MONTEREY, Calif. (September 7, 2001) -- Former Formula One star Stefan Johansson posted the fastest speed of the day Friday as practice opened for Sunday's American Le Mans Series Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna ...
MONTEREY, Calif. (September 7, 2001) -- Former Formula One star Stefan Johansson posted the fastest speed of the day Friday as practice opened for Sunday's American Le Mans Series Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Johansson, driving the Gulf Audi R8, turned the 2.238-mile circuit in 1:15.967, fastest of the 27 cars that practiced on Friday. Official qualifying will be held on Saturday, with Sunday's two-hour, 45-minute race to start at 12 noon (PDT).
"It's encouraging to have topped the times," said Johansson, who will co-drive with Frenchman Patrick LeMarie on Sunday. "But it's the qualifying session when we must perform, and ultimately in Sunday's race."
Johansson has been racing in Europe most of the season and won the inaugural championship of the European Le Mans Series, sister series to the ALMS. The Swedish driver raced on the ALMS last year.
Second-fastest on Friday was the Panoz LMP-1 of Jan Magnussen and David Brabham, winner of two of the last three ALMS races. The car was clocked at 1:16.193 on its best lap, with Magnussen and Johansson exchanging the top spot several times in the last 30 minutes of the session.
The two factory Audis of Frank Biela/Emanuele Pirro and Tom Kristensen/Rinaldo Capello were third and fourth, followed by the second Panoz of Franck Lagorce and Klaus Graf.
"I'm sure the factory Audis had something in reserve today, but so do we," said Johansson. "But it bodes well for us."
Didier de Radigues, who has clinched the LMP 675 class title for 2001, was the fastest on the day in that class at 1:21.559 in a Reynard 01Q-Judd. He will partner with female driver Milka Duno on Sunday. Claudia Huertgen, the other female driver in the field, posted the second-fastest LMP 675 time at 1:23.754 in a Lola B2K-Nissan. She will share the car with Steven Knight and Mel Hawkins.
The GTS class was led by the Saleen S7R of Terry Borcheller and Franz Konrad with a lap of 1:24.273, followed by the Chevrolet Corvette C5-R of Kelly Collins and Andy Pilgrim at 1:25.183.
The new driving combination of Boris Said and Bill Auberlen led GT class practice at 1:26.849 in a BMW M3 GTR. Auberlen missed the last two ALMS races because of a concussion suffered in a practice crash. Their car was just ahead of another BMW driven by JJ Lehto and Jorg Muller, which posted a fast lap of 1:26.964.
Sunday's race will be televised live in the United States by NBC Sports beginning at 4 p.m. (EDT). Live coverage by the American Le Mans Series Radio Web can be heard online at www.americanlemans.com.
Event ticket information is available online at www.laguna-seca.com or by calling 1-800-327-7322. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is located on Highway 68 between Monterey and Salinas, Calif.