Portland: Qualifying report

IT'S AN ALL-DYSON FRONT ROW AT PORTLAND PORTLAND (July 21, 2006) - Admittedly, Butch Leitzinger says Portland International Raceway isn't really a favorite of Dyson Racing. Surely that will change after Leitzinger's pole position run Friday for...

IT'S AN ALL-DYSON FRONT ROW AT PORTLAND

PORTLAND (July 21, 2006) - Admittedly, Butch Leitzinger says Portland International Raceway isn't really a favorite of Dyson Racing. Surely that will change after Leitzinger's pole position run Friday for the Portland Grand Prix.

Leitzinger put his Dyson Racing Lola B06/10-AER on the pole for Saturday's sixth round of the American Le Mans Series. Not only has Dyson Racing captured the pole in each of the last three Series races at Portland but it also has swept the front row here for the last three years, too.

Leitzinger's time of 1:03.101 in the No. 16 Lola was 0.132 seconds better than the sister car of Guy Smith. It was the fifth career pole for Leitzinger, who has qualified second the past two years at Portland to former Dyson teammate Andy Wallace.

"Andy has blasted me here, and it drove me a little crazy," joked Leitzinger, who will team with James Weaver. "We finally got him out of our car, and Guy Smith tried to do the same thing to me! Finally I went back and restored some dignity to the No. 16 car.

"The Dyson team has a great understanding of this track," Leitzinger added. "It is an incredibly hard track to setup for because of the long turns. It becomes incredibly important."

Smith will start on the outside front row with Chris Dyson in the No. 20 Lola. Series LMP1 points leaders Allan McNish and Dindo Capello were third in qualifying in the No. 2 Audi R10 TDI.

"I think we're getting to where we're getting a good handle on the car," said Leitzinger, who needs a win this weekend to stay in sight of the class championship. "Rob (Dyson, team owner) and Chris built this team because they want to win championships. To do it against the likes of Audi and their drivers is a huge task. They've done everything they can do to that end, so now it all comes back to us."

Penske Racing's Romain Dumas put the No. 7 Penske Porsche RS Spyder on the LMP2 pole and fifth overall. It was the 10th career pole for Dumas and third of the season. His time of 1:03.702 smashed the previous P2 record set by Clint Field last year (1:05.744) and was 0.168 seconds better than the No. 6 Penske Porsche of Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen, which will start second in class.

"I don't know why but I am good on this track," said Dumas, now a three- time pole winner at Portland who is teaming with Timo Bernhard. The two won last year's GT2 class for Alex Job Racing in a Porsche.

"We did not try to go for overall (pole position)," Dumas said. "The Dyson car is very good here. We were really working for the race and getting the tires right for the race. The car was working well."

Penske Racing is on a four-race winning streak in P2 and is in a tight championship hunt with Intersport Racing, which won here last year with Clint Field and Gregor Fisken. Field is driving this year with Liz Halliday, and the pair will start third in class and ninth overall. In the class team standings, Penske leads Intersport by 7 points while Field and Halliday lead Maassen and Luhr in the drivers championship by 1 point.

"We are walking in the same direction for Porsche and Penske," said Dumas, who recorded just 8 points in the first two events of the season with Bernhard. "Right now in the No. 7, we are far back in the championship. In my car, we are trying to have the maximum result we can have because we don't have much of a chance (for the championship)."

Olivier Beretta added to his record of career fast qualifiers with a GT1 pole run in Corvette Racing's No. 4 Corvette C6.R, the Monaco resident's 18th in the Series. The defending class champion with teammate Oliver Gavin turned in a lap of 1:09.309 to best teammate Johnny O'Connell in the No. 3 entry by less than 0.2 seconds.

"The track is nice. I raced for the first time in 1999 and always have had good results," said Beretta, who will team again with Gavin. "This year we have a good team. Hopefully the extra weight won't be a problem."

Aston Martin Racing's two Aston Martin DBR9s will start third and fourth. The British entries have won the last two GT1 contests to halt a 12-race winning streak by the Corvettes. The No. 007 of Tomas Enge, Darren Turner and Andrea Piccini was the quickest of the Aston Martin DBR9s at 1:10.016.

"Olivier did a fantastic job as he always does in qualifying," Gavin said. "This is only a small part of it because it will be a long race. Tire management is the key. We're going to try to make the car as comfortable as possible and make the rear tires last. We're going to have our work cut out."

In GT2, Jamie Melo won his third pole of the season and second straight in the Risi Competizione Ferrari F430GT. In his first qualifying session at PIR, the Brazilian toured the track in 1:12.769, nearly a half-second better than the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche of Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long.

"It is very difficult to set up the car (at Portland)," Melo said. "We found a good compromise for qualifying. The car is working very well. We fixed some problems for Salt Lake and here. I'm a bit worried for the race. It will be very long and I hope it goes well. The team has done a very good job, and the tires are working very well."

Melo and Mika Salo won last week at Salt Lake City for their first Series victory and the first for Ferrari and Risi since 2004. The car routinely has been the quickest GT2 car at each race this year but finally broke through for the landmark win at Miller Motorsports Park. Still the class remains wide-open as there hasn't been a repeat GT2 winner this season through five rounds.

Petersen/White Lightning, which won at Lime Rock Park, was followed by the Houston-winning Alex Job Racing Porsche of Mike Rockenfeller and Klaus Graf at 1:13.312. Given the forecast of continued hot weather and temperatures above 100 degrees, Melo and the rest of the field know they should be prepared for anything.

"After a few laps, the tires start to be a little unstable," Melo said. "That is difficult for us. I hope we can find some solutions for the race."

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Andrea Piccini , Tomas Enge , Allan McNish , Guy Smith , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Klaus Graf , Mika Salo , Darren Turner , Johnny O'Connell , Sascha Maassen , Lucas Luhr , Oliver Gavin , Timo Bernhard , Patrick Long , Clint Field , Romain Dumas , Gregor Fisken , Olivier Beretta , Mike Rockenfeller , Alex Job , Chris Dyson , Dindo Capello
Teams Team Penske , Aston Martin Racing , Corvette Racing , Risi Competizione , Dyson Racing , Alex Job Racing