Series Sebring qualifying report

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American Le Mans Series (ALMS) press release

Audi, Muscle Milk, Ferrari Lead Sebring Qualifying
Grid set for 2012 ALMS and FIA WEC opener

Andre Lotterer led an Audi sweep of the top three positions in qualifying Friday for the 60th Anniversary Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida. It was an expected result for the mighty trio of diesel-powered prototypes, and Lotterer led the German factory squad with a lap of 1:45.820 (127.235 mph) in the Audi R18 he drives with Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler. The three seek to add a Sebring victory to their win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year. {{1299552|left|s3{{

Lotterer led a 64-car qualifying grid that combines the fields of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón and the FIA World Endurance Championship. Tom Kristensen qualified second at 1:46.215 (126.762 mph) with Romain Dumas 0.72 seconds further back. Lotterer’s quick lap was more than enough to offset an early-session penalty for speeding in pitlane.

“Usually the pit limiter is always on, but it wasn’t that time. That was my mistake for not noticing. It didn’t really make my life more difficult. The car ran great and I was able to get in a good lap. This pole is really nice for the staff as the guys work so hard to prepare for this race.”

After the three Audis, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s Klaus Graf was the fastest non-diesel entry at 1:47.536 (125.205 mph). He drives the team’s HPD ARX-03a with Lucas Luhr and Simon Pagenaud. Graf was the quickest qualifier from the ALMS, and his performance was remarkable given that the Muscle Milk got its car less than two months ago.

“A new car is always a lot of work,” Graf said. “Everyone involved such as Wirth Research, HPD and the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing have put a lot of effort into it for this event. It was a big effort to first get the car running, then testing and how to set up. And now this is a reward for us including our partners, Michelin, with the tires. This is a small team for a 12-hour race. This gives us motivation for the whole team. Our team has worked more than 100 hours since we got here on Saturday. It is so hard to prepare these cars for a race like this one since they are so new."

P1 cars took the top 10 spots. Olivier Pla was the quickest P2 qualifier thanks to a lap of 1:50.467 (121.883 mph) in Oak Racing’s Morgan-Judd. He was 0.356 seconds clear of ex-Peugeot factory driver Stephane Sarrazin in Starworks Motorsports’ HPD ARX-03b. Elton Julian, a regular last year in the ALMS’ Prototype Challenge class, was third in P2 qualifying Friday at 1:51.809 (120.420 mph).

“I had a chance to test here before, so I had a pretty good idea of the circuit,” Pla said. “I was really looking forward to racing here. The car is amazing. We had an incident on Monday and our team did a great job to get the car back and ready to go. The car felt perfect in qualifying.”

Christophe Bouchut led the ALMS’ contingent in the class with a lap of 1:52.129 (120.076 mph) in Level 5 Motorsports’ No. 055 HPD ARX-03b. He had just set his quick time when he clipped the inside of T1 and went hard into the outside tire wall. Bouchut said a fellow P2 car rejoined the race line too soon after exiting the pits and forced him to take an evasive maneuver.

“From my perspective, at that time, there was nothing else I could do or else the car would have hit me and then it would have been worse than what happened,” Bouchut said. “Everybody has to watch their mirrors – especially in qualifying; you have nothing to win on your first lap."

Team manager David Stone said he feels confident that the team has the necessary spare parts – the engine cover was the main concern – to fix the car and make Saturday’s race.

“I know the guys can put the labor and effort in to get it back together,” he said. “If we don’t get tricked by not having a critical part, then I think we’ll have it back together."

Bouchut’s time was 0.364 seconds clear of Conquest Racing’s Martin Plowman in the team’s Morgan-Judd. He was the second-quickest ALMS driver in P2.

Gimmi Bruni was the fastest GTE Pro driver with a lap of 1:58.427 (113.690 mph) for AF Corse as Ferrari F458 Italias took the top two spots in the GT class. The Italian was the pole-winner last year in the a Ferarri F430 GT – also for AF Corse. Bruni finished 0.296 seconds clear of Luxury Racing’s Jaime Melo.

