Road Atlanta: Friday qualifying report

Weaver Wins Petit Le Mans Pole With Last-Lap Dramatics Braselton, GA - James Weaver went from fourth to first in the last seconds of qualifying to win the pole for Saturday's American Le Mans Series Petit Le Mans sports car race at Road ...

Weaver Wins Petit Le Mans Pole With Last-Lap Dramatics

Braselton, GA - James Weaver went from fourth to first in the last seconds of qualifying to win the pole for Saturday's American Le Mans Series Petit Le Mans sports car race at Road Atlanta.

Weaver drove the Dyson Racing Lola B01/60-AER to a non-record lap of 1:12.136 just as Friday's 20-minute Prototype qualifying session ended, allowing him to jump ahead of three drivers to earn the top starting position for the 1,000-mile sports car endurance race on the 2.54-mile, 12-turn road racing circuit.

Weaver will co-drive with Andy Wallace of England and Butch Leitzinger of State College, Penn., as the Dyson team seeks its first win in one of the world's most prestigious sports car races.

The top spot changed hands several times during the qualifying session, with ALMS newcomer Nicolas Minassian setting fast times in the Creation Autosportif DBA-Zytek, and ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 drivers Pierre Kaffer and Marco Werner also in the mix before Weaver blasted to the front.

"I am a big fan of our original 20 minute qualifying session," said Weaver. "It's pure qualifying. I remember being a school boy watching Villeneuve and the like qualifying at Silverstone in Formula One, going back and forth changing lap time after lap time. That's the way I was raised with qualifying. I think with today's drama it shows this is best way to do it. I found a hole in traffic and got two clear laps in."

Minassian qualified second at 1:12.421 in a car he will co-drive with Jamie Campbell-Walter, while Kaffer, who will co-drive with Johnny Herbert, wound up third at 1:12.556. Werner, who will co-drive with JJ Lehto, was fourth at 1:12.979.

"This track takes a lot out of the car but I think it would have been possible to go quicker," said Minassian, a Frenchman who formerly drove in CART. "I'm a little bit disappointed because pole position is always sweet, but the front row is a great job. We are not far at all from the people who have been doing this forever and we are going to give them our best shot (Saturday)."

Weaver expects his car to be fast in Saturday's race but knows that the two Champion Audis, due to their proven reliability, are the race favorites.

"There's no question about, as far as the Audis are concerned, we are the car to beat; which is true because they beat us all the time," said Weaver. "Hopefully we can change their attitude (Saturday)."

FIELD NIPS MIRACLE COURAGE FOR LMP2 POLE

Clint Field won the LMP2 class pole in the Intersport Racing Lola B2K/40-Judd with a lap of 1:17.225, jumping from second to first at the close of the session and winning the pole two one-hundredths of a second. Field will co-drive with Milka Duno and Robin Liddell.

Field and Liddell have scored four wins this season in the class for smaller, less-powerful Prototypes and are being joined for the first time this season by Duno.

"It takes a bit of time for our tires to come up to temperature," said Field. "Before the red flag (for a car that spun off course) our car wasn't that good but afterwards it was great. I went back out behind the Courage, which probably wasn't a smart thing to do, but he went in a lap before I did which gave me a clear track. I think our car is best at reliability where the Courage is best at speed. Hopefully we can win this race; it will be up to the drivers."

The Courage, driven by Ian James, James Gue and John Macaluso qualified second in P2 with a time of 1:17.242, while third was the Marshall Cooke Racing Lola-Millington of Andy Lally, Ryan Eversley and Spencer Pumpelly at 1:20.196.

GAVIN'S POLE SETS UP CORVETTE BATTLE

Oliver Gavin won the GTS class pole in the Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C5-R, the seventh consecutive race that the #4 entry has qualified fastest with either Gavin or Olivier Beretta at the wheel. Gavin turned a non-record lap of 1:18.725 in the car he will share with Beretta and Jan Magnussen.

Ron Fellows, Johnny O'Connell and Max Papis will start second in the GTS class in the other factory Corvette after Fellows turned a lap of 1:19.144. The ACEMCO Motorsports Saleen S7R of Terry Borcheller, Johnny Mowlem and Joao Barbosa was third at 1:19.613.

Fellows and O'Connell can clinch their second straight GTS class driving title by finishing first or second, but Gavin and Beretta have won two straight races.

"I'd say (our chances of winning do not) look too bad," said Gavin. "We've been fast in every session but that's been masked by a few things. Our teammates are fast as well. We went out for one lap and came back in to make sure everything was all right. I had to set something up in traffic and pick my spot. I even did my best lap in traffic."

DUMAS WINS FOURTH GT CLASS POLE

Romain Dumas won his fourth GT class pole of the season in the Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, qualifying at 1:22.724. He will co-drive with Marc Lieb and Wolf Henzler in the race.

The Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Johannes van Overbeek, Darren Law and Patrick Huisman qualified second at 1:23.438, followed by the New Century Mortgage/Racer's Group Porsche of Patrick Long, Cort Wagner and Mike Rockenfeller at 1:23.682.

Dumas had a minor accident Sunday in private testing when he slid off the track in turn seven and impacted a wall. But the Job team repaired the damage and the car has been fast in all sessions.

"It was just a small hit," he said. "Usually Alex Job racing is the quickest but it's our job to be fast. We are four young drivers who are here to get it done. It's great to be the fastest."

EVENT INFORMATION

Chevy presents Petit Le Mans, which will cover 1,000 miles or 10 hours, whichever comes first, will get the green flag at 12 noon (Eastern). SPEED Channel's North American television coverage begins at 11:30 a.m. The race will also be live on TV in Europe on MotorsTV.

The American Le Mans Series Radio Network will have live coverage that can be heard online at www.americanlemans.com.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Milka Duno , Jan Magnussen , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Nicolas Minassian , Max Papis , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Robin Liddell , Patrick Huisman , Ian James , Andy Lally , Terry Borcheller , Oliver Gavin , Darren Law , Jamie Campbell-Walter , John Macaluso , James Gue , Joao Barbosa , Marco Werner , Clint Field , Spencer Pumpelly , Marc Lieb , Romain Dumas , Olivier Beretta , Ryan Eversley , Mike Rockenfeller , Wolf Henzler , Alex Job , Cort Wagner
Teams Corvette Racing , Dyson Racing , Flying Lizard Motorsports