Laguna Seca: Friday qualifying report

Minassian Puts DBA-Zytek on Pole at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Monterey, CA - Creation Autosportif and its DBA-Zytek Prototype race car surprised the American Le Mans Series regulars Friday by winning the overall pole for Saturday's four-hour...

Minassian Puts DBA-Zytek on Pole at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Monterey, CA - Creation Autosportif and its DBA-Zytek Prototype race car surprised the American Le Mans Series regulars Friday by winning the overall pole for Saturday's four-hour Audi Sports Car Championships event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Frenchman Nicolas Minassian turned the 2.238-mile road racing circuit at 1:15.893 to win the overall pole in only his second ALMS race. He will co-drive with Jamie Campbell-Walter in the ALMS season finale, which will be a day-night event that starts at 4 p.m. (PDT).

Audi R8s from ADT Champion Racing were second and third, with the #38 of JJ Lehto and Marco Werner second at 1:16.111, followed by the 1:16.255 of Johnny Herbert and Pierre Kaffer. The two Lolas of Dyson Racing were fourth and fifth.

Creation Autosportif team manager Ian Bickerton, when talking about the team's two-race trip to America, had predicted a pole and a race win at Laguna Seca for the team.

"He (Bickerton) was very optimistic," said Minassian. "But I think our chances are really good. The team has done a great job the last two races. I was sad going out last race in Atlanta. I liked pushing hard today. The car has spent a lot of time in the wind tunnel and a lot of time in development. When Creation took over the car, it's been a lot of testing and set-up.

"The race will be tough," he said. "We know the Audis will be consistent. They have buttons to get out of the pit where I have to do worry about the clutch, gas, and brake. I will need a 10-second lead to be successful in the pits."

"I'm satisfied with where we qualified today," said Lehto. "Everyone, especially the top five cars, are really close. We knew the Creation team would be strong and in fact we expected the Dyson cars to do better than they did. The set-up we have is good. Now we just need to keep concentrating on the tires."

"I made a mistake on one lap in qualifying and then had traffic on another but I'm content with third place," said Herbert. "This will be my fourth race at Laguna with Champion Audi and I'm still searching for my first win - I've never won a race in California but I'm still dreaming. On Thursday I was feeling really unwell - Sushi in San Francisco the previous night - but I'm getting better with each day."

JAMES LEADS WAY WITH COURAGE IN LMP2

Ian James, who only needs to score a handful of points in the race to win the LMP2 class title, won the class pole with a lap of 1:19.315 in the Miracle Motorsports Courage C65-AER that he will share with James Gue and John Macaluso.

"This Courage is getting better every race," said James. "I know we are getting the best Yokohama has to offer because our tires are coming with Delta Airline tags straight from Japan.

"I try not to think about the championship, but with everyone saying things to me, it's hard not to. I know everyone keeps telling me all I have to do is finish, but that's not always easy to do. The start will be difficult, I know the Corvettes will go barreling by but I'll just pick them off later in the race."

The Intersport Racing Lola B2K/40-Judd of Clint Field, Robin Liddell and Rick Sutherland was second at 1:21.183, while third was the Miracle Motorsports/Team Bucknum Racing Lola B2K/40-AER of Jeff Bucknum, Chris McMurry and Bryan Willman at 1:23.412.

Field and Liddell can win the LMP2 driving title if they win the race and James scores no points.

BERETTA TIES ALMS POLES RECORD

Olivier Beretta won the pole for the GTS class in the Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C5-R with a time of 1:21.679, breaking the old track record of 1:22.350 that was set last year by Jan Magnussen in a Prodrive Ferrari. The 14th pole of Beretta's career in the ALMS tied the series record for the most poles in any class, a record Beretta now shares with Corvette teammate Ron Fellows. Beretta and co-driver Oliver Gavin will seek their fourth straight win.

The race will be the last appearance for the C5-R as a factory team car as the new C6-R will replace it in 2005.

"I've been very lucky to drive fast cars for great teams throughout my career in the American Le Mans Series," said Beretta. "GM Racing has done a great job with the C5 Corvette, winning Le Mans twice and many other races. I'm kind of sad this is my last race with the C5, there's lots of history with the car. But now we get to see what the C6 can do.

"It's a great place to be here at Laguna Seca," he said. "This is a great track, I love the town. This race is a great idea from the people at the American Le Mans series, racing here at night will capture the spirit of endurance racing."

Fellows and Johnny O'Connell qualified second in the GTS class with a time of 1:22.238 in the other factory Corvette, while third in class was the ACEMCO Saleen S7R of Terry Borcheller and Johnny Mowlem at 1:23.244. However, the Saleen failed the stall test in post-qualifying inspection and will start last in the race.

BERNHARD WINS GT CLASS POLE

Timo Bernhard, who needs to finish sixth or better in the race to win the GT class driving title for the season, won the GT pole in the Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR with a track record lap of 1:25.586. The old record of 1:26.182 was set last year by Sascha Maassen for the same team. Bernhard will co-drive with Jorg Bergmeister as they try to win for the fourh straight time this season.

"I have a really competitive car and a great co-pilot for the whole year," said Bernhard. "The whole team always does a good job. I know I have what it takes to win the championship, so it's going to be business as usual.

"It's not very bright at night, there isn't a lot of light around the track at all, but this will be a great race, it is a good part of the idea of endurance racing," he said.

Alex Job cars qualified 1-2 in the class, with the other Porsche of Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas second at 1:25.768. The Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche of Darren Law and Johannes Van Overbeek was third at 1:26.565. Van Overbeek and Law are the only drivers who can overtake Bernhard for the class driving title.

EVENT INFORMATION

The Audi Sports Car Championships event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will get the green flag at 4 p.m. (PDT) on Saturday, October 16. The American Le Mans Series Radio Network will have live coverage that can be heard online at www.americanlemans.com, and MotorsTV will have live flag-to-flag coverage that can be seen in Europe beginning at 24:00 (UK) and 01:00 (Paris).

In North America, NBC Sports will have coverage of the event on a one-day tape delay beginning at 2 p.m. (EDT) on Sunday, October 17.

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Jan Magnussen , Nicolas Minassian , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Robin Liddell , Sascha Maassen , Ian James , Terry Borcheller , Oliver Gavin , Darren Law , Jörg Bergmeister , Jamie Campbell-Walter , Timo Bernhard , John Macaluso , James Gue , Marco Werner , Clint Field , Bryan Willman , Jeff Bucknum , Rick Sutherland , Johnny Mowlem , Romain Dumas , Olivier Beretta , Pierre Kaffer , Alex Job , JJ Lehto
Teams Corvette Racing , Dyson Racing , Flying Lizard Motorsports