With his teammate, Max Angelelli, still in the hunt for the Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype drivers' championship, Jan Magnussen needed to qualify well for Saturday's Sonoma 250 at Infineon Raceway. And he could not have done any...
With his teammate, Max Angelelli, still in the hunt for the Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype drivers' championship, Jan Magnussen needed to qualify well for Saturday's Sonoma 250 at Infineon Raceway. And he could not have done any better, clinching the pole in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley with a lap of 1:28.234 around the undulating 2.26-mile, 12-turn road course, which is nestled in the heart of Sonoma, California's wine country. Angelelli is currently 29 points behind Krohn Racing's Jorg Bergmeister with two races remaining. Bergmeister qualified second, .316 seconds behind Magnussen, and could clinch the championship if he finishes with a lead of at least 36 points over Angelelli.
"Obviously, I am very happy to be on pole," said Magnussen. "It's a good place to start the race. The most important thing for the team is for Max to get the points to catch Jorg. So for me I will push hard from the beginning of the race and see what happens. I will try and stay out of trouble so I can bring the car to Max in one piece. Then he can finish off the race."
While Angelelli will be finishing the race, Bergmeister will be starting it. "It's our goal to win the championship, but these guys here aren't making it easy for me," said Bergmeister, who will share the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley with Nic Jonsson. "We are pushing really hard. It's been a while since I did a qualifying. So it's kind of new this year because last year I did almost all of the qualifying. This year I was supposed to finish all of the races. Now the team decided to play it a little safer and have me start the race. This morning we were pretty much off the pace, but we changed the whole setup and gained like almost one and a half seconds from the last practice session. So obviously we are really happy with the job the guys did."
Rounding out the top-five were the No. 23 Alex Job Racing/Emory Motorsports Porsche Crawford of Patrick Long, the No. 01 Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley of Luis Diaz, and the No. 99 Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley of Jon Fogarty.
Only fifth fastest in practice, Robin Liddell found some extra speed during qualifying to grab the GT class pole in the No. 72 Tafel Racing Porsche. Liddell turned a lap of 1:38.425, which was .15 seconds faster than Kelly Collins in the faster of the TRG Pontiac GTO.Rs. Joey Hand was third quickest in the No. 21 Matt Connolly Motorsports BMW M3. Liddell and his teammate, Wolf Henzler, are currently 11 points behind Andy Lally and Marc Bunting in the GT drivers' championship. Bunting qualified sixth in class.
"The important thing for me getting pole today was the fact that I was in the wall in the morning," said Liddell after his first career Rolex Series pole. "So that was really on a personal level the most important thing because it's always nice when you have a situation like that where you know you need to do a really special job. I mean the guys worked all day because I touched the tires down in the last corner this morning in like the fourth or fifth lap and it broke something in the steering and I went straight into the pit wall. And we missed all of the last practice session and didn't get out again. I really wasn't sure what I had underneath me but the car was really good.
"The points are still quite close . . . so we can still win the championship. But I've been pretty disappointed in recent races because I think we could or should have won the last two races but for different reasons we finished second in both of those events. So now we need to get our heads down and get the best results possible. And in the end it's just a function of points and arithmetic. We just have to fight and go hell for leather."
Saturday's race begins at 3 p.m. PDT and will be broadcast tape delay on SPEED.