Graf zooms to Laguna Seca pole in Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX

Lisa Davidson, ALMS correspondent

Klaus Graf landed the overall pole for the third round on the 2012 American Le Mans Series calendar. On the home of the famous corkscrew, Graf was the star of the day in qualifying on the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca road course in Monterey, California. Dyson Racing’s Guy Smith was second fastest in the P1 class.

“I hope it's the (power) Muscle Milk for driving only with 2 drivers. Greg gave us the chance to drive with 2 drivers. It gives us maximum track time to dial in the car, so fitting in a third driver into just 2 hours of practice could be tough. We've done it before, and certainly physically demanding, but we've done it before. It gives us a good chance for tomorrow,” Graf said.

Qualifying thirty-five cars in five separate classes in the space of about an hour is a feat of logistics which perhaps not everyone can appreciate. This afternoon’s session at the famed MRLS was thoroughly crisp and professional, and when it was done, five teams succeeded in placing their cars on the pole in their classes to set the grid for Saturday’s epic six hour battle.

#007 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage: Adrian Fernandez, Darren Turner
#007 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage: Adrian Fernandez, Darren Turner

Photo by: Jeff Davidson

The GT (Grand Tourismo for those of you wondering) class is the largest class with twelve entries and is one of the most competitive groups as a result. Darren Turner, driving the 007 Aston Martin Racing entry, a ride he shares with veteran Adrian Fernandez, had the fastest time with a lap of 1.22.229. He will be joined on the front row of his class by the #4 car of Corvette Racing, and third place in the GTs was claimed by Jorg Muller, driving one of two Rahal Letterman Racing’s BMWs.

Over in the PC (Prototype Challenge) class, veteran Brazilian racer Bruno Junqueira was fastest in the RSR Oreca entry and will share the class' row one with championship points leader Alex Popow in his Oreca car. Third place in PC went to local favorite Memo Gidley, driving for Muscle Milk Racing’s Oreca.

The first class to qualify, the GTC (Grand Tourismo Challenge) featured Damien Faulker taking the pole in his #34 car for Green Hornet Racing and Tracy Krohn’s entry qualified by Englishman Nick Tandy had the second fastest time. The third fastest time was posted by Jeroen Bleekemolen; the Krohn car’s team’s other entry.

#055 Level 5 Motorsports HPD ARX-03b: Scott Tucker, Christophe Bouchut, Franck Montagny
#055 Level 5 Motorsports HPD ARX-03b: Scott Tucker, Christophe Bouchut, Franck Montagny

Photo by: Jeff Davidson

Last but certainly not least, the fastest lap of the session was set by Graf driving the #6 HPD Honda with a time of 1.13.573 in the P1 (Prototype) class. Their arch rivals, the Dyson Racing team’s car #16, a Lola Mazda was necessarily second fast in the class because there are only 2 cars competing in the series this year. The growing P2 class saw the Level 5 Motorsport entries driven by Christophe Bouchut and Luis Diaz qualify one – two. And in perhaps a surprise for the team principals, Dempsey Racing’s Jonny Cocker, in their ALMS debut, qualified third for a contest that they admitted was more of a test for them than an actual race.

The green flag will wave at 1:30 PM Pacific time tomorrow and television coverage will be live on the internet on ESPN3.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Guy Smith , Franck Montagny , Klaus Graf , Memo Gidley , Bruno Junqueira , Adrian Fernandez , Darren Turner , Jorg Muller , Luis Diaz , Christophe Bouchut , Jeroen Bleekemolen , Tracy Krohn , Scott Tucker , Jonny Cocker , Nick Tandy , Alex Popow
Teams Aston Martin Racing , Corvette Racing , Muscle Milk Pickett Racing , Dyson Racing
Tags davidson, featured, graf, honda, pickett