Nancy Knapp Schilke
Dyson Racing’s Mazda Lola tops qualifying at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for 6 hour contest
On the 2.238-mile road course that is the home of the famous corkscrew, it was the two Dyson Racing LMP1 cars that slammed down the fastest times in qualifying to earn the front row for the American Le Mans Series penultimate race in 2011. The six hour contest will challenge the teams and drivers on the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey, California with the ocean breezes and scenic views.
Today’s qualifying is now in the books and tomorrow will be the real challenge but the Dyson team did what they needed to as they aim for the championship. Their main rivals from the Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing team will start from the second row.
We know what we need to do for the championship.
Guy Smith said, “We know what we need to do for the championship. The best thing for me is to treat it like another race. If you think about a championship too much then it becomes a distraction. I think if we stay on the track and push hard, that will do the trick.”
The #16 in the hands of Smith had a hot lap of 1:13.927 for a speed of 108.983 mph for the pole; his fourth of the season. Chris Dyson and Smith are sharing their Mazda Lola with Jay Cochran this weekend.
“This is a great circuit and one of those places that drivers either love or hate. Fortunately for me, I really enjoy it and it suits my driving style. I scored my first ALMS pole here last year and there is no better place to do it with a Mazda engine,” said Smith.
Steven Kane was 0.694 seconds off the pace of his teammate with his best lap at 1:14.621 (107.970 mph) to place the No. 20 Dyson on the front row. This weekend, Kane and Humaid Al Masaood are joined by a former Dyson team member, Butch Leitzinger.
“I have to thank all the boys for giving us a great car that put us at the front again," said Kane. "We can make a few changes to the car to make it a little bit better for tomorrow, but I have grown to love this circuit in a short period of time.”
The #007 Aston Martin Racing Lola with Adrian Fernandez took the third fastest time as one of the several teams that entered the challenge this weekend. Fernandez had a best lap of 1:14.827 (107.672 mph) and he is joined by Harold Primat and Stefan Mucke for the
Greg Pickett’s team, Muscle Milk, slotted fourth but Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf will do what they can to end up on top by the end of the six hour race. "It wasn't our best qualifying effort, but at the end of the day it's a long race and I'm sure we'll have a better race car tomorrow,” said Graf. "It was tough in qualifying today. I struggled with grip and couldn't do the things I wanted to do out there. That makes it obviously a bit difficult and frustrating as well.”
LMP2 has only one team but they are testing for the future. Level 5 Motorsports returns to the series with the new Honda Performance Development ARX-01g. The team is actively contesting the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup this year. Per the team’s pre-race press release they stated that the change “came in the wake of evolving prototype regulations by Le Mans organizers, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, as well as increased competition in Europe”. This weekend the trio of Scott Tucker, Christophe Bouchut and Luis Diaz will evaluate the new prototype.
In today’s qualifying, Bouchut turned a lap of 1:16.688 (105.059 mph) to land fifth on the grid. “It’s a brand new car. We are really happy so far. It’s running like we expected. In terms of performance, it’s very competitive. It’s a race of six hours and it is a good chance to gain some really good information for Petit Le Mans,” he said.
BMW Team RLL’s Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller took the GT class pole ahead of the #56 BMW M3 GT. Corvette Racing’s #4 was second followed by the #55 BMW.
Hand’s flying lap was a 1:22.226 (97.984 mph) and he said, “I’ve had the numbers crunched in my head to see where we need to be to win the championship for awhile. We want to win and are in the attack mode. I tell a lot of the kids that I coach that the best way to win a championship is to win a race. You want to be strong and attack but you have to stay on the track over the six hours.
“This is definitely my home track. Some of my closest friends own the Baja Cantina in downtown Monterey. I have so many family and friends here. I know the outskirts of the track better than the paddock because I’ve been around so much,” added the GT pole winner.
Kyle Marcelli has been hot since his first win in the LMPC class as the Canadian flew his Oreca FLM09 around the track at 1:18.844 (102.187 mph). Both of the Ducotes (Chapman and David) are back in the cockpit for in the No. 89 Intersport Racing car. Second went to their rivals from the CORE autosport team with Genoa Racing third fastest.
“Everyone is jelling really well at Intersport. People really know how to make the ORECA work with the Michelin tires. There is a sweet spot that is tough to get back if you’re out of that window. It’s important to arrive at the track near that spot so you can make small changes,” said Marcelli.
In the GT Challenge class, it was Jeroen Bleekemolen in the #54 Black Swan Racing Porsche who landed the pole with a best lap of 1:27.850 (91.711 mph). “We were waiting for something to happen! It was a good session. I was struggling with the car in practice but the guys solved it and it was great in qualifying. I was able to get a nice gap to second place. We knew we were going to be strong here from last year. The competition is quite high because we are running the same car,” he said.
The GTC class is made up of Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars and the completion is tight. Besides team owner Tim Pappas, Sebastiaan Bleekemolen will aid the two season long drivers in their effort toward nailing down the class title this year. Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in two weeks will be the scene of the season finale.
The second car from Black Swan Racing is the Green Hornet #34 Porsche was second fastest in qualifying to land on the GTC class front row. Third went to their rivals from TRG.