Maassen Puts No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Porsche Eighth on GT Grid at Long
No. 48 Marquis Jet/TOTAL/IPC Machine Top Yokohama-Shod Qualifier
Paul Miller Racing's No. 48 Marquis Jet/TOTAL/IPC Porsche 911 GT3 RSR co-drivers Bryce Miller and Sascha Maassen head into tomorrow's Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach looking to continue personal streaks of top-five finishes at North America's most prestigious street circuit.
They're in good position to do just that in tomorrow's second round of the nine-race 2011 American Le Mans Series thanks to a solid, eighth-place performance by Maassen in qualifying on Friday on the streets of Long Beach. The German driver, who has finished on the podium in both of his previous ALMS starts at Long Beach, clocked a best lap at 1:20.646 to slot the No. 48 Porsche in as the fastest qualifier on Yokohama tires and also ahead of a few other factory-supported cars.
"I'm very happy with the car, the tires and the team," Maassen said. "I think we did a great job coming here having almost no practice for a new team. That's really difficult. We have not a lot of experience with the car, with the tires, with everything. For that, we did a really good job in qualifying. We improved my lap time from free practice by another second.
"I was confident this would maybe give us more than eighth position on the grid, but hey, we are in front of one of the Corvettes. That's something you need to achieve, to beat a factory team in qualifying. I like that already. It doesn't pay anything, but it's a little bonus for qualifying. For the race, I am optimistic. We have a two-hour race and we have two good drivers. That is a big bonus."
With qualifying in the rearview mirror, the team's attention now focuses to the two-hour battle on the tight and challenging 1.968-mile circuit. Maassen's qualifying effort gives the team decent track position, which is critical on a circuit with limited passing opportunities. So how do they plan to gain more spots in the race?
For the race, I am optimistic. We have a two-hour race and we have two good drivers. That is a big bonus.
"We need to maintain a consistent pace tomorrow, maintain our position, maybe look for opportunities from some other drivers if they make some mistakes and get in there and try to overtake a couple positions," said Bryce Miller. "We also need to try to hit all our marks on the pit stop as well, because that's going to be a big part of where we can place here.
"Here, I think it's actually really worth considering taking a gamble in pit strategy, because it's so difficult here to pass that if you can advance during the pit-stop cycle, a lot of teams take the position that you can retain the position easier at this track. We're certainly considering some things."
It's great to be able to represent Yokohama here in their backyard.
Qualifying is only half the battle and there are two very important hours of racing on tap for Saturday afternoon when it really counts. However, they were clearly pleased with how it's gone so far in one of the most important markets the ALMS visits.
"This is great," said Bryce Miller. "It's great to be able to represent Yokohama here in their backyard in this manner and to show up some other manufacturers and some other major teams. It's a really good moment for us, being a newcomer to the series. This is a really good sign. We're moving in the right direction and the team is working in harmony. We just keep getting better every day."
The Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach takes the green flag at 4:30 p.m. PT on Saturday afternoon. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com beginning at 7:15 p.m. ET (4:15 local time) and also on ESPN2 at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday.