By Pat Jennings - Motorsport.com Lexington, OH - For the fifth time in the last six American Le Mans Series races, the ...
By Pat Jennings - Motorsport.com
Lexington, OH - For the fifth time in the last six American Le Mans Series races, the #1 Joest Racing Audi R8 of Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello will lead the 28-car ALMS field to the green flag in Saturday afternoon's race at the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course. Despite the fact that Kristensen had never competed at Mid Ohio before this weekend, the three-time Le Mans winner qualified almost half a second faster than the #50 Panoz of David Brabham and Jan Magnussen.
"I didn't know that this was my first ALMS pole," Kristensen stated. "This is a great racing track. I'm very happy to come here. For me, personally, to take the pole where it is a level playing field is very satisfying. This is a turnaround for us. At Portland, Dindo [Capello] was put out of contention and at Mosport we made ourselves unhappy (spinning on the first lap). Traffic will be a nightmare, from the esses all the way through the last turn."
Although Brabham failed to knock the Audi off of the pole, he is optimistic about the race tomorrow. "Sure I was going for the pole, but the weather wasn't as nice as it was this morning. The shift in temperatures did obviously play a big part, but we're feeling pretty confident for the race."
The #38 Champion Motorsports Audi R8 of Johnny Herbert and Andy Wallace qualified third, less than two tenths of a second behind Brabham, while the #51 Panoz of Klaus Graf and Frank Lagorce will start the race from the fourth position. "I had a really big problem with the balance of the car and it didn't feel good," Graf said. "We made some changes after this morning's practice session but I think we will be going back to where we were as I don't feel comfortable with the handling of the car at all." Rounding out the top-five is the #7 Cadillac of Emmanuel Collard and Christophe Tinseau.
Didier de Radigues qualified the Dick Barbour Racing Reynard O1Q/Judd in the LMP 675 class. He has three poles in four starts this season. "The conditions changed a lot from practice this morning to qualifying. The car can be improved, but it's good enough (for the pole). The #11 Rook-Knighthawk Lola B2K/40/Nissan of Claudia Hurtgen and Steven Knight will start second in class and the #57 Barbour Racing Reynard of John Graham and Milka Dunno qualified third.
Terry Borcheller claimed his third pole of the year in the Saleen S7R. "The car is really good at this track," Borcheller stated. "I have a lot of confidence here. I've had lots track time since I've raced here in the early eighties in go-carts." But his qualifying attempt was not as easy as it sounded for the Konrad team.
"I came down the pit lane and was waiting for a good shot at a clean lap. Then I pulled out of the pit box and the power steering locked up. The crew changed it in the pit box. That certainly wasn't our strategy but it's the best qualifying run I've ever had. I saw not one car that entire lap. I was afraid that we waited too late in the session, but my engineer said 'there's time."
The #3 Corvette C5-R of Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell qualified third and the #2 Corvette will start third.
In the surprise of today's qualifying session, Sascha Maassen put the #23 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911GT3-RS on the pole in the GT class. "I didn't expect the pole today so I can understand why no one else thought we would be on the pole either," explained Maassen. "Qualifying isn't the important for our team though. We had great teamwork today and Randy [Pobst] helped me out [on how to run the long course] and I learned a lot. The engineer came on the radio and said that I had to do a 24.4 and I said 'I can do that.' So yesterday I crashed the car, and today I am on the pole."
As far as the race is concerned, Maassen hopes that his team can be competitive with the BMWs. "We hope to be more competitive [than the last races]. We have an advantage over the BMWs with better grip in the rear end. The ups and downs could give the BMWs a lot of trouble."
J.J. Lehto qualified second in the #42 BMW Motorsport M3 GTR. While the BMW's of Boris Said and Frederik Ekblom will roll off of the grid in the third and fourth respectively. The second Alex Job Racing entry of Randy Pobst qualified fifth in class and the #10 BMW M3 GTR will start sixth.