Werner nails new record for pole in Sonoma

Werner nails new record for pole in Sonoma

Champion Racing handed the keys to the Audi R8 to Marco Werner for today's qualifying attempt. The German not only got the pole, he established a new qualifying lap record at the Sears Point Infineon Raceway. ...

Champion Racing handed the keys to the Audi R8 to Marco Werner for today's qualifying attempt. The German not only got the pole, he established a new qualifying lap record at the Sears Point Infineon Raceway.

#38 Team ADT Champion Racing Audi R8: JJ Lehto, Marco Werner.
Photo by Todd Corzett.
"The feeling is better this weekend," Werner explained how he felt as the last two poles in the American Le Mans Series were won by Dyson Racing. "Again we were very close, but we (JJ Lehto and himself) are in front. The car is pretty good and also the Michelins."

Werner's new lap record of 1:22.320 for an average lap speed of 110.641 miles per hour on the 2.53-mile, 12 turn road circuit bested the old record held by Tom Kristensen by only 0.295 seconds. Kristensen hit his fast time of 1:22.615 back in May, 2002 in the Team Joest Audi R8

"On the second lap, I had a bit of a problem," said Werner. "I pushed too hard and got a little sideways and lost it but my first time was good enough. On the flying laps, you cannot go too slow or too fast."

#16 Dyson Racing Team Lola EX257/AER: James Weaver, Butch Leitzinger.
Photo by Todd Corzett.
Dyson Racing's two AER Lolas will start second and third. The #16 with Butch Leitzinger at the wheel had a best lap time at 1:22.399, missing the pole by a mere 0.079 seconds. Chris Dyson's best time in the #20 was 1:25.712.

The new qualifying format was interesting to say the least. The first car to take to the track was the GTS #6 Krohn Racing Lamborghini driven by co-owner Tracy Krohn. Twenty seconds later a GT car took to the track followed by three more GTs. The ALMS officials decided to add a bit of drama to qualifying "for the fans"; their trademark for the series since its inception.

The practice two times were used to base the qualifying order in reverse from slowest to fastest. Thus the main overall pole was determined at the end of the qualifying session.

The GTS class pole came down to a three-way Corvette Racing battle. The first Corvette on the track was the special third car for this weekend. Boris Said was behind the wheel of the #8 and laid down a lap at 1:29.554, which was a new qualifying lap record.

Ron Fellows was the next Corvette on the track and he surprised everyone with a time at 1:28.234. The gaunlet had been thrown down for Oliver Gavin, who was already on his out-lap, setting up for his first flying lap. Gavin was the previous holder of the track qualifying record (1:30.463).

#4 Corvette Racing Corvette C5-R: Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta.
Photo by Todd Corzett.
"I had this carrot in front of me of Ron going out and doing a very fast lap," Gavin commented. "I was surprised at the time of one minute and twenty-eight seconds."

Gavin's frist lap in his #4 Corvette was faster than his teammate's, so he took the pole and kept the ownership of the track qualifying record. His time was 1:28.042 for a speed of 103.451 mph.

"I was surprised myself to get into the 1:28s," said Gavin. "I was a little bit wild and on the second flyer, the team radioed me to slow down, I had the pole."

Clint Field got his first career pole in the P2 class. The Intersport Racing driver hit a time of 1:28.952 for an average speed of 102.392 mph. "It is really a good feeling," said Field. "To win the pole for the team."

Team Bucknum Racing took second in the P2 field; they won the pole at the last two races: Mid-Ohio and Lime Rock. Jeff Bucknum was clocked at 1:30.185.

Field was pleased to finally surpass the Bucknum Pilbeam Nissan. "In the last couple of races, we weren't too far behind the #56 Bucknum Racing car," Field explained. "But to get ahead of them this weekend is a great thing."

Porsches have dominated both the Friday test day and the two earlier practices in GT, mainly by the two cars fielded by Alex Job Racing, so it was no surprise to see an AJR Porsche on the pole.

#24 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3RSR: Romain Dumas, Marc Lieb.
Photo by Todd Corzett.
Romain Dumas sat a new track qualifying record on his way to the top spot in the GT class in #24 AJR Porsche. Clocked at 1:32.244 with a speed at 96.643 mph to clinch his second consecutive pole in his first year in ALMS.

"Really happy, my first time at Sears Point. I like the track here," commented Dumas. "It is not an easy track, but not too much bumpy. The first part is not easy but it is quite easy to learn."

Dumas' pole time bested the one set last year by Jorg Bergmeister at 1:36.177; also in an AJR Porsche.

Second in GT was the second AJR car, the #23 driven by Timo Bernhard (Bergmeister's co-driver) tuned a lap at 1:34.250. Ten GTs were under the class record today. "Everyone is the GT class is really good, we fight a lot," added Dumas.

The new qualifying format received several kudos from the drivers at the end of today's trial session.

"It was really exciting, I like this type of qualifying," said Dumas. "You need to push a lot on the first lap. Two laps is enough. Before you go out, you wait to see what the ones before you have done, then you know if you need to push. Really this time was much better."

Gavin commented, "The new format is a lot of fun and I enjoyed it a lot. I think most did."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Boris Said.
Photo by Todd Corzett.
The always outspoken Said, who pilots the third Corvette with Dale Earnhardt Jr, added, "I think it's a cool format and I think they should always do it. I think it's exciting. You have to get it done in two laps."

Said did not have two good laps as he did believed that he did not have the brakes warmed up enough on the first lap and went off on the second lap, "I am still not familiar with the carbon brakes so the first lap I didn't have them warm enough. The second lap, I had a good lap going and just went off in 7B a lttle bit."

Earnhardt Jr did practice today as he is still adjusting to the Corvette and the road course. NASCAR does not use the "carousel" section when they race here. "It's going read good, the car is real fast and I'm comfortable in the car. It's a great car. Corvette has done a lot of testing.

"It's going to be different, watching for the prototypes, and the GT cars, being careful and just having a lot of respect and courtesy out there for everybody," added Earnhardt.

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