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De Ferran debuts on top
Gil de Ferran already has made himself right at home in the American Le Mans Series by posting the fastest time in Friday’s test session for the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix presented by the Grand and Little America Hotels. De Ferran, whose de Ferran Motorsports team is debuting this week, toured Miller Motorsports Park in 1:32.424 (118.772 mph).

De Ferran, a former Indy 500 winner and two-time CART champion, will drive his Acura ARX-01b with Simon Pagenaud for the balance of the 2008 season in LMP2. This is his first race since winning his IndyCar finale at Texas in 2003 and he hardly showed any rust whatsoever. Four of his last five laps in Friday’s session were better than anyone else on the 3.048-mile, 15-turn circuit just outside of Salt Lake City.

“The run and the handling was quite good,” de Ferran said. “The grip was low because the track is hot. We kept the tires on to test the balance of the car on a long run. It was good to be so competitive with all the cars on the track.”

De Ferran was 0.489 seconds better than Marco Werner in Audi Sport North America’s leading Audi R10 TDI, the fastest of the LMP1 entries. Werner, already a two-time overall winner this year with Lucas Luhr, put in a lap of 1:32.913 (118.098 mph) was nearly 0.8 seconds better than Penske Racing’s Romain Dumas in the No. 7 Porsche RS Spyder and another tenth-of-a-second quicker than Frank Biela in the second Audi.

The traffic was tight,” said Pagenaud. “We got used to passing cars every lap. We know the race will be tough and it's only Friday. We know Porsche and Audi will do much work overnight.”

Dumas was second in LMP2 with teammate Timo Bernhard, who saw their eight-race class winning streak end with a runner-up finish at Long Beach. Third in P2 was Dyson Racing’s Marino Franchitti with a 1:33.457 (117.410 mph) in the Porsche RS Spyder he will share with Butch Leitzinger.

Jan Magnussen set the fastest time in GT1 in the Corvette C6.R he is sharing with Corvette Racing teammate Johnny O’Connell. The Dane’s time of 1:46.125 (103.395 mph) was good enough for a 0.294-second gap back to the sister Corvette of Oliver Gavin.

Magnussen and O’Connell enter with the class championship lead and won the last round at Long Beach. They hope to end the three-year reign of Gavin and Olivier Beretta.

Marc Basseng put Farnbacher Loles Racing at the top in GT2. The German turned in a time of 1:47.925 (101.671 mph) in the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR that he is sharing with Dirk Werner as Porsche held first and third in class.

Tafel Racing’s Dirk Mueller, who won the last two rounds with Dominik Farnbacher, threw down a late flying lap to take second in class at 1:49.389 (100.310 mph) in Tafel’s No. 71 Ferrari F430 GT. Next up was Wolf Henzler in Flying Lizard Motorsports’ No. 45 Porsche that he will drive with Jörg Bergmeister. Henzler’s stopped the clock at 1:49.596 (100.120 mph).

The battle between Porsche and Ferrari looks to be heating up with Porsche holding the first, third, fifth and six spots while Ferraris sit second, fourth and seventh and eighth.

The Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix presented by The Grand and Little America Hotels is set for Sunday, May 18 from Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. The green flag is scheduled for 1 p.m. MT with live television coverage on SPEED. Live radio coverage will be available on XM Satellite Radio Channel 144 and American Le Mans Radio at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA’s Live Timing & Scoring.

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