Laguna Seca: Series qualifying report

ALL-ACURA FRONT ROW IN MONTEREY How's this for a comeback? David Brabham took the pole position for the Monterey Sports Car Championships presented by Patrón at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Friday with a record-breaking run...

ALL-ACURA FRONT ROW IN MONTEREY

How's this for a comeback? David Brabham took the pole position for the Monterey Sports Car Championships presented by Patrón at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Friday with a record-breaking run in Patrón Highcroft Racing's Acura ARX-01b. Brabham's time of 1:10.103 (114.928 mph) put the Acura prototype that he will share with Scott Sharp out front for the start of the season's final race.

Acura swept the front row with Luis Diaz and the Lowe's Fernandez Racing entry only 0.099 seconds behind Brabham. Diaz will drive with Adrian Fernandez as Acura put itself in position to capture the LMP2 manufacturer championship over Porsche in just its second year in the Series.

It needs to sweep the podium to take the title.

"We're all out there to win but we're there for Acura as well," said Brabham, who has won four times in class this year with Sharp. "They have given us fantastic cars for sure. If we can give them that clean sweep, it would be a nice thank-you for that effort."

Timo Bernhard qualified third for Penske Racing with a lap of 1:10.351 (114.523 mph) in the Porsche RS Spyder that he will drive with Romain Dumas. The duo clinched the class driving championship two weeks ago at Road Atlanta. Part of the reason was Patrón Highcroft's retirement after a crash in the race's opening hour of the 1,000-mile race.

"We never had a chance to see how competitive we could have been," Brabham said. "The team has shown a lot of character. The guys gave me a great car and this gives us a huge boost. With all the red flags we had in practice, we didn't know exactly where to go with the setup. But after two laps this morning I think I had a good enough feeling for how the car needed to be. We've been able to do that a lot this year."

The top eight cars were LMP2 cars, which have an advantage on the twisty circuit. Audi Sport North America's Emanuele Pirro was the fastest LMP1 driver in the Audi R10 TDI that he will share with newcomer Christijan Albers. Pirro's time of 1:11.264 (113.056 mph) outpaced teammate Lucas Luhr by 0.561 seconds.

"I would say that if I asked an engineer to design a car suitable for LMP2 cars, it would be something like this," said Pirro, who won at Monterey in 2001 and 2002. "Our car likes long straights, fast corners and grip. The longer the race, the better it is for us. Our cars were built for longer races, and the P2 cars are a little more fragile over a long distance.

"We didn't start very well early and the car wasn't very nice at all," he added. "We went to a standard setup and I can say now the car is very enjoyable to drive around here."

Saturday's race will be Pirro's final in an Audi prototype. Audi is the only manufacturer for which he has competed in the American Le Mans Series and has been a part of Audi Sport for 15 years.

"Maybe it's my last race but I don't know yet," Pirro said. "When I finished my single-seater career in F1, I had a very long career behind me. It could have been a good time to stop. Then I went to Audi and we had 15 really beautiful years. The team kept the same people for 15 years and that helped tremendously. To continue racing at high levels, I would have to go and drive for someone else. There are a lot of competitive situations but the price would be to leave a manufacturer from which I received a lot and also gave a lot."

Johnny Mowlem qualified Corsa Motorsports' Zytek 07S third in P1 at 1:12.819 (110.641 mph). He will drive with Stefan Johansson.

Jan Magnussen added another bullet on his championship resume with his second GT1 pole position in three events. Corvette Racing's Danish ace set a class record with a lap of 1:19.291 in the Corvette C6.R that he again will share with Johnny O'Connell. Magnussen's lap was 0.499 seconds better than teammate Oliver Gavin in the sister Corvette.

"For qualifying it was a matter of clean laps," Magnussen said. "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. It will be a matter of staying clear of the other cars."

Magnussen also was on pole position at Detroit, and the Magnussen-O'Connell combination has combined for six fast qualifiers this year. The pairing wrapped up the class championship two weeks ago at Road Atlanta with Ron Fellows for their eighth victory of the season.

Magnussen hasn't won in Monterey since 2003 in Prodrive's Ferrari 550 (as a teammate with Brabham). O'Connell last won here in 2004 with Corvette and Ron Fellows.

"This is my favorite track because of the flow and the rhythm, and I'm always fast here," Magnussen said. "I'd love for Johnny and me to finish off with a win tomorrow. If we don't, it's still been a great year."

Dirk Werner took his second GT2 pole of the season for Farnbacher Loles Racing and Porsche. The young German set a class record with a lap of 1:22.060 in the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR that he will drive with Bryce Miller. The pairing teamed with Richard Westbrook to win at Road America in August, a four-hour race just like Saturday's.

"We were fast from the beginning. So when the car is fast, you like the track," Werner said. "

Werner was 0.32 seconds clear for Flying Lizard Motorsports' Jorg Bergmeister in another Porsche. Bergmeister and teammate Wolf Henzler also wrapped up the class title at Road Atlanta as Flying Lizard did the same in the team category.

Dominik Farnbacher qualified the Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GT that he will drive with Dirk Mueller third in class at 1:22.701. The Ferraris face an uphill battle, needing to win the race and Porsche to finish worse than sixth to win the class manufacturer championship.

"I thought this would be more of a Ferrari track," Werner said. "We didn't do a lap differently than we did anywhere else. "We want to help Porsche; that is very clear. In the end we also are looking for a good result for ourselves. I don't see how we can help Porsche more than getting a good result. It doesn't matter to Porsche who comes in front first as long as it is a Porsche."

The final round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series is the Monterey Sports Car Championships presented by Patrón from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The four-hour race into darkness is scheduled to start at 2:45 p.m. PT on Saturday, October 18. NBC Sports will air the race from 2 to 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, October 19. XM Satellite Radio's Channel 144 will air the race from 4 to 8 p.m. ET on the same day. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage on americanlemans.com, which also will feature Live Timing & Scoring.

-credit: alms

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