Qualifying for the American Le Mans Series Presented by Patron at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was broken into four segments. The fifteen-minute sessions started with the GTC class with seven cars, followed by the 12 GT cars. Nine PC cars had the third session, with the P1/P2 classes – all seven of them, running last.
KLAUS GRAF/Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a/Honda/Michelin/E-10 got the pole, with a 1:13.573, 1.785 seconds ahead of his only P1 rival, Dyson Racing Lola/Mazda/Dunlop/Isobutanol. It was Graf’s fourth ALMS pole position, and second for the team this year. He said “We have not been on the pole here as a team, but the HPD cars have always done well here. We’ve improved the car in each session. That is the goal no matter if there are two cars or 10 cars in the class. We have also worked with Michelin in testing to bring our street soft tire from Long Beach (a Muscle Milk victory) and make it work here. It says a lot about how well they make tires.”
The two Level 5 Motorsports cars battled each other for the P2 pole, and CHRISTOPH BOUCHUT/HPD ARX-03b/Honda/Dunlop/E-10 prevailed, edging teammate FRANCK MONTAGNY by 0.089 seconds. Team owner, SCOTT TUCKER, said “Christophe and Franck both did a great job today. I’m happy they are pushing each other to lower their lap times, but not fighting each other on track.”
Qualifying third in the car’s debut was JONNY COCKER/Dempsey Racing Lola/Judd BMW V8/Michelin/E-10. While team co-owner, PATRICK DEMPSEY, said the car’s inaugural run was “Testing With Traffic,” Cocker was fifth overall in a field of 35. Dempsey further said “There’s still a lot to learn, but today we took a really big jump out of the times.”
By far, the most exciting session was PC, with very competitive driving. BRUNO JUNQUEIRA/RSR Racing ORECA FLM09/Chevrolet/Michelin/E-10 captured the pole with a 1:17.867, good for sixth overall. This spec class was created for gentlemen drivers, but has some very experienced, talented veteran drivers, who duked it out for the entire session. While the competition for second through fifth carried on, Junqueira just kept knocking down faster laps and retained the pole.
TOM KIMBER-SMITH/CORE Autosport was second, with MEMO GIDLEY/Muscle Milk Pickett Racing in third. Fourth and fifth were BUTCH LEITZINGER/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports and COLIN BRAUN/CORE Autosport.
DARREN TURNER in the 007 Aston Martin/Michelin/E-10 turned his pole lap, and then waited in pit lane nail biting to see if it held. It did, at 1:22.229, sixteenth overall. This is another very competitive class. That time was good for sixteenth overall. He said “I’m looking forward to the race, but anything can happen. If we can keep it in the top three, we’ll be really pleased.”
TOMMY MILNER/Corvette Racing Chevrolet/Michelin/E-85 was second fastest in GT, followed by JORG MUELLER/BMW Team RLL/Dunlop/E-85. Fourth/fifth fastest were PATRICK LONG/Flying Lizards Motorsports Porsche 933 GT3 RSR/Michelin/E-85 and Milner’s teammate, ANTONIO GARCIA – with the identical time of 1:22.919. As Long turned the time first – by ten minutes – he will start fourth in class, followed by Garcia – IMSA rules.
The GT class is so competitive that only 0.713 seconds separates the top eight cars.
TOWNSEND BELL, with only 16 laps in the Lotus all weekend, qualified eleventh of 12 GT cars. His co-driver, BILL SWEEDLER, has yet to have any time in the car. The Lotus/Alex Job Racing Lotus Evora/Cosworth/Yokohama/E-10 missed the first session, and had only nine laps in P2, before Qualifying. Bell will be busy this weekend. He is running the full ALMS season with AJR, and he also has a one-off ride in the Indianapolis 500. After the ALMS race Saturday night, he flies to Indy for the second day of practice. Bell is again driving with SAM SCHMIDT, in No.99 Schmidt Pelfrey Motorsports Honda.
Green Hornet Racing’s Porsche 911 GT3 Cup/Yokahama/E-10 took the GTC pole with DAMIEN FAULKNER turning a 1:27.495, twenty-eighth overall. Second and third in class were NICK TANDY/TRG and JEROEN BLEEKEMOLEN/TRG.
Conquest Endurance Morgan/Nissan/Dunlop/E-10 will start at the back due to no qualifying effort. After topping the first P2 practice session, the car only made eight laps in the second session. DAVID HEINEMEIER HANSSON felt something break and he pitted immediately. The crew found a broken front suspension piece, and went to work in hopes of making the Saturday afternoon grid.