“GT this year is a real fighting class – very good,” Bruni said. “The level is getting higher and higher, and we have been working so hard to be there and it is a good starting point for Ferrari and AF Corse, for sure. It will be a good fight tomorrow. Hopefully we can last for all 12 hours and make a great maneuver for the spectators to enjoy the racing.”

Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen qualified third in class and was the ALMS’ fastest driver in the production-based class. He set a lap of 1:58.996 (113.147 mph) in the Corvette C6.R that he is sharing with Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor. Magnussen was just 0.011 seconds clear of Oliver Gavin in the sister Corvette.

Both Corvettes went all-out. Magnussen ran out of E85 on his cool-down lap, and Gavin got back to pitlane on fumes.

“I don’t think we made the best of (qualifying) at the time, but we made the best of it at the end,” said Magnussen, who overtook Gavin for third on his final flying lap. “It is super competitive and we have to be 100 percent every time we go out. Qualifying is the first time for everyone to show what they can really do and I think it will be 12 hours of really hard racing.”

Bruno Junqueira earned his first ALMS pole in his qualifying debut in Prototype Challenge. The former open-wheel star set a lap of 1:54.510 (117.579 mph) in RSR Racing’s ORECA FLM09. Junqueira, a past championship runner-up in Champ Car, was 0.045 seconds clear of CORE autosport’s E.J. Viso – another open-wheel regular.

Junqueira, teaming with Tomy Drissi and Roberto Gonzalez at Sebring, drove for RSR last year in a Jaguar as part of the ALMS’ GT class. He said the team has a much better competitive advantage with equal cars in their new class.

“This pole gives our team some good morale for this race,” Junqueira said. “The team told me to be patient and bring the car home and we will be fine. This is the first time I have driven this car. I love it. On the first lap, I felt the brakes and they were great. They really worked well. So I said, ‘Hey, it’s race time. So let’s go.’ And the car was great. Now, we are ready for the race. It should be exciting.”

Dane Cameron qualified third for Dempsey Racing at 1:54.628 (117.458 mph) – only 0.118 seconds off the PC pace. The top five cars in the class were within 0.698 seconds.

Dominik Farnbacher was the fastest GTE Am qualifier with a lap of 2:00.184 (112.028 mph) in Luxury Racing’s Ferrari F458 Italia. He was 0.745 seconds clear of Krohn Racing’s Nic Jonsson in another Ferrari. The gap was similar from Jonsson back to Pedro Lamy in Larbre Competition’s Corvette C6.R.

“My first Sebring race was in 2004 and it really impressed me because in Europe we do not have such bumpy racetracks like here,” Farnbacher said. “The first year after I did it, I really felt it in my back at the end of the race and I still do. This is going to be one for the history books. It is the biggest field ever and the toughest one to beat.”

Sean Edwards won pole position in GT Challenge during a fantastically close session. Edwards, driving NGT Motorsports’ Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, set a lap of 2:06.674 (106.289 mph) in the car he will share with Henrique Cisneros and Carlos Kauffmann.

Only 0.037 seconds separated the top three runners in GTC. Damien Faulkner was second for Green Hornet Racing. Alex Job Racing was next at 2:06.711 (106.258 mph). All told, the top six GTC cars were separated by just 0.760 seconds.

“It is a really difficult track and the team has put together a good car,” Edwards said. “There is not a huge amount we can adjust on the GTC cars so it is just about putting a lap together. (Managing traffic) is going to be tough. You are going to see quite a battle out there. And with the traffic of 64 cars, it is going to be tough. You’ve got to keep your nose clean. Stay out of trouble in the first 10 hours and then see where you are.”

The 2012 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón begins with the 60th Anniversary Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida on Saturday, March 17. The race, set for 10:30 a.m. ET, will be broadcast at noon March 18 on ABC and shown live on ESPN3.

The race is available to international audiences on MotorsTV in Europe, Fox Latin America, Rogers Sportnet in Canada, ESPN International, Fox Mideast and on ALMS.com.

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Series ALMS
Tags audi, brumi, ferrari, graf, hpd, lotterer, porsche

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