Laguna Seca: VICI Racing qualifying report

Monterey, Calif. - Following a huge push by the team over the week-and-a- half since Petit Le Mans, the ...

Monterey, Calif. - Following a huge push by the team over the week-and-a- half since Petit Le Mans, the #18 VICI Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR this afternoon safely qualified for tomorrow's four-hour Monterey Sports car Championships at a hot and dry Laguna Seca. With a new car having to be built from the ground up, along with the factor of a new tire supply from Dunlop, all three drivers having never been here before, and a cross-nation journey for the truck, the team has to be very satisfied to be safely in the race and to have shown their fastest turn of pace all year, just 2 seconds off the pole winner, thanks to a best qualifying lap of 1:24.111 (95.79 mph) set by Nicky Pastorelli. Tomorrow the Dutchman will be joined in the cockpit of the #18 car by his brother Francesco and German Marc Basseng for the final round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series here.

The action on track at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca today (Friday 17th October) was set to kick off with an hour long practice session (10:05 - 11:05 AM) open to all classes, before another hour on track, again open to all the classes (1:55 - 2:55 PM) would lead into the 20 minute qualifying session (3:05 - 3:25 PM) reserved for the GT1/GT2 cars.

The morning warm up, which would be blighted by incessant red flags, saw Marc first into the cockpit of the #18 car, the experienced sports car driver blasting out of the pits in the red, white and grey Porsche as the lights went green bang on time at 10:05 AM; however this would be followed immediately by waved reds as the #2 P1 Audi and the #7 P2 Porsche tangled with each other within seconds. The track went green again at 10:13 AM and Marc was able to squeeze in one flying lap in 1:26.626, which temporarily put the German at the top of the timesheets, before the #10 P1 Radical stopped out on the course smoking heavily and causing the red flags to come out again at 10:17 AM. Once the course went green again at 10:31 PM, Marc rattled off a 1:26.058 (30 mins), 1:26.224 (31) and a 1:26.042 (33) before more reds fluttered at 10:38 AM when the #21 GT2 Panoz ended up stuck in the tire wall at turn 11.

This gave the team the opportunity to bring Marc into the pits and Nicky to take over at the wheel. He headed back onto the track as it went green again, but without time to even post a flying lap as the #61 GT2 Ferrari went into the gravel at turn 7 bringing out the reds again. At 10:54 AM, with 10 minutes of the session remaining the course went green again and the Dutch star posted a 1:33.048 (51), 1:26.255 (52) and a 1:28.581 (54) before yet another red flag curtailed the session five minutes early. The fastest lap of the session to be posted by the #18 car was set by Marc, a 1:26.042 (93.638 mph) on lap 8 of the 14 that the car ran.

The temperatures rose steadily though lunchtime and the early afternoon, and by the time Francesco took to the cockpit of the #18 car at 1:55 PM for the start of the hour long practice session it was hot and dry under the clear blue California skies. The 21-year-old quickly got down to his first decent running at this track as his previous practice sessions yesterday were overshadowed by red flag interruptions. He swiftly kicked off with a 1:28.873 (6), 1:28.340 (8), 1:28.249 (11), 1:26.780 (12), 1:27.419 (14), 1:27.514 (15), 1:27.704 (17), 1:27.034 (19) and a 1:28.198 (21) before pitting to hand over to Nicky with a third of the session completed.

Nicky turned in a 1:25.956 (28), 1:25.301 (29) and a 1:25.170 (31) before the first red flag of the session was waved after 31 minutes as the #2 P1 Audi and #88 P2 Creation went off track at turn 6. Back out of the pits as the track returned to green conditions five minutes later, Nicky wrapped up his participation with a 1:26.206 (40) and 1:26.355 (42) before handing over to Marc. The German returned to the track with just a quarter of an hour remaining and ran a 1:25.550 (49), 1:25.536 (51), 1:31.003 (53), 1:25.323 (54), 1:27.087 (56), 1:25.884 (57) and a 1:25.527 (59) before the chequered flag was waved.

The 20-minute qualifying session would see Nicky in the cockpit, and the former European F3000 Champion posted five consistent flying laps (1:24.712, 1:24.574, 1:24.111, 1:24.183 and 1:24.326) in the #18 car, with the third of these, in 1:24.011 (95.79 mph), enough to put the car onto the fifth row of the GT2 class grid in 9th place.

The team now looks forward to tomorrow. Race day (Saturday 18th October) sees the race warm up session (9:55 - 10:20 AM) before the Monterey Sports Car Championships, the final round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series gets underway. The four-hour race into darkness is scheduled to start at 2:45 PM with the checkered flag scheduled to be waved at 6:45 PM. NBC Sports will air the race from 2:00 to 4:00 PM on Sunday, October 19. XM Satellite Radio will air the race from 4:00 to 8:00 PM (ET) on the same day. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage on, which also will feature Live Timing & Scoring.

Roland Wall, Technical Director VICI Racing: "We are ready for the race, I wasn't sure that I would be able to say that after Petit [Le Mans], but this team has shown it's professionalism and a real tough streak so I'm proud of the crew, they have worked wonders, and lots of long hours. It's been a new situation for us with the Dunlop tires this week and without any time to test we have started from a zero base. But I'm happy with the tires' performance, we have learnt a lot quickly, and I think we can rely on their durability tomorrow. We have a good set up for the race, the Porsche goes well at Laguna [Seca] and all the drivers have done well in quickly getting used to a new track, so let's look forward and hope that we can end the season on a nice note with a good result."

Nicky Pastorelli (Netherlands): "I'm reasonably pleased with my qualifying lap though my best lap was slightly compromised by a car in front that got into the dirt so I think in ideal situation we could have got a few more tenths out of it for sure. However we are in good shape for the race, the RSR feels good round here and the tires are an improvement, they give me much more confidence. The track is nice; it's quite easy to learn for sure. It you keep to the line it's quite smooth and fast but if you get off line then you get into a lot of dirt. We can look forward to the race tomorrow as we have a good car round here and hopefully get a good result."

-credit: vr

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Series ALMS
Drivers Nicky Pastorelli , Marc Basseng