Rain washes out Lime Rock qualifying

Romain Dumas claimed his second overall pole position at Lime Rock Park on Friday as rain and lightning forced the cancellation of qualifying for the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix. Dumas and Timo Bernhard will start at the head of the grid for Penske Motorsports and Porsche for the sixth round of the 2007 American Le Mans Series.

Storm clouds rolled into Lime Rock early in the afternoon, bringing heavy rain and lightning with them. With a chance of rain looming for later in the afternoon plus concerns for driver safety, IMSA officials decided to set the lineup based on Friday morning’s practice times. That put Dumas and his Porsche RS Spyder on pole position and Dyson Racing’s Porsche of Guy Smith and Chris Dyson on the outside front row as LMP2 teams held the top six positions.

Near the end of the morning session, team members warned Dumas about the chance of rain during the afternoon. As a result, the Frenchman picked up the pace just in case.

“Last year at Mosport we had the same situation and thought that we had to push harder in practice because it might rain during qualifying," said Dumas, who led a total of 68 laps last year. “We did not use new tires and we did not maximize our fuel situation. But we did push for qualifying speed. And it paid off. The setup wasn’t an issue because we were here on Tuesday testing."

So was Dyson Racing. And unlike Dumas’ car, the Poughkeepsie, NY-based team did elect to put on new rubber at the end of the morning practice. The move, like Penske’s paid off.

“Chris will be starting tomorrow and the strategy is easy from where I'll be sitting: lead going into Turn 1, lead coming out of Turn 1 and just keep going," Smith said.

Highcroft Racing’s Acura ARX will start third after David Brabham’s lap of 45.799. Highcroft is another local team, based in Danbury, Conn. It will start alongside the other Acura chassis from Andretti Green Racing.

Allan McNish will start first in LMP1 but seventh overall in the Audi R10 TDI. After winning for the second year in a row at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the diesel-powered prototype is at Lime Rock for the first time. McNish and Dindo Capello won last year’s race in the finale for the highly successful Audi R8.

McNish’s best time Friday morning was a 46.419, good enough for a 0.225-second cushion over the sister car of Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner fresh off their 24 Hour of Le Mans win in France.

“The Audi R10 TDI is making its debut here at Lime Rock so we needed as much track time and dry weather running as possible," McNish said. The LMP2 cars have already shown they are very quick on this short track. Our R10 TDI is a heavy car and on this undulating track it shows. It’s definitely going to be a tough race for us but with Audi’s experience on and off the track with race strategy, we’ll give it everything."

One of the Audi’s began the previous race at Utah’s Miller Motorsports Park on the third row of the grid but took the lead at the end of the first turn using its tremendous torque. But Lime Rock’s frontstretch is considerably shorter and narrower, which will make such a move nearly impossible.

“I think where we are on the grid is where we would have ended up if we had to qualify today," McNish said. “Where we are is where we are in the field. I think we can use this time to find out what changes we can do to make the car more comfortable for the race tomorrow. At this point, I don’t even see a podium finish tomorrow."

Olivier Beretta captured his third GT1 pole in four tries at Lime Rock as he and Oliver Gavin look to extend their lead in the race for a third straight class championship. Friday’s effort was a 51.411 lap that put him 0.013 seconds clear of Johnny O’Connell in the sister car.

“The team has done good preparation on the car after Le Mans, and we hope to have a good race. If it's raining, it will be a difficult one," said Beretta, who suffered an uncharacteristic retirement at the 24 Hours early with a driveshaft problem.

“The car was very good this morning," Beretta said. “There are many quick P2 cars this year, and there is even more traffic to watch. This track is very narrow and there is different grip on the concrete and asphalt, but there is only one racing line in several corners. When you go on the concrete, it’s like hitting a patch of water, so in traffic when you have to overtake a GT2 car or when a prototype overtakes you, it is quite tricky."

Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing claimed its second straight GT2 pole and third of the season thanks to Tomas Enge’s time of 52.431 in the team’s Ferrari F430 GT. Enge and Darren Turner won at Miller Motorsports Park in the Czech star’s return to the Series following a devastating crash at St. Petersburg.

