DE FERRAN JUST MISSES UTAH ALMS POLE WITH PANASONIC ELS ACURA IN FORMER INDY 500 CHAMPION'S ACURA SPORTS-CAR DEBUT Acura ARX-01b Cars Take 2-3-4 Overall In Utah Grand Prix Qualifying Saturday TOOELE, UTAH -- After four years out of the ...
DE FERRAN JUST MISSES UTAH ALMS POLE WITH PANASONIC ELS ACURA
IN FORMER INDY 500 CHAMPION'S ACURA SPORTS-CAR DEBUT
Acura ARX-01b Cars Take 2-3-4 Overall In Utah Grand Prix Qualifying Saturday
TOOELE, UTAH -- After four years out of the cockpit, Gil de Ferran returned to active racing Saturday and the former Indy 500 champion didn't disappoint.
The Brazilian driving legend debuted his new Acura American Le Mans Series sports-car organization this weekend and has already left little doubt that the No. 66 Panasonic ELS Sound Acura ARX-01b prototype will be a car to contend with during the remainder of the 2008 ALMS campaign.
After leading testing and practice rounds Friday and Saturday, de Ferran jumped to the top of the qualifying sheets in the fifth minute of the 20-minute qualifying session on the 3.08-mile, 15-turn Miller Motorsports Park circuit south of Salt Lake City. Teaming with young French star Simon Pagenaud, de Ferran had not been in a racing car in an official race event since he retired following his IndyCar Series win on Oct. 12, 2003 in Texas .
The two-time CART champion continued to better his initial qualifying time Saturday with each circuit. He initially posted a time of 1 minute, 32.104 seconds, followed by a 1:31.311 and a 1:31.189.
De Ferran was positioned to win the overall pole position in his ALMS debut when Timo Bernhard drove his Penske Porsche to a 1:31.050 clocking to take the top spot. Bernhard and de Ferran will make up Sunday's front row for the two-hour and 45-minute Utah Grand Prix, set for 1 p.m. MDT Sunday.
The Acuras of Luis Diaz and David Brabham were close to de Ferran's clocking and will start third and fourth, respectively, in the 30-car field. Diaz, teaming with Adrian Fernandez in the No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura, posted a 1:31.342 reading, followed by No. 9 Patron Highcroft Racing Acura of Brabham at 1:31.352. Brabham, driving with teammate Scott Sharp, will be seeking his second consecutive LMP2 class win after his brilliant come-from-behind win at Long Beach, Calif., last month.
Christian Fittipaldi, making his first Miller Motorsports park start, drove the No. 26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01b to ninth on the starting grid, with a time of 1:31.903. Fittipaldi, partnering with veteran Bryan Herta Sunday, said his car's chassis settings were not to his liking early in the run.
The fourth stop in the American Le Mans Series will be televised on Sunday, May 18, at 3 p.m. (EDT)
GIL de FERRAN (#66 Panasonic ELS Sound Acura ARX-01b): "I was on a strong lap late in the session and I slid off the track. It was a pole lap. But I have to admit I didn't think I drove that well in qualifying. I made some mistakes. But overall, I am pleased our new team is on the front row. I hope we can help all of the Acura teams move up to challenge for poles and wins. This team has come together quickly and we are very happy to racing again. It's time to battle for race wins."
LUIS DIAZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "It was very competitive out there today in qualifying. We had a mechanical problem on Friday and we lost some track time. But the Lowe's Acura team did a great job getting everything ready for the qualifying run. I felt the car was getting back up to speed and I might have a shot at the pole. We are prepared for the race now."
DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b): "We had electrical issues and I didn't get any of the gear changes right. I felt a little handicapped throughout my run. Unfortunately, with the electrical problems we had, I didn't know where to change gears, so it made it very difficult. It's a shame, because the car was good enough for pole.""
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01b): "I thought we had a pretty good car in the practice session just before qualifying. We tried to get aggressive with the chassis setup and I think we went too far. I actually spun the car on my second qualifying lap. The car was just too loose, with too much oversteer. We got the car back to the pits and fixed a couple of things. The car felt better then. But we couldn't get the setup like before. We'll get the car better for Sunday's race."