his final Series race of the season Saturday. “I’m very pleased for the Risi team after a 1-2 finish at Mosport. It will be a fun race tomorrow. We have a very good car and it’s very good over the bumps and under braking. I think the circuit is good for Ferrari and for Risi. Wherever we go we do well.”
The Detroit Sports Car Challenge presented by Bosch, Round 10 of the 2007 American Le Mans Series, is set for 3: 15 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 1 from the Belle Isle circuit in Detroit. Coverage of the Series’ first visit to Detroit will be aired on SPEED from 9:30 a.m. ET on Saturday to 12:30 a.m. Sunday. XM Satellite Radio will air the American Le Mans Radio broadcast from noon to 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, September 2 on XM channels 144 and 145. Live radio coverage, IMSA Live Timing and Scoring, and session results will be available at americanlemans.com.
Detroit Sports Car Challenge presented by Bosch
Belle Isle, Detroit
Friday’s qualifying results
1. Sascha Maassen, Germany; Ryan Briscoe, Australia; Porsche RS Spyder (P2), 1:13.357, 104.28
2. Romain Dumas, France; Timo Bernhard, Germany; Porsche RS Spyder (P2), 1:13.603, 103.94
3. Marino Franchitti, Scotland; Bryan Herta, Valencia, CA; Acura/ARX-01a (P2), 1:13.768, 103.70
4. Chris Dyson, Pleasant Valley, NY; Guy Smith, England; Porsche RS Spyder (P2), 1:13.983, 103.40
5. Stefan Johansson, Sweden; David Brabham, Australia; Acura/ARX-01a (P2), 1:14.010, 103.36
6. Luis Diaz, Mexico; Adrian Fernandez, Mexico; Lola/B06-43/Acura (P2), 1:14.450, 102.75
7. Dindo Capello, Italy; Allan McNish, Scotland; Audi AG/R10/TDI (P1), 1:15.320, 101.57
8. Emanuele Pirro, Italy; Marco Werner, Germany; Audi AG/R10/TDI (P1), 1:15.370, 101.50
9. Andy Wallace, England; Butch Leitzinger, State College, PA; Porsche RS Spyder (P2), 1:15.639, 101.14
10. Greg Pickett, Alamo, CA; Klaus Graf, Germany; Lola B06/10 AER (P1), 1:18.016, 98.06
11. Jamie Bach, Saukville, WI; Ben Devlin, England; Lola/B07-40/Mazda (P2), 1:20.669, 94.83
12. Johnny O'Connell, Flowery Branch, GA; Jan Magnussen, Denmark; Corvette C6.R (GT1), 1:21.057, 94.38
13. Oliver Gavin, England; Olivier Beretta, Monaco; Corvette C6.R (GT1), 1:21.389, 93.99
14. Jon Field, Dublin, OH; Clint Field, Dublin, OH; Richard Berry, Evergreen, CO; Creation/CA06H/Judd (P1), 1:22.713, 92.49
15. Eric Helary, France; Gianmaria Bruni, Italy; Ferrari 430GT Berlinetta (GT2), 1:24.586, 90.44
16. Mika Salo, Finland; Jaime Melo, Brazil; Ferrari 430GT Berlinetta (GT2), 1:24.601, 90.42
17. Dirk Mueller, Germany; Peter Dumbreck, Scotland; Ferrari 430GT (GT2), 1:25.030, 89.97
18. Darren Law, Phoenix, AZ; Patrick Long, Oak Park, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2), 1:25.370, 89.61
19. Dominik Farnbacher, Germany; Jim Tafel, Alpharetta, GA; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2), 1:25.428, 89.55
20. Jorg Bergmeister, Germany; Johannes van Overbeek, San Francisco, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2), 1:26.060, 88.89
21. Tom Milner, Leesburg, VA; Ralf Kelleners, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2), 1:26.528, 88.41
22. Joey Hand, Sacramento, CA; Bill Auberlen, Hermosa Beach, CA; Panoz Esperante GTLM (GT2), 1:28.999, 85.96
23. Wolf Henzler, Germany; Robin Liddell, Scotland; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2), No Time
24. David Robertson, Ray, MI; Andrea Robertson, Ray, MI; David Murry, Cumming, GA; Panoz Esperante GTLM Elan (GT2), No Time
25. Tim Pappas, Boston, MA; Terry Borcheller, Vero Beach, FL; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2), No Time
26. Joel Feinberg, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Chapman Ducote, Miami, FL; Dodge Viper (GT2), No Time.