Enge was 0.707 seconds faster than the Risi Ferrari of Jaime Melo and Mika Salo, class championship leaders. Next was the Panoz Esperante GTLM of Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand for Panoz Team PTG.

“This morning everything ran smoothly," Enge said. “The car was not easy handle but it ran fast. We were actually surprised that we are so far ahead of the competition considering how short the track is. This weekend started out good like it did at Salt Lake City. We are pretty sure that it can end the same way."

Round Six of the American Le Mans Series is the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix, set for 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 7 at Lime Rock Park. CBS Sports will televise the race at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 8. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA Live Timing & Scoring.

American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix
Lime Rock Park, Lakeville, Conn.
Saturday’s starting lineup
1. Romain Dumas, France; Timo Bernhard, Germany; Porsche RS Spyder (P2), 44.659, 124.141
2. Chris Dyson, Pleasant Valley, NY; Guy Smith, England; Porsche RS Spyder (P2), 45.176, 122.720
3. Stefan Johansson, Sweden; David Brabham, Australia; Duncan Dayton, North Salem, NY; Acura/ARX-01a (P2), 45.799, 121.051
4. Marino Franchitti, Scotland; Bryan Herta, Valencia, CA; Acura/ARX-01a (P2), 45.829, 120.971
5. Sascha Maassen, Germany; Ryan Briscoe, Australia; Porsche RS Spyder (P2), 45.846, 120.927
6. Luis Diaz, Mexico; Adrian Fernandez, Mexico; Lola/B06-43/Acura (P2), 46.247, 119.878
7. Rinaldo Capello, Italy; Allan McNish, Scotland; Audi AG/R10/TDI (P1), 46.419, 119.434
8. Emanuele Pirro, Italy; Marco Werner, Germany; Audi AG/R10/TDI (P1), 46.644, 118.858
9. Butch Leitzinger, State College, PA; Andy Wallace, England; Porsche RS Spyder (P2), 46.861, 118.307
10. Ben Devlin, England; Jamie Bach, West Palm Beach, FL; Lola/B07-40/Mazda (P2), 47.882, 115.785
11. Clint Field, Dublin, OH; Richard Berry, Evergreen, CO; Jon Field, Dublin, OH; Creation/CA06H/Judd (P1), 48.243, 114.918
12. Gunnar Van der Steur, Chesapeake City, MD; Adam Pecorari, Aston, PA; Radical / SR9/AER (P2), 49.017, 113.104
13. Oliver Gavin, England; Olivier Beretta, Monaco; Corvette C6.R (GT1), 51.411, 107.837
14. Jan Magnussen, Denmark; Johnny O`Connell, Flowery Branch, GA; Corvette C6.R (GT1), 51.424, 107.810
15. Michael Lewis, San Diego, CA; Chris McMurry, Phoenix, AZ; Creation CA06H-Judd (P1), 52.043, 106.527
16. Tomas Enge, Czech Republic; Darren Turner, England; Ferrari 430GT (GT2), 52.431, 105.739
17. Mika Salo, Finland; Jaime Melo, Brazil; Ferrari 430GT Berlinetta (GT2), 53.138, 104.332
18. Bill Auberlen, Hermosa Beach, CA; Joey Hand, Sacramento, CA; Panoz Esperante GTLM (GT2), 53.275, 104.064
19. Tom Milner, Leesburg, VA; Ralf Kelleners, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2), 53.966, 102.731
20. Eric Helary, France; Nic Jonsson, Sweden; Ferrari 430GT Berlinetta (GT2), 54.064, 102.545
21. Wolf Henzler, Germany; Robin Liddell, Scotland; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2), 54.084, 102.507
22. Jorg Bergmeister, Germany; Johannes van Overbeek, San Francisco, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2), 54.350, 102.006
23. Darren Law, Phoenix, AZ; Seth Neiman, Burlingame, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2), 54.424, 101.867
24. Jim Tafel, Alpharetta, GA; Dominik Farnbacher, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2), 54.630, 101.483
25. Tim Pappas, Boston, MA; Terry Borcheller, Gainesville, GA; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2), 56.942, 97.362

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