Highcroft Racing's David Brabham stormed to the overall pole Friday at Laguna Seca, leading an all-Acura front row as the manufacturer searches for its first title in the American Le Mans Series. Brabham's record-breaking 1:10.103 lap time around...
Highcroft Racing's David Brabham stormed to the overall pole Friday at Laguna Seca, leading an all-Acura front row as the manufacturer searches for its first title in the American Le Mans Series. Brabham's record-breaking 1:10.103 lap time around the 2.238-mile circuit edged out a late flier by Luis Diaz in the Lowe's Fernandez Racing ARX-01b, who settled for second.
After a disappointing Petit Le Mans weekend, Brabham and co-driver Scott Sharp hope to end the season on a high note with their fifth class victory Saturday. The duo was eliminated from the LM P2 drivers' championship following an early race accident in the 10-hour/1,000-mile enduro.
"We had a good strategy for qualifying," Brabham said. "We waited for the proper spacing on the track. Then we got into a good rhythm. I was able to get the right place on the track and the lap time came to me."
With Penske Racing Porsche rivals Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas having wrapped up their second consecutive class title, Acura's only hopes now lie in the manufacturers' championship, which it trails by eight points to the German brand. A podium sweep tomorrow would hand the championship to Acura, something Brabham hopes he can help accomplish.
"We're all out there to win but we're there for Acura as well," Brabham said. "They have given us fantastic cars for sure. If we can give them a clean sweep, it would be a nice thank-you for that effort."
Diaz and co-driver Adrian Fernandez will start alongside the Highcroft Acura in second, securing the team's third front-row start of the season. Diaz's 1:10.202 lap time was 0.099 seconds off Brabham's mark, but the Fernandez Racing driver was confident the car had more speed out of the car for the race.
"The race is going to be tough but knowing you have a competitive car going in is great," Diaz said. "I think the key tomorrow is for me to bring the car to Adrian complete and I know he will do the job. I am very confident. I was able to run close to the Penske's and I think our car is stronger here. If we have a clean race tomorrow, we will do well."
Newly crowned, and now two-time P2 champions, Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard, will line up third thanks to a 1:10.351 lap time put in by the German aboard the No. 7 Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyder. The No. 66 de Ferran Motorsports Acura of Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud were fourth, while Andretti Green Racing's Franck Montagny and Tony Kanaan made it four Acuras in the top-five overall.
The lighter and more nimble P2 machines seemed to be at home at Laguna Seca, as they swept the top eight positions overall. LM P1 pole sitter Emanuele Pirro clocked a 1:11.264 lap time, good enough for ninth overall. The likable Italian announced earlier in the day that Saturday's race will be his last in an Audi prototype. While Pirro knows tomorrow's race may be an uphill challenge, the Audi R10 TDI has always proven itself to perform better in the race, especially long distance events.
"It's been an exciting qualifying which I enjoyed very much," Pirro said. "If you need to build a track tailor made for the lighter LM P2 cars you would build a replica of Laguna Seca. We have to do what we can. Our car is well balanced. We know that the R10 TDI will perform a lot better versus the light cars in the race. And the race is long."
Pirro is sharing the wheel of the No. 1 Audi Sport North America entry this weekend with former Formula One and DTM driver Christijan Albers, who is making his sports car debut. The 29-year-old Dutchman is the second young racer Audi has tried out this season in the ALMS, possibly in line for a full-time drive in 2009.
Audi Sport North America's sister No. 2 machine of champions Marco Werner and Lucas Luhr recovered from some dramas in the two practice sessions to post the second quickest time in class with the Corsa Motorsports Zytek 07S rounding out the top-three in P1.
Jan Magnussen scored the LM GT1 pole position following a class-record beating 1:19.291 in his No. 3 Corvette Racing C6.R. The Dane and co-driver Johnny O'Connell also wrapped up the drivers' championship at Petit Le Mans and are going for their ninth victory of the season, which would tie them for most wins in a season.
"For qualifying it was a matter of clean laps," Magnussen said. "Both cars had the same amount and I thought getting out first would be advantageous. When I got out, I had three clean laps and the track was really good. I had a really good lap and a good starting position for tomorrow."
While the season-long battle for LM GT2 honors have gone in the way of Flying Lizard Motorsports' Jorg Bergmeister and Wolf Henzler, it was Dirk Werner in the Farnbacher Loles Porsche who stole the thunder today by securing the pole position. Werner, who's sharing the wheel with Bryce Miller this weekend, turned a 1:22.060, another track record breaker.
"It's a great beginning for an important weekend for us," Werner said. "We're really looking to get a good result here after a disappointing race at Road Atlanta. So far, everything seems to be really good. The car works perfect, the guys did a really good job in preparing it and I'm optimistic because Bryce is really doing well on this track with the RSR. I think we have to be optimistic because there is not a lot that can bother us - the car is fast, the teamwork is good and we're in good shape."
Champions Bergmeister and Henzler will start second in class, with the best of the Ferrari contingent, the No. 71 Tafel Racing machine of Dirk Muller and Dominik Farnbacher, in third. Pole sitter Werner was surprised the Prancing Horses didn't mount a stronger challenge for the pole, because he thought the mid-engined F430 GT was better suited at this track. However, race day could tell a totally different story, as it has so often this season.
The Monterey Sports Car Championships gets the green flag Saturday at 2:45 p.m. local time for four hours of fun, ending in the California darkness. This will be one not to miss.