Road Atlanta II: Qualifying report

SHIMODA STORMS TO POLE POSITION AT PETIT LE MANS Braselton, Ga. - Hayanari Shimoda is now two-for-two. The young Japanese star captured the pole for Saturday's Petit Le Mans with a sterling lap at Road Atlanta during qualifying Friday for the ...

SHIMODA STORMS TO POLE POSITION AT PETIT LE MANS

Braselton, Ga. - Hayanari Shimoda is now two-for-two. The young Japanese star captured the pole for Saturday's Petit Le Mans with a sterling lap at Road Atlanta during qualifying Friday for the cornerstone event of the American Le Mans Series.

Shimoda turned a lap of 1:10.781 around the 12-turn, 2.54-mile north Georgia road course. The 20-year-old's time was nearly a second better than the next fastest car, the No. 1 Champion Racing Audi of defending race champions JJ Lehto and Marco Werner. Third was the No. 2 Champion Racing Audi of Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela.

Shimoda, who won the pole at Mid-Ohio in the team's only other ALMS appearance, set Friday's fast time on his second of five laps. The car was involved in an incident during the morning's practice session, and the crew had to work on the machine's right rear suspension, the rear bodywork and wing.

"This weekend, we have had some very unlucky problems. We have not had a lot of time to practice but the team, the help from the Panoz Racing School and my teammate (Tom Chilton) have helped me out a lot," Shimoda said. "We had a little crash this morning but my team is so good we were able to come back and go fast. They looked over the car and they got everything together with no problems. I am very happy and excited to be here and on the pole."

Leading up to the qualifying session, there had been talk about the Zytek breaking Allan McNish's 2000 track record of 1:10.379 and even dipping down into the 1:09 bracket. Chilton dismissed such talk, citing the team's inexperience at the track.

"This is the first time at Road Atlanta for myself and Hayanari," Chilton said. "We missed the first two sessions and only got to do half of the last. This track is very difficult and very exhausting. There is lots to learn; all the corners and the pitch. After Mid-Ohio, I didn't think there was a circuit with more undulations, but I guess I was wrong."

In LMP2, Jon Field put the No. 37 Intersport Racing Lola B05/40 on the pole for the second straight race at Road Atlanta with a 1:12.789 effort. Field will team with Clint Field and Liz Halliday. In April, the Fields drove the car to victory after sitting on the pole for that race, too.

Second-fastest was the No. 41 Binnie Motorsports Lola of Bill Binnie, Sam Hancock and Alan Timpany at 1:14.959. About 0.4 seconds back was the No. 30 Barazi-Kruse Motorsport's AER-powered Courage C65 of Phil Bennett, Juan Barazi and Elton Julian.

Olivier Beretta put Corvette Racing's No. 4 Corvette C6-R on the pole with a track-record effort of 1:16.627 in GT1. Beretta, who shares the class points lead with teammate Oliver Gavin and has three poles this year, won Petit Le Mans in 2004 with Gavin and Jan Magnussen. They also have won the last two 24 Hours of Le Mans class titles.

"The C6 has shown it is the best GT1 car there is," Beretta said. "Today, it was the car. The race will be very important because it is very long and there will be a lot of traffic. But we have a very good team, very fast and very good. We just have to be a little bit more on the rear and we will be fine. Ollie and Jan are fantastic teammates, and we work really well together."

Beretta and Gavin lead the class points standings over Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell, drivers of the No. 3 sister Corvette, by one point heading into the weekend. Beretta said that while the championship is important, having a Corvette outlast the likes of Saleen, Aston Martin and Maserati is the goal for the weekend.

"Every race is prepared the same way. There is no race more important than the other," Beretta said. "At Sebring, the C6 was a fast car and we had a bad moment. We lost the race because someone had a bad race. At Le Mans, we didn't have the speed, but we knew that. The focus was that we were fast all week long and had a good strategy. When the Aston had a problem at Le Mans, we were leading the race. Petit Le Mans is another important race, and we will try to do the same things. GM and Corvette race to win, not just for show."

The No. 3 car of Fellows, O'Connell and Max Papis was 0.151 seconds behind Beretta on Friday. Next was Aston Martin Racing's DBR9 of David Brabham, Darren Turner and Jonny Kane at 1:17.020.

In GT2, Timo Bernhard won his third pole of the year as he piloted the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche to a lap of 1:21.932. In search of his third straight class win at Petit Le Mans, Bernhard's lap was about 0.3 seconds better than the No. 43 BAM! Porsche of Wolf Henzler, Mike Rockenfeller and Martin Jensen.

"Yesterday and this morning we worked more on race setup. I knew we had a good car before qualifying," Bernhard said. "The lap was very good and the tires were very good and they came in at the right time. Now it goes back to the race setting and I'm very happy things worked out so well. Now we can concentrate on the race because it is the most important thing."

The class-leading No. 31 Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche of points leaders Patrick Long, Jorg Bergmeister, along with Craig Stanton, was third. Long and Bergmeister lead the No. 23 duo by 12 points heading into Saturday's race.

"I don't wish them bad luck, but I hope someone can come between them," Bernhard said. "I see that the (BAM!) car is in between right now and is really fast, and the second car from Alex Job Racing is really quick too. I'd like to see them in between us (and the Petersen/White Lightning) Porsche."

Petit Le Mans is the ninth round of the American Le Mans Series. The annual 1,000-mile/10-hour race is scheduled for 11:20 a.m. EDT Saturday at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. SPEED Channel will provide live television coverage. American Le Mans Series Radio, and IMSA Living and Timing Scoring will be available at www.americanlemans.com.

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Jan Magnussen , Allan McNish , Frank Biela , Max Papis , Darren Turner , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Jon Field , Oliver Gavin , Jörg Bergmeister , Timo Bernhard , Jonny Kane , Tom Chilton , Hayanari Shimoda , Patrick Long , Marco Werner , Clint Field , Craig Stanton , Olivier Beretta , Liz Halliday , Wolf Henzler , Juan Barazi , Phil Bennett , Martin Jensen , Elton Julian , Alex Job , Alan Timpany , Emanuele Pirro , JJ Lehto
Teams Aston Martin Racing , Corvette Racing , Alex Job Racing