Sears Point Audi dominates qualifying

SONOMA, Calif. (July 21, 2000) - Allan McNish of Scotland, driving an Audi R8 prototype that was dominant at the 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans, set a track record Friday in first-round qualifying for Sunday's American Le Mans Series...

SONOMA, Calif. (July 21, 2000) - Allan McNish of Scotland, driving an Audi R8 prototype that was dominant at the 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans, set a track record Friday in first-round qualifying for Sunday's American Le Mans Series Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sears Point Raceway.

McNish, who won at Le Mans in 1999, toured the 2.52-mile course at an average speed of 110.626 mph to take the provisional pole position with final qualifying scheduled for Saturday. He'll be teamed with Italy's Rinaldo Capello for Sunday's two-hour, 45-minute Grand Prix of Sonoma. He broke the mark of 110.114 mph set last year by J.J. Lehto of Finland in a BMW V12 LMR.

David Brabham of England, who teamed with Denmark's Jan Magnussen to win the Le Mans Series last round at Nurburgring in Germany, put a Panoz LMP-1 in the other provisional front row spot with a speed of 110.136 mph.

Brabham was closely followed by Emanuele Pirro of Italy in the other Audi R8 at 110.132 mph. McNish said conditions differed from the morning practice to afternoon qualifying.

"This session was more slippery than this morning," he said. "Due to the heat and wind, the track was getting a little dusty. I will probably have to go faster (today). Qualifying is very important for this race with traffic and the nature of the circuit. You need to get out in the lead early so you can dictate the strategy.

"I expected to find the track more difficult," he added. "It was a bit of a surprise that the car was this fast out of the box because the car was designed for Le Mans. The high-speed area of the track (here) favors us. (In the slower corners) the Panoz and BMWs equal us and may even be a bit better."

Lehto was disappointed with his run, which was fifth fastest at 108.400.

"I'm really disappointed that we come back to the circuit where we were on pole last year and today our car was only good for fifth place," Lehto said. "I'm a little bit confused at the moment. Last year, we came straight out of Le Mans and the car was really not bad. This year, we have no grip. We're bouncing all over the place. We have a lot of work to catch up."

Karl Wendlinger of Austria, who has teamed with Olivier Beretta of Monaco to win the GTS class in the first four Le Mans Series events, was fastest in that group with a lap at 97.781 mph in a Dodge Viper GTS-R.

"Last year was my first time on the track in a Viper," Wendlinger said. "On a track like Sears Point, it's never easy to have a trouble-free run."

Brian Cunningham of Danville, Ky., put a BMW M3 in the No. 1 spot in the GT division with a lap at 94.357 mph. The M3s are challenged by a hoard of Porsche GT3Rs.

Qualifying continues today at Sears Point and time trials will also be held for the third round of the Women's Global GT Series.

FRIDAY RESULTS

Friday's qualifying results for Sunday's American Le Mans Series Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sears Point Raceway, showing provisional starting position, drivers, hometown or country, car and average speed:

<pre> 1. Allan McNish, Scotland; Rinaldo Capello, Italy, Audi R8, 110.626 miles per hour (track record, beat mark of 110.114 set by J.J. Lehto in 1999). 2. David Brabham, England; Jan Magnussen, Denmark, Panoz LMP-1, 110.136. 3. Emanuele Pirro, Italy; Frank Biela, Monaco, Audi R8, 110.132. 4. Johnny O'Connell, Flowery Branch, Ga.; Hiroki Katoh, Japan, Panoz LMP-1, 109.401. 5. J.J. Lehto, Finland; Jorg Muller, Monaco, BMW V12 LMR, 108.400. 6. Mimmo Schiattarella, Monaco; Didier de Radigues, Monaco, Lola B2K, 108.242. 7. Bill Auberlen, Redondo Beach, Calif.; Jean-Marc Gounon, France, BMW V12 LMR, 107.800. 8. Stefan Johansson, Indianapolis; Guy Smith, England, Reynard 2KQ, 107.796. 9. Jon Field, Dublin, Ohio; Rick Sutherland, San Jose, Calif., Lola B2K, 104.058. 10. Dorsey Schroederf, Little Torch Key, Fla.; James Weaver, England, Lola B2K, 103.494. 11. Karl Wendlinger, Austria; Olivier Beretta, Monaco, Dodge Viper, 97.781. 12. David Donohue, Malvern, Pa.; Tommy Archer, Duluth, Minn., Dodge Viper, 97.389. 13. Zak Brown, Indianapolis; Vic Rice, San Rafael, Calif., Porsche 911 turbo, 94.560. 14. Brian Cunningham, Danville, Ky.; Niclas Jonsson, Aliso Viejo, Calif., BMW M3, 94.357. 15. Randy Pobst, Melbourne, Fla.; Bruno Lambert, Belgium, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 93.958. 16. Sascha Maassen, Germany; Bob Wollek, France, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 93.801. 17. Lucas Luhr, Monaco; Dirk Muller, Monaco, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 93.622. 18. Johannes van Overbeek, Danville, Calif.; Peter Cunningham, West Bend, Wis., BMW M3, 92.924. 19. Tony Burgess, Canada; Stefano Buttiero, Italy, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 92.426. 20. Mike Fitzgerald, Atlanta; Bob Nagel, Clearwater, Fla., Porsche 911 GT3 R, 92.104. 21. Mark Simo, Carlsbad, Calif.; Jim Matthews, Indianapolis, Reynard 2KQ, 91.880. 22. Kevin Buckler, Sonoma, Calif.; Rick Knoop, Portola Valley, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3R, 91.723. 23. Shane Lewis, Jupiter, Fla.; Cort Wagner, Santa Monica, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3 R, 91.372. 24. David Murry, Atlanta; Johnny Mowlem, England, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 91.205. 25. Gunnar Jeannette, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; Michael Petersen, Las Vegas, Nev.; Dale White, Las Vegas, Nev., Porsche 911 GT3 R, 90.167. 26. Doc Bundy, Gainesville, Ga.; Rohan Skea, Australia; Grady Willingham, Birmingham Ala., Porsche 911 GT3 R, 88.077. 27. Jennifer Tumminelli, Tiburon, Calif.; Steve Ariana, Dublin, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3 R, 87.761. 28. Kye Wankum, Canada; Greg Doff, Canada, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 76.594. 29. Hans Stuck, Austria; Boris Said, Carlsbad, Calif., BMW M3, no time.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Shane Lewis , David Brabham , Stefan Johansson , Rinaldo Capello , Didier de Radigues , Dirk Müller , Jan Magnussen , Allan McNish , Bruno Lambert , J.J. Lehto , Guy Smith , Frank Biela , James Weaver , Boris Said , Karl Wendlinger , Johnny O'Connell , David Murry , Jorg Muller , Bill Auberlen , Tommy Archer , Randy Pobst , Tony Burgess , Jon Field , Sascha Maassen , Lucas Luhr , Kevin Buckler , David Donohue , Gunnar Jeannette , Dorsey Schroeder , Peter Cunningham , Johannes van Overbeek , Jim Matthews , Brian Cunningham , Rick Sutherland , Mimmo Schiattarella , Johnny Mowlem , Michael Petersen , Vic Rice , Jean-Marc Gounon , Olivier Beretta , Grady Willingham , Bob Wollek , Doc Bundy , Aliso Viejo , Rick Knoop , Zak Brown , Emanuele Pirro , Hiroki Katoh , Cort Wagner