American Le Mans Series teams win two Le Mans poles LE MANS, France (June 12, 2003) -- Teams from the American Le Mans Series won two class pole positions Thursday as qualifying concluded for this weekend's 71st running of the 24...
American Le Mans Series teams win two Le Mans poles
LE MANS, France (June 12, 2003) -- Teams from the American Le Mans Series won two class pole positions Thursday as qualifying concluded for this weekend's 71st running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, while many other ALMS teams turned competitive speeds in their respective classes. Both poles came in the classes for production-based cars.
The Ferrari 550 Maranello of Veloqx Prodrive Racing was the fastest qualifier in the GTS class, turning the 8.625-mile Circuit de La Sarthe in 3:53.278. Tomas Enge of the Czech Republic and Peter Kox of The Netherlands, who will share the Prodrive Ferrari when the American Le Mans Series resumes at Road Atlanta later this month, and Jamie Davies of England will pilot the pole-winning car at Le Mans.
"Our battle with the Corvettes didn't seem to happen today, which is a shame because we really wanted to have a close qualifying session," said Enge. "We have found a good tire for the weekend, as well as an excellent race setup, so we are all looking forward to a really fantastic race."
Winning the GT class pole by a very narrow margin was the Porsche 911 GT3 RS of Alex Job Racing, the defending GT class champion of the ALMS. The Job team is running a combined effort at Le Mans with White Lightning-Petersen Motorsports, a team which also regularly competes in the ALMS. Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr of Germany, co-champion drivers in the ALMS GT class last year, will drive the car along with Emmanuel Collard of France.
"We improved our lap time by one second (from Wednesday), which is fantastic," said Luhr. "I am enjoying the drive so far and now we just need to stay focused for the entire 24 hours. I'm going to get much sleep over the next two days."
Less than a tenth of a second behind was The Racers Group Porsche, winner of the GT class last year at Le Mans as well as in two ALMS races. Team owner/driver Kevin Buckler of Sonoma, Calif., will compete along with Timo Bernhard and Jorg Bergmeister of Germany.
Twenty-one racing teams that regularly compete in American Le Mans Series events are among the 50 cars slated to start the world's most famous endurance race at 4 p.m. (France time) on Saturday. There are 19 Americans among the 150 drivers (three per car) participating in the event. Race fans in North America can watch 17 hours of live event television coverage on the SPEED Channel beginning at 9 a.m. (U.S. Eastern) on Saturday. Radio Le Mans will have an English language broadcast of the entire race that can be heard online at www.radiolemans.com.
Leading the field from the overall pole position will be the Bentley Speed 8 Prototype driven by Tom Kristensen of Denmark, the 2002 ALMS driving champion, along with Rinaldo Capello of Italy and Guy Smith of England. Kristensen won the overall pole with a lap time of 3:32.843 and is gunning for his fifth Le Mans win and fourth in a row.
The team Speed 8 completes an all-Bentley front row, with the car to be shared by Johnny Herbert and Mark Blundell of England and Australian David Brabham. The Audi Sport UK Audi R8 of Frank Biela, Perry McCarthy and Mika Salo will start third. Biela is a three-time Le Mans winner and was in the winning Audi in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring that opened the 2003 ALMS season earlier this year.
The ADT Champion Racing Audi R8, based in Pompano Beach, Fla., starts sixth and was the highest-qualifying car that will run the full ALMS schedule this year. Drivers will be Emanuele Pirro of Italy, Stefan Johansson of Sweden and JJ Lehto of Finland. Another American team, Riley & Scott Racing of Indianapolis, qualified its R&S MkIIIC-Ford in seventh spot with drivers Jim Matthews of Boca Raton, Fla., Marc Goossens of Belgium and Christophe Tinseau of France.
Completing the top 10 was JML Team Panoz of Braselton, Ga., running a Panoz LMP01 for Gunnar Jeannette of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Olivier Beretta of Monaco and Max Papis of Italy. A second Panoz entry will start 15th.
In the LMP 675 class, Intersport Racing of Dublin, Ohio, with defending ALMS LMP 675 driving champion Jon Field will start second in class, 17th overall. Field will co-drive with Duncan Dayton of West Salem, N.Y., and Rick Sutherland of Los Gatos, Calif., in the team's Lola EX257-MG.
Team Bucknum Racing of Lake Havasu City, Az., LMP 675 class winner in three ALMS races last year, starts sixth in class with drivers Chris McMurry of Phoenix, Bryan Willman of Kirkland, Wash., and Jeff Bucknum of Lake Havasu City, Az.
Veloqx Prodrive Racing took the top two spots in the GTS class. The second Ferrari of Anthony Davidson, Kelvin Burt and Darren Turner was second, followed by the Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C5-R of Oliver Gavin of England, Andy Pilgrim of Aventura, Fla., and Kelly Collins of Corona del Mar, Calif.
The Corvette of Ron Fellows of Canada and Johnny O'Connell of Flowery Branch, Ga., winner of the GTS class the past two years, starts fifth in class. Franck Freon of France will join Fellows and O'Connell. The three scored the GTS class win earlier this year at Sebring.
Other American Le Mans Series teams qualifying in the GTS class included Konrad Motorsport, seventh with a Saleen S7R, and Carsport America, ninth with a Pagani Zonda.
Qualifying third in the GT class was another American-based team, Orbit Racing of Jupiter, Fla., with a Porsche for Leo Hindery of New York City, Marc Lieb of Germany and Peter Baron of Deerfield Beach, Fla. The PK Sport Porsche, also a regular in ALMS racing, was fourth.
Fifth in GT went to the Risi Competizione Ferrari 360 Modena of Terry Borcheller of Phoenix, Ralf Kelleners of Germany and Anthony Lazzaro of Acworth, Ga. The Houston-based ALMS team is also assisting with the ACEMCO Ferrari, which qualified eighth in the GT class for drivers Shane Lewis of Jupiter, Fla., Johnny Mowlem of England and Butch Leitzinger of State College, Penn. ALMS team Seikel Motorsport qualified seventh in the GT class with its Porsche 911 for drivers Tony Burgess and David Shep of Canada and John Lloyd of Boston, Mass.
NOTES FROM THURSDAY
BIG CRASH FOR LISTER -- The British Lister Storm LMP 900 machine, which competed at Sebring earlier this year, was heavily damaged in an accident in the first qualifying practice session Thursday. Driver Jamie Campbell-Walter impacted the barriers after a long high-speed slide just after the Dunlop Bridge. Campbell-Walter was examined and released from a local hospital and the team reported that the car is too damaged to repair in time for the start of the race.
QUICK NOTES -- Butch Leitzinger, who normally races Prototypes for Dyson Racing in the ALMS, is driving a GT car at Le Mans for ACEMCO Motorsports. Leitzinger had an adventure on the track Thursday, spinning at the Ford Chicane and then limping back to the pits with minor left-front body damage to the Ferrari 360 --. There is no track activity on Friday and all Le Mans drivers will be appearing in the official Parade des Pilotes in the center of Le Mans at 6 p.m. "The parade is always a buzz," said Gunnar Jeannette of JML Team Panoz. "Having 200,000 people chasing autographs is a real thrill."