PENSKE PORSCHE RILEY QUALIFIES ON FRONT ROW; FARNBACHER LOLES RACING PORSCHE THIRD IN GT QUALIFYING FOR TOMORROW'S ROLEX GRAND-AM EVENT AT VIRGINIA INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY ALTON, VA - April 24 --Timo Bernhard (Germany) qualified the ...
PENSKE PORSCHE RILEY QUALIFIES ON FRONT ROW; FARNBACHER LOLES RACING PORSCHE THIRD IN GT QUALIFYING FOR TOMORROW'S ROLEX GRAND-AM EVENT AT VIRGINIA INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY
ALTON, VA - April 24 --Timo Bernhard (Germany) qualified the #12 Penske Porsche Riley - which le will share with Romain Dumas (France) -- on the front row Friday for Saturday's Bosch Engineering 250, the second race of the 2009 Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 at Virginia International Raceway.
Thank goodness the Porsche works driver is a fast learner.
"We were not accustomed to the track," Bernhard said. "We really had to learn the track first, especially Romain. This is his first time here. I ran the test here in October. Learning the race track took 5-6 laps this morning. Then the rest of the time we worked on getting the car focused for the race tomorrow.
"For the qualifying session, we were on the limit. It was a perfect lap that put me first (for a while) and then on the front row in the end. The rest of my laps I had spoiled by other cars in the fast corners or coming out of the pits that spoiled my lap.
"So I am really happy to be on the front row. That works well for the race tomorrow. The (lap) time shows what we can do tomorrow when we need to, perhaps in the last five laps. Normally, in a two hour, forty-five minute race, we would not go so hard earlier but it is nice to know how fast we can go if we need to push it in the final laps. Tomorrow is looking good."
Bernhard will start on the left side of pole winner Memo Rojas, who qualified first at 1:41.646 in a Lexus Riley. Bernhard set his fastest time on the third lap, after leading the pack of 15 Daytona Prototypes with a 1:43.701 on his first flying lap. Bernhard's best lap was 1:42.333 at an average speed of 115.149 mph during the 15-minute qualifying session around the 3.270-mile road course.
In separate GT qualifying, Len Keen qualified the #87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche GT3 Cup third with a best lap of 1:52.293, the only Porsche in the top six. Teammate Eric Lux was seventh best at 1:53.068.
"Those Mazdas (which qualified 1-2) are quick," Keen said, "but what kind of pace will we run during race? That will have a lot to do with who wins."
Romain Dumas, who ran most of the first practice session in the morning in the Penske car and was just 10th best at 1:43.657, will co-drive with Bernhard Saturday.
"I feel much better about our changes (after Bernhard's qualifying lap) than I did this morning," Dumas said. "We were on older Pirelli tires this morning and of course Timo had new tires for qualifying. The new tires helped him go a little faster, as well. We feel good about the race, but there are some fast cars here."
Neither factory driver mentioned the additional weight (30 Kg) mandated by a rule change after the season-opening 24 Hours of Daytona some three months ago, but Bernhard did note that he "missed sixth gear" (that was eliminated by the new rules).
Darren Law qualified the #58 Brumos Porsche Riley fifth at 1:42.631, and the #59 Brumos Porsche Riley driven by JC France (Daytona Beach, FL) was just 14th at 1:44.927.
"I am a little disappointed," Law said. "We did not improve that much from the first practice (when he was fourth quickest at 1:43.239). We have some work to do during final practice tomorrow, but we also need to focus on our race set-up. We know we can go quicker."