Road America: Qualifying report

Leitzinger Flies to Road America 500 Pole; Courage on Miracle LMP2 Pole Elkhart Lake, WI - Butch Leitzinger set a new Road America track record Saturday in winning the pole for Sunday's American Le Mans Series Road America 500. Leitzinger...

Leitzinger Flies to Road America 500 Pole; Courage on Miracle LMP2 Pole

Elkhart Lake, WI - Butch Leitzinger set a new Road America track record Saturday in winning the pole for Sunday's American Le Mans Series Road America 500.

Leitzinger drove the Dyson Racing Lola 01/60-AER prototype to a lap of 1:51.893, averaging 130.239 mph, and breaking the previous record of 1:52.166 that was set in 2002 by Tom Kristensen. Leitzinger will co-drive with James Weaver in the timed event of two hours, 45 minutes as they seek their second consecutive win in the ALMS this season.

"It is a great track and I love driving it," said Leitzinger. "We had some trouble Friday and didn't get a lot of laps in during testing, but the team worked hard and had a good setup for the car when we got on the track (Saturday). Our car loves high speeds, even though it's a small car, with a small engine, and it flies through the corners. Winning the pole is good for the team to be able to hold their head up high but we don't have any illusions it's a deadlock for a win."

The pole gave Dyson Racing a sweep of the front row, with Andy Wallace turning a time of 1:52.524 in the Lola he will share with Chris Dyson to take the second starting spot. JJ Lehto and Marco Werner, who have won four of the six ALMS races this season, will start third in the Champion Racing Audi R8.

"Well, the car is obviously not working the way we want it to," said Lehto, who teamed with Johnny Herbert to win last year's ALMS event at Road America for Champion. "We have been trying a lot of things and still can't seem to get it just right. We struggled at Mosport and we are struggling here. We'll just have to strip the car and start again from a clean sheet (Sunday). That's all. That's racing."

"We are a little too slow this weekend and we're not sure why," said Werner. "The car has a little bit of understeer right now as well as a bounce where you touch the ground. That is a bit of a problem on the braking points as you are locking wheels."

"It's a good thing Andy (Wallace) is on the front row with me," said Leitzinger. "The Lolas might be little but they can be pretty wide. The Audi seems to come up to speed faster than our car so hopefully we can hinder it for a few laps and then give it run for its money."


LMP2 points leader Ian James pulled off a flying lap in the closing seconds of Prototype qualifying to win the LMP2 class pole in Miracle Motorsports' new Courage C65-AER that he will share with James Gue. The team repaired the car Saturday morning after it suffered slight damage when Gue spun off course and impacted a barrier in turn two.

James' lap of 1:58.847 beat the 1:59.174 of Clint Field and Robin Liddell in the Intersport Racing Lola B2K/40-Judd for the pole. The Miracle team's older Lola-Nissan qualified third, driven by Mike Borkowski and team owner John Macaluso.

The Miracle team acquired the French-built Courage chassis last weekend after it competed in a Le Mans Endurance Series race at England's Silverstone circuit. The Courage factory team performed some maintenance on the car and it was flown from France to Chicago on Tuesday, arriving at Road America on Wednesday after clearing customs.

"That fast lap was probably my 15th lap in the car, so the car keeps getting faster every time," said James. "I knew the last lap was good because I went flat under the bridge for the first time, but I didn't know it was in the 58s. The car felt great and there's probably a lot more in it. Every change we make is an improvement.

"We have some problems with the tires because they were not designed for this car," he said. "They feel great right now, but they (Yokohama) know they're not right yet. I'm pretty sure there's a second or more left in it. I know Yokohama is making new tires for the Petit Le Mans. Right now were using old GTS tires, that is two to three years old technology. So I'm sure there's two to three seconds somewhere."


Olivier Beretta set a GTS class Road America track record with a blistering lap at the start of GTS/GT qualifying and then watched as the rest of the field unsuccessfully tried to knock him off the pole. The two-time ALMS GTS champion earned his third pole of the season and 13th of his career with a time of 2:00.868 in the Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C5-R that he will share with Oliver Gavin.

Beretta's lap time was nearly two seconds faster than he and Gavin had run in practice on Saturday morning.

"During practice you drive thinking about how to qualify. In qualifying you just turn off the brain and let it go," said Beretta. "This is my favorite track, it has everything; fast corners, slow ones, some you don't see the entrance to. The team is doing so well together. We are always sharing info. If they (the other Corvette entry) know something, they let us know. I really want to thank the Corvette Racing team for working so hard."

It was Gavin's old track record of 2:01.969, set last year, that Beretta broke.

"We didn't really think about the old record belonging to Oliver," said Beretta. "We just take turns in qualifying and this race was my turn."

Johnny O'Connell and Ron Fellows, leading the GTS class points, will start second in the other Corvette, while the Carsport America Dodge Viper GTS-R of Jean-Philippe Belloc and Tom Weickardt will start third in class.


Jorg Bergmeister secured the GT class pole for Alex Job Racing with a track record lap of 2:07.577. He and fellow German Timo Bernhard will share the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR as they try to become the first pair to win consecutive races this season in the highly-competitive class.

"Almost every qualifying run this year we have had a little bit of bad luck, but this one was a good one," said Bergmeister, who won his first pole in more than a year. "(The result) ended up with a big gap and I really wasn't expecting that. We have a really good car and it was set up so well. This is my favorite track in United States. It has lots of fast corners and it's just a lot of fun. There are lot of cars in the GT class that are very close, and I think we will have another race like we had at Mosport where you won't know who is going to win."

The other Job entry of Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas qualified second, while earning the third spot was the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche of Craig Stanton and David Murry.


The Road America 500 will be televised live by the SPEED Channel starting at 1 p.m. (CDT). MotorsTV will have live coverage of the event in Europe.

The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage online at starting at 12 noon (CDT).


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Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Johnny Herbert , Tom Kristensen , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , David Murry , Robin Liddell , Ian James , Oliver Gavin , Jörg Bergmeister , Timo Bernhard , John Macaluso , James Gue , Marco Werner , Jean-Philippe Belloc , Clint Field , Mike Borkowski , Marc Lieb , Craig Stanton , Romain Dumas , Tom Weickardt , Olivier Beretta , Alex Job , Chris Dyson , JJ Lehto
Teams Corvette Racing , Dyson Racing , Alex Job Racing