AF Corse Racing Petit Le Mans qualifying report

AF Corse press release

Debuting Driver Rui Aguas Puts No. 61 eBay Motors and eBay Mobile “World’s Fastest Car Show” AF Corse Ferrari 430 Italia on the GTE-AM Pole at Petit Le Mans

Aguas Takes Top Spot in Road Atlanta Debut; Teams with Justin Bell and Rob Kauffman

#61 AF Corse Ferrari F430: Robert Kauffman, Rui Aguas, Justin Bell
#61 AF Corse Ferrari F430: Robert Kauffman, Rui Aguas, Justin Bell

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

BRASELTON, Ga. (September 30, 2011) – Rui Aguas won the GTE-AM class pole position Friday in qualifying for Saturday’s Petit Le Mans, earning the top starting spot in both his debut race at Road Atlanta and the first for the eBay Motors and eBay Mobile “World’s Fastest Car Show” that is sponsoring the team’s No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari 430 Italia this weekend.

Aguas (right in picture), who is co-driving in the 14th annual running of Petit Le Mans with Justin Bell (center) and Rob Kauffman (left), is a top driver from Portugal who is a regular competitor in Europe for the Italian AF Corse team. Although this weekend marks his first visit to Road Atlanta with his Italian teammates, Aguas had no trouble getting up to speed on the 2.54-mile road course.

“I think the track is very nice, very challenging, up and down,” said Aguas, who also has three poles with AF Corse this season in Italian GT competition. “I really enjoy it, first time here for me, and with my teammates Rob and Justin, it is a nice experience to run here. To be on the pole is always nice. It doesn’t count a lot for the race but I hope we can do a strong finish tomorrow. That’s the main thing.”

Aguas was the fastest GTE-AM driver throughout the 15-minute qualifying session and ultimately locked down the pole with a time of 120.619 (113.422 mph) on his third flying lap.

“Throughout the week we knew we were pretty quick,” Bell said. “And Rui is one of those guys that, to be honest, I had never heard of before, that is just so fast. He knows how to extract everything out of this car. The team really focused on getting the car ready for qualifying, but Rui is also a very generous driver. He really helped me get fast in it and Rob comfortable. You can tell the AF Corse guys have put a lot of effort into coming here.”

Bell is putting a lot of effort this weekend into the promotion of the “World’s Fastest Car Show”, an original video series he hosts on the eBay Motors website and eBay Mobile application, that premiered earlier this month. Petit Le Mans is being filmed for an upcoming episode of the fast-paced new show, the first originally produced media content for eBay Motors, and the first to be featured in any of eBay’s mobile applications. The series is designed to engage automotive enthusiasts through both the web and mobile platforms, and this weekend Bell will give viewers a first-hand look at some high-speed competition. The No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari 430 Italia is also showcasing at Petit Le Mans eBay Mobile logos, along with a custom QR code scanable by any fan with a smart phone, as well as logos for the “World’s Fastest Car Show” on eBay Motors. The response so far has been impressive and nearly non-stop.

“I knew when I moved into fulltime TV over the last few years that it was certainly working when I turned up to do the odd race as a pit reporter,” Bell said. “People would say ‘oh, I saw you doing a Barrett-Jackson auction, I saw you doing Jay Leno stuff,’ so I knew the word was getting out there, but to come here has been great. The sincere sort of reception from both my peers, colleagues in the pit lane, and the fans, like at the autograph session, every one of them was coming up saying how nice it was to see me back. The TV thing has definitely helped, and we are feeling the buzz, people have been watching the “World’s Fastest Car Show.”’ My goal is to make it the biggest car show in America, and coming here with the support of eBay Motors and Mobile at this race, it is really our launch, and this is a nice launch party.”

Although Aguas qualified the No. 61 Ferrari, all three drivers took a few laps behind the wheel in this morning’s lone practice session. After that, the team successfully solved a misfire problem that emerged in the No. 61 Ferrari.

“Touch wood, fingers crossed, 1,000 kilometers or a 10 hour race is a long way to go,” Kauffman said. “The pole is great, Rui did a terrific job, we had a small issue with the car and, as always the guys with AF Corse, got it done and got us on track. I am feeling good in the car. We got some practice in this week, so that was a big help for me, I am kind of bringing up the rear with the three of us, but the key to these races is to keep it steady, stay on the black stuff, and you have a chance at a good finish.”

Aguas had little to complain about after the successful qualifying run.

“The engine had a misfire in all of the mappings that we had, and now no more misfires,” Aguas said. “The car was running very well. They changed everything, plugs and all of the electronics, just before qualifying. We are very good now.”

Next up on the Petit Le Mans schedule is a 25 minute warm-up session Saturday morning at 9:15 a.m. with the race scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m. later that morning.

Noteworthy:

- AF Corse had a career day in Petit Le Mans qualifying. In addition to Aguas, taking the GTE-AM pole, teammate Gimmi Bruni won the GT pole in the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia. “Everyone always says qualifying doesn’t matter in a race like this, but everyday you have a race you need to win on a race weekend, and this is the first one for us,” Bell said. “And what a sweep for AF Corse, it reaffirms in North America that they could be one of the GT teams to beat.”

- Aguas has a solid history with AF Corse racing in Europe, but he is enjoying his first visit to Road Atlanta not just for the challenging 2.54-mile circuit. “"For us, it's great," Aguas said. "We had a few problems in the beginning before qualifying, but for me and Gimmi, it's wonderful to be on pole and represent the team and Ferrari like that. I have been racing with AF Corse since 2003 in GT championships, but it is nice to be here racing in America. It’s great, especially if you see the public out there, we don’t have that in Europe unfortunately.”

- Kauffman credits an early start to the race week for the team’s successful run so far at Petit Le Mans. “I am very happy that we were here for the Sunday and Monday test,” Kauffman said. “It was challenging for scheduling with my day job, but we got a lot of laps in and got to know the circuit well. My compliments to the organizers for allowing this to happen.”

Ferrari fans, check out our new sister site FerrariCircuit.com

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