McNish squeaks Audi on top in Friday afternoon practice
If qualifying Friday for the 14th annual Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda is as good as Thursday’s second practice session, fans at Road Atlanta will be in for a thrill. Audi Sport Team Joest’s Allan McNish set the fastest time of the hour-long session for the finale of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n by 0.002 seconds – only a matter of inches over the course of a lap – ahead of Peugeot Sport Total’s Stephane Sarrazin.
McNish will drive his diesel-powered Audi R18 with Dindo Capello and Tom Kristensen in Saturday’s 1,000-mile/10-hour enduro. The Audi vs. Peugeot battle has been the main event at the race since 2008. Even the gap from McNish to Audi teammate Romain Dumas in third was just 0.016 seconds.
Two years ago, Peugeot ended Audi’s eight-year winning streak at Petit Le Mans. The French manufacturer has won the last two runnings of the race.
In LMP2, Christophe Bouchut led a 1-2 showing for Level 5 Motorsports with a lap of 1:14.199 (123.236 mph) in the HPD ARX-01g that he will share with Scott Tucker and Joao Barbosa. Luis Diaz was only 0.619 seconds back in the second Level 5 HPD prototype; Diaz’s car is brand new and will race for the first time this weekend.
Oak Racing’s Frederic da Rocha sat third in P2 with a 1:16.670 (117.729 mph) in his Oak Pescarolo-Judd.
The fight in GTE Pro was nearly as tight as LMP1. BMW Team RLL held the top spot with both of its BMW M3 GTs, and Bill Auberlen set the session’s best time at 1:19.833 in the car he will share with Augusto Farfus and Dirk Werner.
Joey Hand was only 0.025 seconds back of his teammate; Hand and Dirk Müller clinched the class championship two weeks ago at Road America. AF Corse’s Gianmaria Bruni was third in GTE Pro at 1:19.942.
CORE autosport’s Ryan Dalziel set the quickest lap in LMP Challenge on his next-to-last lap in the ORECA FLM09 that he will share with Jon Bennett and Frankie Montecalvo. Dalziel’s time of 1:16.764 gave him a slim 0.135-second gap back to Ryan Lewis in the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA. Kyle Marcelli was third for Intersport Racing at 1:17.422.
Local man Nic Jonsson, from nearby Buford, was the fastest driver in GTE Am for Krohn Racing. Jonsson’s Ferrari F430 GT, which is based at the Krohn shop on the grounds of Road Atlanta, posted a time of 1:21.372. Jonsson will drive with team owner Tracy Krohn and Michele Rugolo.
Proton Competition’s Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Richard Lietz was second in class at 1:22.336. It was more than 0.4 seconds clear of Justin Bell in AF Corse’s Ferrari F430 GT.
In GT Challenge, Leh Keen went quickest in Alex Job Racing’s Porsche 911 GT3 Cup with a lap of 1:25.765. Keen, who is teaming with Bill Sweedler and Brian Wong, was 0.360 seconds clear of Spencer Pumpelly – another Georgia driver – in one of TRG’s two Porsches. Dion von Moltke in TRG’s other entry was third in class at 1:26.493.
Thursday’s final session in night practice for Petit Le Mans, and it runs from 7 to 9 p.m.