ADRIAN FERNANDEZ/No.007 Aston Martin Racing LMP made a lot of local fans happy Friday afternoon when he scored the pole position for Saturday afternoon’s Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach. His time of 1:13.213/96.770 mph was a new qualifying lap record, and his fourth ALMS pole

ALMS LBGP Pole Sitter Adrian Fernandez. Photo by Lynne Huntting
ALMS LBGP Pole Sitter Adrian Fernandez. Photo by Lynne Huntting
He snatched it from then front-runner, SIMON PAGENAUD/No. 1 Patron Highcroft Racing HPD ARX-01c.

This is a new team for the popular Mexican driver. He won the 2009 ALMS race.

Fernandez has raced at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in several series including IndyCar, Indy Lights, Grand-Am and ALMS with his own LMP team. He said experience at LBGP counts for a lot, “especially at my age. I’m not getting any younger. We have good momentum this weekend and racing here is very special. It’s a short race so there isn’t much time to make up for any mistakes.” The car is running a Gulf blue with orange highlights livery reminiscent of the old Le Mans days.

In ALMS, the qualifying driver doesn’t have to start the race, so Fernandez’s teammate, HAROLD PRIMAT of Switzerland will probably start the race. Fernandez said pit stop strategy in the short race will be key.

The pole positions for all four of the ALMS categories was a new record. The short race Fernandez mentioned is the 100 minutes, shortest of all ALMS races. All 36 entries qualified for Saturday afternoon’s race, which starts at 4:40 pm local/PDT.

CHRISTOPHE BOUCHUT/No.55 Level 5 Motorsports Racing’s LMPC pole position time was 1:17.273/91.685 mph. The weekend is already special – this is his first LBGP and his first ALMS pole. Although this is a new team and a new class for him, the team has lots of experience. “It’s wonderful to push the car to the limit.”

JAIME MELO/No.62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 GT turned the fastest GT time of 1:19.581/89.026 mph. This is his sixteenth ALMS pole position, and he won the 2007 LBGP race. Usually Mello continues to run even after setting his fastest lap time, but this weekend he wanted to save the tires as the team had problems in last year’s short race. While this is the last year for the Ferrari 430 model, Risi will continue to compete in ALMS.

This year GT1 and GT2 were combined into the one GT class. The previous GT2 qualifying lap record was 1:119.7.

GTC’s fastest driver was JEROEN BLEEKEMOLEN/No.54 Black Swan Racing at 1:23.857/84.487.

Earlier Friday in the IndyCar conference for Friday’s fastest driver, RYAN HUNTER-REAY was unsure if he would be racing two different cars this weekend after all. He’s running No.37 Andretti Autosport in the Izod IndyCar Series. For this weekend only, RHR is also running ALMS, as co-driver with Level 5 Motorsports team owner, SCOTT TUCKER in No.95 Oreca FLM09 in the LMPC class – teammates to the LMPC pole car.

RHR had heard that Tucker might not run both cars due to a new rule for Tucker about jumping in both of his cars during the race. At the press conference, ‘Izod Ryan’ – as opposed to IndyCar’s other Ryan, RYAN BRISCOE/No.6 Team Penske, said “We may not run after all; we’ll see where it goes. I need to check my phone to see what’s next. But I’m having fun this weekend.”

Tucker has been entering his two Level 5 cars and listing himself as driver in both cars. He will no longer be able to cherry pick which car and points he collects. The rule RHR referred to was issued 13 April 2010 by IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) which sanctions ALMS – ALMS SSR Section 1, Article 2.2.5 “Drivers will be awarded points only in the car they drive during the race. For the LMPC and GTC classes, drivers will be awarded points only in the classified car in which they accumulated the greatest drive-time.”

RHR was asked if it was difficult to keep focused when driving two cars in one weekend, especially different kinds of cars. he said “It’s not an extremely busy schedule this weekend, and for me it’s a lot of fun. Thanks to Andretti Autosport for letting me.” He referred to the other Ryan in the media conference, Briscoe, saying “Briscoe did it two years ago.”

Even late into the afternoon Friday, fans continued to be everywhere on foot. Where was a blue flagger when I needed to get the fastest line through the crowd?