Laguna Seca: Qualifying report

ZYTEK, PORSCHE PROTOTYPES STEAL THE SHOW IN QUALIFYING FOR MONTEREY SPORTS CAR CHAMPIONSHIPS Salinas, Calif. - All four track qualifying records were broken Friday, highlighted by pole runs from the Zytek and the Porsche RS Spyder prototypes, in...

ZYTEK, PORSCHE PROTOTYPES STEAL THE SHOW IN QUALIFYING FOR MONTEREY SPORTS CAR CHAMPIONSHIPS

Salinas, Calif. - All four track qualifying records were broken Friday, highlighted by pole runs from the Zytek and the Porsche RS Spyder prototypes, in qualifying for the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Tom Chilton's record run of 1:14.185 around the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course sent waves through the paddock and the crowd in attendance. It smashed the previous mark of 1:15.028 set in 2000 by Rinaldo Capello in an Audi R8.

This was the first ALMS pole for Chilton and kept the Zytek perfect in the ALMS for qualifying. Teammate Hayanari Shimoda sat on the pole at Mid-Ohio and Petit Le Mans earlier in the year, the Zytek's only other ALMS appearances this season.

"This is my first time here and it's a bit of a sand pit. Each lap is quite different," Chilton said. "Fortunately, it was the cleanest it's been all weekend, so it was nice to have that extra inch to push through the apex. I think I learned the course in the first five laps here, but you can never stop learning because the course changes so much."

Second was the No. 16 Dyson Racing Lola of Butch Leitzinger and James Weaver at 1:14.906, just ahead of the No. 20 sister car of Andy Wallace and Chris Dyson.

Following a disastrous crash on the opening turn of the first lap at Petit Le Mans two weeks ago that involved the Zytek, No. 1 Champion Racing Audi and the No. 16 Dyson, Chilton said Friday that he already has a plan in mind that hopefully will allow everyone to get through Turn 1 with no incidents.

"How I see it, I'm on the inside and just need to get a clean start," he said. "Not even JJ (Lehto) can pass somebody on the outside of a hairpin. I'm used to a lot of things happening on the first lap with my experience in the British Touring Car Series."

The story in LMP2 continued to be the performance of the new Porsche RS Spyder. Sascha Maassen earned his 11th career pole and first since the 2003 Petit Le Mans with a lap of 1:15.606 that broke James Weaver's mark from 2003.

Maassen qualified the No. 6 Penske Motorsports entry fifth overall, a spot better than the No. 1 Champion Racing Audi R8. It was just the sort of start that many predicted from Porsche's first prototype since 1998.

"I think the army that we have here is happy now," said Maassen, who will drive with longtime partner Lucas Luhr. "I can only be happy for the Penske team, Porsche and Lucas. It was lucky for me that the car didn't miss a beat. It just ran and ran and ran. I can't wait for the race tomorrow."

The only thing left is to see how the car does in the four-hour event. So far, all indications have been positive. An expected duel between the Penske Porsche and the No. 37 Intersport Lola B05/40, which leads the class drivers and team championship, may take awhile to develop as the Lola spun on its second qualifying lap and didn't go back out. The car of Jon Field, Clint Field and Liz Halliday will start 27th on the grid.

"It's very different in qualifying. The cars are on low fuel and new tires," Maassen said. "So it's a good time to judge how close everyone will be, and it would have been a good time to see exactly how fast the No. 37 car really was. In testing, we know the car works. As for the race, we won't know because there are more cars on the track."

The No. 10 Miracle Motorsports Courage of Jeff Bucknum, Chris McMurry and James Gue will start second in class, followed by the No. 8 B-K Motorsports Mazda-powered Courage of Jamie Bach and Guy Cosmo, who still have slim championship hopes alive.

Terry Borcheller brought ACEMCO Motorsports its second pole in three events with a record-breaking lap of 1:20.307 in the No. 63 ACEMCO Motorsports Saleen S7R. He shattered Olivier Beretta's mark, set last season, by about 0.7 seconds.

Borcheller, who will share duties with Johnny Mowlem, also won the class pole at the Grand Prix of Mosport. He has a fondness for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, especially considering his 2001 class win in a Saleen, as well. That capped off his drivers championship season.

"It's got a great rhythm," Borcheller said of the track. "You can get into a groove that is pretty serious. In a lot of the corners, you can flow a lot of speed into them and we had it right on today."

Second and third were Corvette Racing's two Corvette C6-Rs. The No. 3 entry of Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell was the quicker of the two at 1:20.719. But both were well behind Borcheller, who hopes that this is the race where everything comes together for ACEMCO's first win in the ALMS.

"In our qualifying run at Mosport, we had a pretty good gap," Borcheller said. "The car was perfect and it was a really good lap. At Petit Le Mans, the car really wasn't there. It takes everything to come together to win a pole, and even more so when there is a large gap."

In GT2, Romain Dumas captured his seventh career pole with a lap of 1:25.406 in the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche, breaking Timo Bernhard's 2004 mark, to nip the No. 31 Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Porsche by 0.13 seconds. Dumas teamed with Marc Lieb to win in class last season.

"I have to say that it's my best qualifying effort this year," Dumas said. "I didn't expect that today. In the session before, there were many red flags and the car was not so good. During the red flag, we made some changes and came out with a good lap."

Despite being all but eliminated from the class drivers championship hunt (Petersen/White Lightning needs to only finish 70 percent of the race to clinch), Dumas said there is still much to race for and prove. Alex Job Racing still is alive in the class team championship, which is plenty of motivation.

"The qualifying was a point to show that we are the quickest," Dumas said. "We'll see tomorrow. We try to be out front and see what happens."

Behind Petersen/White Lightning drivers Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister, the No. 43 BAM! Porsche of Mike Rockenfeller and Wolf Henzler was next at 1:25.601.

The final round of the 2005 American Le Mans Series is the Monterey Sports Car Championships on Saturday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. The race is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. PDT, with SPEED TV broadcasting the race from 1 to 5 p.m. EDT Sunday. American Le Mans Radio, and IMSA Live Timing and Scoring, will be available at www.americanlemans.com.

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Rinaldo Capello , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Guy Cosmo , Jon Field , Sascha Maassen , Lucas Luhr , Terry Borcheller , Timo Bernhard , James Gue , Tom Chilton , Hayanari Shimoda , Patrick Long , Clint Field , Chris McMurry , Jeff Bucknum , Johnny Mowlem , Marc Lieb , Romain Dumas , Olivier Beretta , Mike Rockenfeller , Liz Halliday , Alex Job , Chris Dyson
Teams Corvette Racing , Dyson Racing , Alex Job Racing