Sears Point: Qualifying report

Leitzinger makes history with first American Le Mans Pole for LMP 675 car SONOMA, Calif. - Butch Leitzinger and Dyson Racing made history Saturday at Infineon Raceway as Leitzinger became the first driver ever in the American Le Mans Series to...

Leitzinger makes history with first American Le Mans Pole for LMP 675 car

SONOMA, Calif. - Butch Leitzinger and Dyson Racing made history Saturday at Infineon Raceway as Leitzinger became the first driver ever in the American Le Mans Series to win an overall pole position with a car from the series' second Prototype class.

Driving a Lola EX257-MG from the LMP 675 class, Leitzinger won the overall pole for Sunday's Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma with a lap of 1:23.085 on the 2.53-mile, 12-turn road racing circuit. Andy Wallace gave Dyson Racing a sweep of the front row with a lap of 1:23.636 in the second Lola-MG, and Leitzinger's lap was a track record for the LMP 675 class..

Frank Biela qualified third overall and fastest in the LMP 900 class with a lap of 1:23.885 in the Infineon Team Joest Audi R8. The ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 of JJ Lehto and Johnny Herbert qualified fourth overall, and second in the LMP 900 class, at 1:24.562.

The LMP 900 cars are heavier (900 kg) and more powerful than the LMP 675 (675 kg) machines, but the twisting, turning Infineon Raceway circuit was viewed by many sports car racing observers as a track that would equalize the two classes more than any other.

"Everyone has done such a wonderful job working together so we can challenge the dominant cars," said Leitzinger, who won his first ALMS pole position. "I can't say enough about the team; they've put in so many long hours and this is the payback for it.

"We're going to give a good fight to the car that has been dominant the last few years (Audi R8)," he said. "Our car is lighter than the 900s, which is an enormous difference. On this track, there are lots of switchbacks, and we're able to go faster from the hairpins on the front to the hairpins on the end to gain an advantage."

"We've seen those cars getting consistently better and better," said Biela. "It's not really surprising that they beat us. It's good for the series, and good for the spectators, that other people can give us a hard time."

Leitzinger will co-drive with James Weaver, while Wallace's co-driver in the two-hour, 45-minute race will be Chris Dyson. Biela's co-driver will be Marco Werner.

Oliver Gavin won his second pole of the season in the GTS class, driving the factory Chevrolet Corvette C5-R to a lap of 1:30.609. His lap broke the previous track qualifying record of 1:31.582, set last year by Corvette driver Ron Fellows. Gavin and co-driver Kelly Collins won the GTS class in the most recent ALMS race at Road Atlanta last month.

20-minute qualifying session for GTS and GT cars was cut to only 10 minutes after the Porsche of Robin Liddell crashed into a tire barrier in turn 10 halfway through the session. Liddell was unhurt, but by the time the car was removed and the tire barrier had been rebuilt, the session's time had expired. Some of the cars expected to be fast in the GTS class, including the two Prodrive Ferraris and the other Corvette, were not able to take fast laps, and some of the fast GT cars also did not get in their fast laps.

The Team Olive Garden Ferrari 550 Maranello of Mimmo Schiattarella and Emanuele Naspetti qualified second in the GTS class with a lap of 1:33.267 and was the only other car in the class able to post a fast lap before the session ended.

"Things went very strange because the session was cut in half," said Gavin. "It was the fastest lap I'd done all weekend, then the crash happened. It's a shame for the series that the other teams didn't get a proper run at it, but they had the same chance as me."

Jorg Bergmeister won his first pole of the 2003 season in the Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RS, turning a track-record lap of 1.36.177. He will co-drive with Timo Bernhard as they seek their second win of 2003.

The Risi Competizione Ferrari 360 Modena of Ralf Kelleners and Anthony Lazzaro qualified second at , followed by the White Lightning/Petersen Racing Porsche of Johnny Mowlem and Craig Stanton..

Sunday's race starts at 12 noon (PDT) and live coverage can be heard online from the American Le Mans Series Radio Web. NBC Sports will have live television coverage beginning at 4 p.m. (EDT).

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Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Johnny Herbert , Frank Biela , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Ralf Kelleners , Ron Fellows , Robin Liddell , Kelly Collins , Oliver Gavin , Jörg Bergmeister , Timo Bernhard , Marco Werner , Emanuele Naspetti , Mimmo Schiattarella , Johnny Mowlem , Craig Stanton , Alex Job , Chris Dyson , JJ Lehto
Teams Risi Competizione , Dyson Racing