Simon Pagenaud captured his second straight American Le Mans Series pole position in qualifying for the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix on Saturday at Miller Motorsports Park. The sterling Frenchman set a best lap of 1:34.350 (116.229...
Simon Pagenaud captured his second straight American Le Mans Series pole position in qualifying for the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix on Saturday at Miller Motorsports Park. The sterling Frenchman set a best lap of 1:34.350 (116.229 mph) in Patron Highcroft Racing's No. 1 HPD ARX-01c that he will drive with David Brabham.
Pagenaud, who won the race last year with Gil de Ferran, outpaced Drayson Racing's Jonny Cocker and his No. 8 Lola B09/60-Judd coupe by 0.536 seconds. In last year's race, Pagenaud won the race, pole position and set the fastest race lap.
As you might guess, he likes it here.
"It's great to be back. This is a very beautiful track," said Pagenaud, who shares the Le Mans Prototype class championship lead with Brabham after victories in the last two races. "I just love how the car reacts here in the high-speed corners and the chicane. I love pretty much everything about this track. I don't know why I am so quick here."
After the Drayson Lola which Cocker will share with 2006 overall race-winner Emanuele Pirro, Dyson Racing's No. 16 Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupe was third fastest thanks to Chris Dyson's lap of 1:34.909 (115.614 mph). He will drive with Guy Smith.
Gunnar Jeannette captured his second LMP Challenge class pole in four races with a lap of 1:42.592 (106.956 mph) in G-Oil's No. 99 Green Earth Team Gunnar ORECA FLM09. A resident of the Salt Lake City area, Jeannette was 0.210 seconds quicker than Christophe Bouchut in Level 5 Motorsports' No. 55 entry.
GETG and Level 5 sit 1-2 in the class championship with Level 5 winning two races to GETG's one. But Jeannette leads the class with two pole positions.
"This is fantastic. If I could pick two tracks I wanted to be on pole it would be Sebring and here," Jeannette said. "This is my backyard, so I'm ecstatic to be on pole. So far so good!"
Jeannette has been the quickest driver in class in all four sessions so far -- Friday's test, and Saturday's two practices and qualifying. He said his familiarity with the circuit certainly didn't hurt, especially as the LMPC cars are racing at Utah for the first time.
Gianmaria "Gimmi" Bruni led a 1-2 qualifying effort for Ferrari with his second career pole in the GT class. The Italian turned a lap of 1:47.667 (101.914 mph) for Risi Competizione in the No. 62 Ferrari 430GT he will drive with Jaime Melo. It was a tightly contested session with Bruni only 0.062 second better than Johannes van Overbeek in the No. 01 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari. Jorg Bergmeister qualified third in the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR at 1:47.921 (101.674 mph).
"This track is very, very good," said Bruni, who has never raced at MMP before. "I started driving here last week with the two days testing. I'm really comfortable with the track. We've been really good from yesterday to qualifying. It was a mess getting caught with some GTCs, but you wait and you can get the good clear road. I was hoping for more of a gap but for sure it will make for a really good race tomorrow."
Especially if the race pace is as close as the qualifying pace. The top eight cars in class were within 0.883 seconds, quite remarkable given the expansive circuit layout.
In the GT Challenge class, Jeroen Bleekemolen earned his second straight class pole position with a lap of 1:54.641 (95.714 mph) in Black Swan Racing's No. 54 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. Bleekemolen and team owner Tim Pappas led for the entire six-hour round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the Series' last race.
"It's all about learning new tracks since they are all new to me," Bleekemolen said. "We struggled a bit. The other cars did a two-day test here but it was really good. I can't complain. This place is really nice, very fast. There is a lot of room for errors which makes you push really hard but you can get away with it."
Bleekemolen was only 0.312 seconds better than Bryce Miller, who was quickest in Saturday morning's practice and Friday's test session in Orbit Racing's No. 46 entry. Alex Job Racing's Luis Diaz was only 0.001 seconds behind Miller. Much like in GT, the gap between the top cars was small. Only 0.975 seconds separated the eight fastest cars.
It was a double dose of good news for Jeannette today, as Frankie Monticalvo drove Gunnar Racing's No. 66 Bayshore Recycling/Manther Musk entry to the win in the first of two races for the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship this afternoon. Montecalvo posted a razor-thin 0.170-second margin of victory over the No. 54 Inspire Motorsports entry driven by Jonathan Bennett, with Antonio Downs aking third in the No. 4 Eurosport Racing entry.
The first of two races for the Patron GT3 Challenge by Yokohama for identically prepared Porsche 997s turned into a family affair for the Smith family of Fort Worth, Tex. Ross Smith took the overall win in the No. 5 Maxwell Paper Racing entry, taking the checkered flag 1.044 sec ahead of the No. 16 World Speed Motorsports entry of Chris Cumming, with Michael Schein taking third in the No. 21 Alex Job Racing entry. In the Gold Class, for older Porsche 997s, Ross Smith's brother Kendall claimed the victory, finishing sixth overall in the No. 4 Maxwell Paper Racing entry. Local favorite Melanie Snow of Salt Lake City, who occasionally serves as an instructor for Miller Motorsports Park's Ford Racing High Performance Driving School, was second in class and ninth overall in her No. 56 Snow Racing entry, edging Henrique Cisneros in the No. 26 NGT Motorsports entry.
The action continues on Sunday with additional races for both the Patron GT3 Challenge by Yokohama and the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship, plus races for the Air Power GT Invitational and the Radical West Challenge. The feature race, the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix, is scheduled to take the green flag at 2:35 p.m., with pre-race ceremonies beginning at 1:30 p.m.
There are a wide variety of activities for families to enjoy in addition to the racing. The Miller Kart Track will be open for kart rentals, there will be "Tech Talks" with top teams and autograph sessions with drivers, Chevrolet will be doing "ride-and-drive" demonstration with their hottest cars, and the customary American Le Mans Series "grid walk" will allow fans access to the pre-race grid prior to Sunday's feature race.