Sonoma, CA - Marco Werner led a record-shattering American Le Mans Series qualifying session Saturday to win the pole for Sunday's Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway. Werner, driving the ADT Champion Racing Audi R8, was one of...
Sonoma, CA - Marco Werner led a record-shattering American Le Mans Series qualifying session Saturday to win the pole for Sunday's Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway.
Werner, driving the ADT Champion Racing Audi R8, was one of three class pole winners to break existing records on the 2.53-mile road racing circuit, which has been repaved since last year's ALMS event. The German driver turned a lap of 1:22.320, bettering the old record of 1:22.615 set in 2002 by Tom Kristensen.
Werner will co-drive in the two-hour, 45-minute sports car race with JJ Lehto of Finland as the two seek their third consecutive ALMS win this season. Werner's lap was only .079 second faster than the Dyson Racing Lola EX257-AER/MG of James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger, winner of last year's event after passing Werner in the last five minutes.
"It is very close but we are in front," said Werner, who won his first pole of the season. "That makes me very happy. The new track surface is good for us and it's not so bumpy like some other tracks. We have better grip and its all working for us."
The other Dyson Racing entry of Chris Dyson and Andy Wallace qualified third overall and in the LMP1 class with a time of 1:25.712.
EARNHARDT TO START THIRD IN GTS
NASCAR's Dale Earnhardt, Jr., was the star attraction of the day, drawing a long line to a driver autograph session and then watching as co-driver Boris Said qualified third in the GTS class in the Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C5-R they will share in Earnhardt's first ALMS event.
"It's going real good," said Earnhardt. "The car is real fast and I'm comfortable in the car. My co-driver is very, very quick and we feel like we have a good chance this weekend. It's a great car. Corvette has done a lot of testing. They deserve it because there is a lot of hard work behind it. I am very fortunate just to be able to climb right in and go so fast.
"It's going to be different, watching for the prototypes, and the GT cars, being careful and just having a lot of respect and courtesy out there for everybody," he said. "You know I don't do this every weekend and to be here is a big honor for me to race against such a great group of competitors. I am just trying to earn respect and pay my dues out there and take my time and work my way up. I feel like we have a good chance to get a great finish this weekend if we keep our heads straight."
Oliver Gavin of England, driving another car from the factory Corvette team, won the GTS class pole with a track record lap of 1:28.042. He will co-drive with Olivier Beretta of Monaco. The pole was Gavin's third straight this season.
Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell, seeking their fourth straight GTS class win at Infineon, will start second in class in a third Corvette. Fellows was less than two-tenths of a second behind Gavin.
"This new (qualifying) format is a lot of fun," said Gavin. "I enjoyed it and I know a lot of the other drivers do too. We do so much to set up for the race and with the new format you have to keep qualifying in mind too. We did a lot of playing with the tire pressures. I think I had a carrot in front of me after Ron (Fellows) set his time before me. That might have gotten me a bit more fired up. The track rubbered up more and more as the session went on. I was really wild on my first lap but I got it so the team had me come in. That's one less lap on the tires."
"The (new) track surface may be suiting Michelin tires more than any other manufacturers. The Saleen was so close at Lime Rock and at Mid-Ohio and now they're a bit farther back. A lot more has come with the car. These are the cars that raced at Le Mans so they are more perfectly balanced for weight, have a better chassis and gear box, and are better aerodynamically. The lap times could be better from the new surface and the switch to the Michelin tires is helping too."
DUMAS WINS SECOND STRAIGHT GT POLE
Romain Dumas of France, in his first full ALMS season, won his second straight GT class pole with a track record lap of 1:32.244 in the Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR he will share with Marc Lieb of Germany. The two will be seeking their first ALMS win together as teammates in Sunday's race.
"I'm really happy, this is my first time here," said Dumas. "I really like this track. It is not an easy track. It has a European style and the track is not as bumpy. It is quite easy to learn. The track is a lot smoother than most American tracks, most tracks in Europe are very smooth. Not too say American tracks are bad, they just require different driving styles. I was talking to my friend, (CART driver) Sebastian Bourdais, who I used to race with, and he was telling me that you have to adapt your driving style to drive here in the States. Tracks are longer here; they are much shorter in Europe, that is why I like this course, it's not so long."
The other Job car driven by Jorg Bergmeister and Timo Bernhard qualified second, with third on the grid going to the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Porsche of Craig Stanton and David Murry.
CLINT FIELD WINS FIRST ALMS POLE
Young Clint Field continued his outstanding season in the LMP2 class for smaller, less-powerful Prototypes by qualifying on the class pole in the Intersport Racing Lola B2K/40-Judd.
Field, who won the P2 class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and in the ALMS event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, turned a lap of 1:28.952 in the car he will share with his father, Jon, and Robin Liddell of Scotland.
Jon Field was added to the driver lineup after his LMP1 car was withdrawn from the race due to a cracked tub. The elder Field had two off-track excursions during practice while getting used to the car but the car suffered no damage.
"As you know, the #37 had a problem with the tub, so my dad switched over to our car which is a lot more 'rolly-polly' and not as rigid which takes some getting used to," said Field. "That's all he was doing; getting used to the car. It's definitely a good feeling to win the pole. In the last couple of races we weren't too far behind the #56 Bucknum Racing car, but to get ahead of them this weekend is a great thing."
The Bucknum Pilbeam MP91-Nissan of Jeff Bucknum, Chris McMurry and Bryan Willman qualified second, with the Miracle Motorsports Lola-Nissan of Ian James and James Gue third.