Lime Rock: Saturday qualifying report

QUALIFYING RECORDS FALL AS WERNER PUTS NO. 1 CHAMPION RACING AUDI ON POLE FOR NEW ENGLAND GRAND PRIX Lakeville, Conn. - All four class qualifying records at Lime Rock Park fell Saturday in an historic qualifying session for Monday's New ...

QUALIFYING RECORDS FALL AS WERNER PUTS NO. 1 CHAMPION RACING AUDI ON POLE FOR NEW ENGLAND GRAND PRIX

Lakeville, Conn. - All four class qualifying records at Lime Rock Park fell Saturday in an historic qualifying session for Monday's New England Grand Prix, Round 4 of the American Le Mans Series. And for the first time this year, a Champion Racing Audi R8 posted the fastest time in qualifying.

Marco Werner, fresh off his victory with teammate JJ Lehto and Tom Kristensen at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, set a track record of 46.753, almost a full second better than James Weaver's pole time from 2004. In fact, all of the race's LMP1 cars were under the 2004 record.

"This car is very good," Werner said. "I have to give big thanks to the team. I damaged the car in practice, and we only had a short time to fix it before qualifying. There was debris on the track in Turn 1 so I tried the very inside line where no one goes and there was no grip and hit the curb, but I kept turning hard but the car wouldn't turn and just went straight. So this pole was a present from the team."

Werner and Lehto will share driving duties in the No. 1 Champion Audi. They will start alongside the No. 16 Dyson Racing of Butch Leitzinger and James Weaver. Leitzinger posted a fast time of 46.967, about 0.1 seconds quicker than his teammate Andy Wallace in the No. 20 Lola he will share with Chris Dyson.

"It feels like a long time since we've been on the pole," Werner said. "It feels good, especially this track being the home track for the Dyson team who has done a lot of testing here. I can't believe my lap time. They said no one could beat the Dyson because they were running low 47s, so to do a 46 is incredible. We'll have to see how it goes at the start. I have to stay ahead of the Dysons and be on the right side of the track going into Turn 1 because it will be very hard to pass them on the track during the race. To pass here you have to gamble and sometimes you have to wait. It's about the situation. It's what makes Lime Rock so great."

Jeff Bucknum won his third pole with his time of 49.503 in the No. 10 Miracle Motorsports Courage. Bucknum also sat on the pole last year, although his time then was in the 51-second range when he was in a Pilbeam.

"This track, with the mix of concrete and then asphalt, is difficult," Bucknum said. "It's something you have to get geared up for. Sometimes the car catches or it doesn't. It's hard to find grip. I had a good one going, but then we had a problem with the waste gate so I had to come back in and get some more fuel. The car feels good right now. It's gonna be a great car for the race (Monday)."

Ben Devlin qualified the No. 19 van der Steur Racing Lola, which he will share with Gunnar van der Steur, second in class. The No. 8 Mazda-powered B-K Motorsports Courage of Jamie Bach and Guy Cosmo will start third.

In GT1, the No. 4 Corvette C6-R is on the class pole for the second straight race as Olivier Beretta posted a fast lap of 50.170. Beretta, who will split driving duties with Oliver Gavin, set the pole time in the opening five minutes and was 0.4 seconds ahead of the No. 3 sister Corvette C6-R of Ron Fellows, who will team with Johnny O'Connell. It was Beretta's 15th career ALMS pole, which moved him into first place in series history and breaking a tie with Fellows.

Beretta and Gavin are coming off their second straight class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans about two weeks ago.

"It's a very narrow track and it's a very tough track to find a line," Beretta said of Lime Rock. "But Corvette Racing did a strong job. The C6 is very quick at tracks like Le Mans and at tracks like here. We have a good package with good tires and good crews, and we're looking forward to Monday.

"It's like being in winter then flying to the beach," Beretta said of going from Le Mans to Lime Rock. "But we love what we do and love racing. It doesn't matter what the track is. We enjoy racing no matter where."

The No. 35 Maserati Corse MC12 of Fabio Babini and Andrea Bertolini will start third.

In GT2, Patrick Long earned his first career ALMS pole and put the No. 31 Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche on the class point for the second time this year. His lap of 53.748 knocked former class track record holder Romain Dumas and the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche from the top spot in the waning moments of the 20-minute session.

The No. 50 Panoz Esperante of Bill Auberlen and Robin Liddell will start third in class.

"Obviously, I'm elated to have my first pole," Long said. "Lime Rock is such a neat facility. It's tight and will be tough during the race. The team decided to wait until the end to let most of the GT2 cars be near their end. We liked the excitement factor, and we're glad we get to sit an extra day on top of the GT2 pole."

The New England Grand Prix, Round 4 of the ALMS, is set for 3 p.m. EDT Monday at Lime Rock Park. SPEED Channel will provide live coverage, along with American Le Mans Series Radio at www.americanlemans.com.

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Robin Liddell , Bill Auberlen , Guy Cosmo , Ben Devlin , Oliver Gavin , Patrick Long , Marco Werner , Jeff Bucknum , Romain Dumas , Fabio Babini , Olivier Beretta , Andrea Bertolini , Gunnar van der Steur , Alex Job , Chris Dyson , JJ Lehto
Teams Corvette Racing , Dyson Racing , Alex Job Racing