De FERRAN TAKES AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES POLE FRIDAY IN PANASONIC ELS SURROUND ACURA ARX-01b AT MID-OHIO Second Straight Overall Pole For Acura And Brabham Makes It An Acura Front Row LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Gil de Ferran ...
De FERRAN TAKES AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES POLE FRIDAY IN PANASONIC ELS SURROUND ACURA ARX-01b AT MID-OHIO
Second Straight Overall Pole For Acura And Brabham Makes It An Acura Front Row
LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Gil de Ferran continued Acura's hot streak Friday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course by setting an overall track record in qualifying for Saturday's Acura Sports Car Challenge.
The former Indy 500 winner and two-time CART champion drove his new No. 66 de Ferran Motorsports Panasonic ELS Surround Acura ARX-01b to a sizzling lap of one minute, 7.969 seconds (119.60 miles per hour ), besting Timo Bernhard's overall mark of 1:08.510 (118.651 m.p.h.) from last year. De Ferran, who retired as a driver in 2003, returned to the cockpit in May at Salt Lake City, Utah with an all-new crew and operation. He teamed with Frenchman Simon Pagenaud to place third overall in the team's initial contest.
On Friday at Mid-Ohio, the personable Brazilian came from sixth in the early portions of qualifying to vault to the pole position with just four minutes remaining in the 20-minute qualifying session. Lime Rock race and pole winner David Brabham had leaped to the top of the charts with a 1:08.193 clocking halfway through the session.
A host of LMP1 and LMP2 drivers took shots at the two Acura drivers' times but failed to crack the front row. De Ferran and Brabham, in the No. 9 Patron Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b prototype, scored Acura's second consecutive front row after the No. 9 and No. 66 machines started in reverse order in Lime Rock qualifying.
The top six positions in Friday's qualifying bettered Bernhard's old qualifying mark.
Bernhard took the No. 7 Penske Porsche to third on the grid at 119.12 m.p.h., followed by Franck Montagny in the No. 26 Andretti Green XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01b at 118.98, Marco Werner in the No. 2 Champion Audi at 118.92 and Luis Diaz in the No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b at 118.66.
The pole for de Ferran marked his third straight on the famed 2.25-mile, 13-turn circuit, dating to 2000 and 2001, when he scored poles for team Penske in the CART open-wheel series.
GIL DE FERRAN (#66 Panasonic ELS Sound Acura ARX-01b):
"This pole is just fantastic. We are such a young team and we are learning the ropes of the American Le Mans Series. This is only our third race and we have been able to qualify on the front row at each of them. But now to win the pole is great for our Panasonic ELS team and for Acura. I have a great history with HPD [Honda Performance Development] and it is exciting to give them a pole today. To win the overall pole here is very emotional for me. The last time I raced here was back in 2001 with CART and I was able to win the pole then. Now, for an old guy like me to return and capture the overall pole position is very special. I have a great teammate in Simon [Pagenaud] and I believe we have a tremendous chance to win the race on Saturday. The Highcroft team did a superb job last week to win overall at Lime Rock. I know they will be tough just like the other Acuras, the Porsches and the Audis."
DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b):
"I am really happy. Of course, after sitting on the pole at the Northeast Grand Prix last weekend, it would have been nice to have been on top again. But seeing how we were struggling throughout practice, running in sixth and seventh position, we feel really good about tonight's result."
LUIS DIAZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b):
"It was tough day. I was expecting better in qualifying because we had a good test here. Unfortunately, I think we were chasing the track a little bit. We got confused on the downforce versus the mechanical grip and couldn't find a good balance for qualifying. I think we have a strong race car and tomorrow should be a lot better."
FRANCK MONTAGNY (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01b):
"The XM Acura was all right during qualifying. We are starting on the second row, which is much better than starting last like we had to do last weekend. The car will be strong in the race, but it was missing something for qualifying. But we are getting better. We are now battling for P1, P2, P3 all of the time."