Long Beach: Acura Motorsports qualifying report

DARIO FRANCHITTI TAKES ACURA TO ITS FIRST AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES POLE POSITION IN FRIDAY'S LONG BEACH QUALIFYING Andretti Green Acura ARX-01a Stuns Porsche, Audi For Top Overall Starting Spot LONG BEACH, Calif. -- In dramatic fashion with a...

DARIO FRANCHITTI TAKES ACURA TO ITS FIRST AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES POLE POSITION IN FRIDAY'S LONG BEACH QUALIFYING

Andretti Green Acura ARX-01a Stuns Porsche, Audi For Top Overall Starting Spot

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- In dramatic fashion with a flying last lap, Dario Franchitti stunned the American Le Mans Series paddock Friday by driving the No.26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01a to the overall pole position for Saturday's one-hour, 40-minute Long Beach Grand Prix event.

Franchitti, who will co-drive with Bryan Herta Saturday before competing in next week's IndyCar Series race in Japan, came from third behind the two Penske Porsches with less than a minute remaining in the 20-minute qualifying session on the famed 1.9-mile street circuit west of downtown Long Beach to claim the top spot. Fran- chitti's final lap time of one minute, 11.838 seconds (98.622 m.p.h.) gave Acura its first American Le Mans Series pole position in only the automaker's third sports-car event.

Highcroft Racing's Stefan Johansson drove his Acura ARX-01a to fourth in LMP2 class qualifying Friday, behind the Andretti Green Acura and the two Penske cars. The former Formula One veteran clocked a time of 1:12.844 in the No.9 Highcroft Acura. Johansson will team with another F-1 veteran, Australia's David Brabham, in Saturday's feature race in the Long Beach streets.

Adrian Fernandez took his No.15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura Lola to the fifth starting spot after a slight mis- hap with another car eliminated his chance for the pole. The popular Mexican driver was the fastest in Friday's morning practice session and looked to be a favorite for the pole. However, Fernandez, who co-drives Saturday with Luis Diaz, made contact with a Mazda exiting the pits early in qualifying. Fernandez had to return to the pits to replace the nose of his Acura Lola. Fernandez' best qualifying time was 1:13.148.

Saturday's American Le Mans Series race will be telecast at 8 p.m. (EDT) on the SPEED Channel.

DARIO FRANCHITTI(#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01a) "I am getting used to the track with each run. It has been five years since I have run here. Trying to get a lap together is difficult with all of the traffic. But at the end I was able to get a pretty clean lap. Actually, I almost had to stop coming down for the final lap. So I was a little surprised by the time of the lap. But I knew I had a shot at the pole if I got a clear lap. It is very exciting to win Acura's first pole. Bryan [Herta] has been waiting to come back here. When I jumped in the car this morning, Bryan tapped me on the helmet and said, `Hey, it's Long Beach. Have fun!' It is always great to race here. I hope we can put together a solid race and win here. Bryan and I have been trying to win here for many years. It would be a tre- mendous thrill to win at Long Beach. "

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura Lola 06/40) "I hit a slower car that was coming out of the pits. I think it was the Mazda. But that car was going very slow. I clipped it and we had to come in and change the front nose. The new nose was dragging a little too much after we changed to it. I don't think our car is too far off for the race. Luis [Diaz] and I have raced here previously, so I think we'll have a competitive car for Saturday. It is great to race the Acura in the company's backyard here in Southern California. We are very excited to be here."

STEFAN JOHANSSON (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01a): "We are getting closer with the new Acura chassis. The engine feels good. I thought we had a chance to run a little quicker but we ran out of time. I really like being back and racing at Long Beach. It has been ten years or so for me. It took a little time to learn the new sections of the track and it is a little different with the ALMS car than the Champ Car. We had a couple of problems in practice this morning and, with the limited time here, that hurt us a bit. But we feel good about the race."

-credit: acura motorsports

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Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Stefan Johansson , Adrian Fernandez , Bryan Herta , Luis Diaz