SMITH, BLEEKEMOLEN, HAND, MARCELLI, TUCKER & LEITZ FAST UNDER CLOUD COVER

Guy Smith No.16 Dyson Racing LMP1
Guy Smith No.16 Dyson Racing LMP1. Photo by Regis Lefebure
GUY SMITH/No.16 Dyson Racing Lola B09/86 has the pole for Saturdays ModSpace American Le Mans Monterey Patron race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Smith’s lap was 1:13.927, 0.694 ahead of STEVEN KANE/No.20 Oryx Dyson Racing. This was Smith’s fourth ALMS pole this year, fifth overall, and second in a row at Laguna Seca.

Smith said “This is a great circuit and one of those places that drivers either love or hate. Fortunately fo rme, I really enjoy it and it suits my driving style. I scored my first ALMS pole here last year and there is no better place to do it with a Mazda engine. We know what we need to do for the championship. The best thing for me is to treat it like another race. if you think about a championship too much then it becomes a distraction.”

It was interesting to observe the track’s speedometer, and for each session I noted the fastest time I saw.

Third was ADRIAN FERNANDEZ/No.007 Aston Martin Racing. Fourth and fifth were KLAUS GRAF/No.6 Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing, and TONY BURGESS/No.12 Autocon.

While it had been sunny for four hours prior, as the Prototypes took to the track for their fifteen minute qualifying session, the clouds rolled in fast and thick, for a cloud-cover session. Then, as the cars pitted, the clouds briefly parted, and the operative word here is briefly.

It seemed that the most position changes lap by lap were seen in this class. Five drivers in this class really went at it and the top speed I observed was 155 mph. All five had Lola chassis. Dyson Racing’s two cars had the same chassis, and the other three cars had different chassis.

Jeroen Bleekemolen
Jeroen Bleekemolen. Photo by Rich Chenet

JEROEN BLEEKEMOLEN/No.54 Black Swan Racing was the fastest GTC driver, of nine, all racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars. Bleekemolen’s lap was 1:27.850. “It was a good session. I was able to get a nice gap to second place. I had a couple of really nice laps.The competition is quite high as we are running the same car. I think we have four or five cars that can win.”

DAMIEN FALCONER/No.34 Green Hornet/Black Swan Racing Porsche and SPENCER PUMPELLY/No.66 TRG were second and third. The speedometer’s fastest time was 129 mph.

The largest ALMS class is GT. Although there was dicing around for position, in the end it was again JOEY HAND/No.56 BMW Team RLL, at 1:22.226. It was his fifth ALMS pole position. “This definitely is my home track. A lot of people would say the Corkscrew is the best corner, but I really like Turn 9 and Turn 10. Turn 9 is a man’s corner ┬ábecause there is so much speed and risk. We want to win and are in attack mode. I’ve been fighting a cold all week and it’s been aggravating.

Second and third kept changing lap by lap. For Saturday’s race, OLIVER GAVIN/No.4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 will start second in GT.

Hand’s teammate, BILL AUBERLEN/No.55, was third in GT. The fastest GT speedometer time was 134 mph. The session was interrupted by a red flag for and the clock ran out. Starting thirty-fifth in a 36-car field will be the No.98 Jaguar RSR, as it didn’t run the session.

LMPC had seven cars, all with low and loud throaty sounds. The fastest observed speedometer reading for this class was 136 mph. All the competitors drove Oreca FLM09 cars.

KYLE MARCELLI/No.89 Intersport Racing at 1:18.844 has the LMPC pole. His sister car, No.37, did not qualify and will start thirty-fourth. Marcelli said “Everyone is jelling really well at Intersport. Qualifying was the first time this weekend on new tires, and I didn’t know how much time there would left in that set. This race will be about attrition. You can’t afford to make mistakes like drop wheels off the track. The key will be to keep it between the lines.”

Second and third in LMPC were GUNNAR JEANNETTE/No.06 CORE Autosport and ERIC LUX/No.63 Genoa Racing.

Two classes, LMP2 and UNC were one car classes. CHRISTOPHE BOUCHUT/No.055 Lola Honda qualified fifth overall and first/only in LMP2. “It’s a brand new car. We are really happy so far. It’s running like we expected. In terms of performance, it’s very competitive. I am very confident, but it’s very challenging in all the corners. So much sand can come on to the track. This may be a lot like Spa because of the elevation. But there is only one Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. It is so unique.”

Porsche 911 Hybrid
Porsche 911 Hybrid. Photo by Lynne Huntting
The UNC Porsche 911 Hybrid didn’t qualify, and will start last.

As always with IMSA, the results are unofficial until the Starting Grid is released.