After a rainy practice session, qualifying for the American Le Mans Series at Long Beach started out dry, but after the first ten-minute segment, rain rolled in and stopped the proceedings. Minutes after the session was called, sun came out, sending a rainbow arching over the disappointed fans and drivers.
The real challenge is that no one has run any dry laps to find a dry set-up; everyone will be guessing on everything from gearing to suspension settings to tire compounds. As former Corvette driver Johnny O’Connell said on ESPN3, the race will be about drivers.
The race grid will be ordered by team points after the Sebring 12-Hour race within class and the classes will grid P1 through GTC.
The #16 Dyson Racing Lola-Mazda of Chris Dyson and Guy Smith will start from the pole, even though they ran only a few laps in practice. The #6 Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a of Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr will start second.
Michael Marsal in the #20 Dyson Pacing Lola-Mazda is driving his first race in the powerful P1 prototype, and he has four wet laps only; he has never driven Long Beach on dry pavement. He will be starting third.
Guy Smith was not worried about his chances. “Obviously the situation is not ideal, but historically Long Beach has been good for the Dyson team and myself. We’ve had pole positions here before, and I have won here,” he told alms.com. This is a new car so we’d like to have more time to get it ready but I know with our experience we’ll be able to still be successful tomorrow. So it should make for a good race.
“It will be a real challenge tomorrow, with this many cars and being tight and twisty. If you get behind a GT car in Turn 1, you can get balled up behind them until the fountain. We’ll just have to deal with it.
“We saw in Sebring the Muscle Milk car is working really well. We tested last week and made good gains. There is room for improvement but I think the Dunlop tires will be our secret weapon, they work really well on green tracks. They have always played into our advantage. We’re going to bring the fight to those guys.”
In P2 the running order will be the two Level 5 HPD ARX-30bs, Black Swan’s Lola-HPD (lucky, because the car might not have been able to qualify after its accident in practice) and the #37 Conquest Endurance Morgan-Nissan.
The two Core Autosport Orecas lead the PC field followed by PR1- Mathiasen, the two Merchant Services cars, Performance Tech, RSR, and Dempsey Racing.
The two BMWs will form the front row of the GT field, followed by the two Corvettes and the Paul Miller Racing Porsche.
Joey Hand, who won in the GT class at Long Beach in 2011, will be back in basically the same car. He thinks he will have an advantage.
“It looks like it is going to be clear and dry for tomorrow, so I think it’s going to be a proper street fight here at Long Beach,” Hand told ESPN3. “The good thing is I’ve got the best strategy guys in the pit and I’ve got the best crew guys in the pit so I feel pretty good about it. I got my first win here at Long Beach last year I don’t see why we can’t do it again.
Even though the GTC cars got to finish qualifying, their times won’t count. Michael Valainte, who took the pole in his first GTC qualifying effort with his new team, JDX, will see his time erased.
Leh Keen, who qualified second in class in the #22 Alex Job Porsche, has the GTC pole, followed by the #34 Green Hornet car and the #66 TRG machine. The top there GTC cars will start in the order in which they qualified, but Valiante losses out badly.