Road America: Series qualifying report

LUCKY NO. 4 FOR LUHR AT ROAD AMERICA? Will the fourth time be the charm for Lucas Luhr? Audi's German factory driver certainly hopes so. Luhr earned his fourth career pole position at Road America on Friday and was the fastest overall qualifier...

LUCKY NO. 4 FOR LUHR AT ROAD AMERICA?

Will the fourth time be the charm for Lucas Luhr? Audi's German factory driver certainly hopes so. Luhr earned his fourth career pole position at Road America on Friday and was the fastest overall qualifier for the Generac 500 presented by Time Warner Cable. His lap of 1:46.935 (136.277 mph) gave him a 0.41-second margin over Andretti Green Racing's Franck Montagny.

Luhr hasn't won from pole position at Road America after three previous fast qualifiers. On Friday his time was 0.73 seconds faster than Allan McNish's qualifying record from last year of 1:47.665 (135.353 mph).

"I should have backed off a bit," Luhr cracked. "I'll make sure Nishy gets a note that I broke his record. I think this is one of the best race tracks in America and I really like it. It's just good fun to come here."

Frankly, it's been good fun for Luhr and Marco Werner at just about every Series venue this year. Saturday's four-hour race will allow us to see the duo go for their fourth overall victory of the season and sixth straight win in P1. They comfortably lead the class championship by 58 points over Audi teammate Emanuele Pirro, who qualified third overall and second in P1 at 1:47.579 (135.461 mph).

He will drive with newcomer Marcel Fassler in the second R10 TDI. Intersport Racing's Jon Field qualified the AER-powered Lola B06/10-AER third in class and eighth overall at 1:48.371 (134.471 mph).

But as qualifying shows, it's not just Audi's P1 rivals that are threats. Both Porsche and Acura have overall victories this season.

"The course is good for our car," said Luhr, who won his 16th career Series pole position. "I was surprised Montagny was only four tenths behind me. You can see that Acura is getting quicker and quicker, and we've been saying that we've been a bit behind in qualifying and still been able to win overall. The strategy is in our favor being a longer race, but you never know with the yellows and the things going on around the race track. If a yellow comes out, you have to be prepared to change your mind completely and react and adapt to it. Our plan is to go as fast as you can and then react to it."

Back in P2, Acura swept the front row for the third straight race as Montagny won his first Series pole position. He will make his third start with his third different teammate - James Rossiter - in the AGR Acura ARX-01b. Montagny's time of 1:47.345 (135.757 mph) bested Romain Dumas' class record from last year by 1.488 seconds and McNish's 2007 lap, as well.

"All the people who have been in the car are good drivers and they might not be going for the championship this year, but they are good," said Montagny, a former F1 competitor. "The car is still being developed and we are now seeing the result of that. We have a good engineering crew and experience that helps me out."

Former Road America Champ Car standout Adrian Fernandez qualified second in class and fourth overall in the Acura that he will drive with Luis Diaz. Dumas was fifth overall and third in P2 at 1:47.736 (135.264 mph) in the Porsche RS Spyder that he will share with Timo Bernhard. The pairing are the defending overall race winners.

"Tomorrow will be another great race. From now to the last race, I'm trying to work with the engineers and get used to the car. We are always improving the car, race after race and test after test. The race here is the most fun I've had. I've done a lot of racing in Europe, and some GT cars and prototypes. It's good to go somewhere and be good right off from the start."

Oliver Gavin earned his 17th career Series pole position and third at Road America with a lap of 2:01.235 in the Corvette C6.R that he will drive with Olivier Beretta. The Briton was 0.641 seconds better than Jan Magnussen in the other Corvette and more than three seconds quicker than Bell Motorsports' Aston Martin DBR9.

Gavin and Beretta have won the last three GT1 championships but have captured just one victory this season (St. Petersburg) and are on favorable ground. They won together here in 2004, 2005 and 2007.

"We're pleased for the four-hour race tomorrow," Gavin said. "The track is quick, it's challenging and its fun. It's a real proper circuit. It hasn't been sliced up and cut up like other tracks. But this is definitely a good place. It's been one of the years where nothing has gone right for us. Even with everything that happened at Mid-Ohio we couldn't break through. We'll have to wait and see. We will keep pushing and keep trying."

The Corvette squad also has its eyes on the future. Gavin said there were adjustments and developments targeted for next year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, where Corvette has won five times in class since 2000.

"There will be some other developments but this is the best place in the US to develop those kinds of simulations," Gavin said. "We want to be as strong as possible there for 2009."

In GT2, Tafel Racing's Dirk Mueller won his first Series pole position in seven years. His lap of 2:06.083 was 1.108 seconds under Jamie Melo's previous class record from 2007. In fact, the four quickest cars were under last year's pole time.

"We knew from this morning that it would be close," said Mueller, who has won three times this year with teammate Dominik Farnbacher, including two weeks ago at Mid-Ohio. "The Porsches gained a lot between the last practice session and qualifying. We were out for a three-lap run. I came in after two laps and was really impressed. We don't have a qualifying setup and were focusing on the race tomorrow."

Mueller, whose last pole was at Mosport in August 2001, was 0.292 seconds faster than Risi Competizione's Melo as Ferrari swept the front row for the first time this season.

Next was the class-championship leading Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Flying Lizard Motorsports' Jorg Bergmeister at 2:06.415. He and Wolf Henzler lead Mueller and Dominik Farnbacher by four points in the driver championship.

"A four-hour race is worth extra points so strategy is key," Mueller said.

"You need to consider which strategy you want. We can do double stints on our Michelins, which the Porsches cannot do. We haven't decided on that yet. It's a lot different than the standard length race. It's nearly double the duration and it's a very demanding track. It's easy to make mistakes that can cause big problems to the car."

-credit: alms

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Series ALMS
Drivers Dirk Müller , Adrian Fernandez , Jon Field , Lucas Luhr , Marcel Fassler , Oliver Gavin , Jörg Bergmeister , Timo Bernhard , Marco Werner , James Rossiter , Olivier Beretta , Wolf Henzler , Dominik Farnbacher , Emanuele Pirro
Teams Risi Competizione