Nancy Knapp Schilke
Klaus Graf lands Road America pole as Muscle Milk AMR continues its battle with the Dyson team
German Klaus Graf set a hot lap of 1:51.828 to garner the pole position at the Road America road course in the Muscle Milk Aston Martin Lola. He and his teammate, Lucas Luhr, will now concentrate on gaining more points as they chase the LMP1 championship this year. The Greg Pickett owned team and Dyson Racing are neck-and-neck in this year’s title fight.
“This race is a bit different with the 4 hours, so a bit of a different strategy. We have to go flat out for 2:45s but this we might have to back off just a bit,” said Graf already thinking about the four hour race. “You can lose a lot of time coming up on long straights getting out of corners. It's very difficult on the drivers and you really have to challenge yourself. I've worked hard with Lucas to get the car setup well.”
It’s a hell of a track, it is one of my favorites world-wide.
Steven Kane in the Mazda Lola set his best lap 0.364 seconds slower with a time of 1:52.192 at the Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin track. Kane and Humaid Al Masaood will start on the front row for the first time since they teamed up to run the No. 20 Dyson Racing prototype at Lime Rock in July. Taking the third fastest lap was Chris Dyson in the No. 16 Mazda Lolo with a time of 1:52.401 but for now, Dyson is the current points leading team.
Level 5 Motorsports’ Christophe Bouchut set his sails high to garner the LMP2 pole in the team’s Honda Lola with a fast lap of 1:56.664. Even though they are the only car in the P2 class, his time was not that far off the slowest P1 and owner Scott Tucker will start the race tomorrow in fifth overall. Luis Diaz will be their 3rd driver for the four hour endurance.
Bouchut did not take it easy as the team’s home base is in Chicago. “There are not too many P2s but it was our choice before the start of the season. I was pushing very hard and on the limit. If I had to fight up I could get the pole position, but I tried to keep pushing as hard as I could. I challenged myself,” he said.
BMW was on top of the LMGT class qualifying with Dirk Mueller taking the pole with a 2:05.447 in the No. 56 BMW Team RLL. The German, who shares the M3 GT with American Joey Hand, was definitely turning hot laps as he sat a new qualifying lap record.
“It shows the BMW is a driving machine. It’s a hell of a track, it is one of my favorites world-wide. Being European, it’s very spa-like, but also a bit of Nordschleife which is the best track in the world in my opinion,” said Mueller.“ The Dunlop tires are really working well here. I hope we can continue our success tomorrow. “
Mueller was not alone in turning fast laps as the GT drivers were touring the countryside circuit. Missing the pole by 0.005 seconds was Jan Magnussen in the No. 4 Corvette Racing C6 ZR1 with the Dane’s best at 2:05.452.
Third in the hotly contested GT class was Toni Vilander in the Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia) with his best at a 2:05.687.
Butch Leitzinger was in action tonight, along with the rest of the LMPC drivers whose times were close in qualifying for the class pole. It was Leitzinger who grabbed the pole with a time of 1:59.262 for PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports. Today, he notched his sixth career ALMS pole making his debut in a class he had never competed in before. But the veteran who has campaign in the P1, P2, GT and GTC class was up for the test in a class that is made up of in ORECA FLM09s and this year there have been very tight battles.
“I'm really impressed (with the LMPC). I've had friends, Andy Wallace and Luis Diaz, drive them last year. They all talk about how great the chassis is,” said Leitzinger.
Second fastest was Gunnar Jeannette in the CORE autosport No. 06 by a mere 0.095 seconds. Jeannette’s best time was a 1:59.357. Last week’s first time winner Kyle Marcelli ended third with a fast lap of 1:59.379 in the Performance Tech Motorsports car.
Leitzinger added, “We pulled the 52 car off the truck and we've been really competitive. I'm really impressed with the class, no one can get a huge advantage. It comes down to who can work the best as a team and make the least amount of changes. Being away from Road America for a year is especially difficult. I watched everyone on the TV last year. The track has such a flavor to it. The fans are great, you see the same people every year. Everyone says the kink is their favorite corner, but I'm too afraid to pick that one. My favorite is the Billy Mitchell bend, you're really heavy on the throttle. I think I'm flat out, but I'm sure if we check I wasn't. But you come out blazing and bursting into the sunlight. It's really a moment to be a part of.”
First time driver at Road America took the GT Challenge class pole which consists of Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars. Sean Edwards commented at the post qualifying press conference and said, “Obviously it's my first time here. We only had practice on the iRacing game. It's a lot like Spa Francorchamps. I'm really happy with the pole. I was not expecting that.”
Before any celebration could take place the pole winning car No. 30 times were excluded due to “driver failed to participate in a minimum of one practice session”. However it does not state which of the three drivers but the rule the rule is and the second fastest Porsche now has the pole for the GTC class.
Jeroen Bleekemolen now holds the class pole and a new qualifying record. His best lap in the No. 54 Black Swan Racing Porsche was 2:14.126.